The Tackler responds well to short-term goals and challenges. Especially if they come with an added reward.
Sure, some might call them “bribes”, but as they exist prior to any bad behavior occurring (as opposed to “stop this and you will get this”) I call them “rewards”.
One challenge was issued in January, and took far longer to achieve than I anticipated.
It was simple: receive five straight days of smiley faces at school, and we would go to the Austin Children’s Museum.
He would hit three or four days then talk during music time at lunch. Or not listen. Or (insert other Tackler behavior).
The smiley face counter would reset and begin again.
Over and over.
In hopes of making the goal more achievable, I told him any “outstanding day” would count double.
I reminded him of this the last week in March as Wednesday brought home his third smiley.
“You don’t have school on Friday (thanks to Good Friday), so if you want to go to the Children’s Museum this weekend, you have to have an outstanding on Thursday.”
To my surprise (and delight and horror), he did.
This meant two things.
One: I had to make good on my promise. (insert delight)
Two: Thanks to Easter weekend, the only day we had free to go was Friday—a day when my husband would be at work. I would have to track two children by myself in the insanity that is the Austin Children’s Museum. (insert horror)
But what is motherhood if not facing your fears (“I hope I don’t screw my kids up!”) and terror (“what if something happens to one of them?”) on a daily basis?
We drove to the metro rail station, hopped a train, and headed downtown.*
We stayed for FIVE hours.
They played grocery store. Delivered milk bottles. Ran amok.
Drew with chalk.
Participated in an experiment for UT’s psychology department.
The Tackler surveyed the recycled “parts” in the workshop area, drew a blueprint, and built a robot.
Lil Diva demanded I create a mommy and a baby with pipe cleaners.
He built a tinker toy car.
She stacked blocks.
He went down the indoor slide.
She let a paper helicopter fly.
He catapulted ping pong balls using a paper cup glued to a paint stick with a wood block as a lever—supposedly aiming for the giant red “x” on the wall.
She caught the “magic” bubbles that didn’t pop unless you tapped them.
They both tested physics with golf balls, rolling them down roller coaster ramps or aiming for buckets.
Lil Diva loved gathering up all of the golf balls and running them up the stairs to the older kids for roller coaster launching.
The Tackler learned an important lesson about experimenting: sometimes you fail, but you learn from your mistakes. He built a ramp into a pegboard wall, but the ball would fall off partway through. I demonstrated how we had to remove the entire lower half, and how we had to test each new piece or everything after that point would be useless.
It took us thirty minutes of teamwork, but at the end he was thrilled with our result (note: this was tricky, because the ramp pieces were lightweight and would often work their way out of the wall if you didn’t push them back).
This is the final product (check out the second attempt when the ball drops, only to bounce and magically complete the bottom segment of the ramp).
And what is a museum visit without some train table action?
Finally, Lil Diva demonstrated signs that we had been there for FIVE hours.
I didn’t lose my kids… for more than two minutes. And they weren’t really “lost” so much as “in the same room with me but somehow invisible to my eyes.”
They were a scary two minutes though.
We did EVERY SINGLE THING at the museum and they still didn’t want to leave.
But we were almost out of snacks.
You do not ever want to run out of snacks when out alone with two children.
We rode the train home, cries of “I’m still hungry” as they finished off the food.
We made it home without any meltdowns, something I’m quite certain would not have been the case if we’d waited for the next train.
Was it a nice relaxing day?
Um, no. Not even close. Five hours of constant vigilance is exhausting.
Did I still have wonderful time?
And next time I will pack more snacks.
* * *
Have you ever offered a reward to your child then had a *moment* of regret when it was reached?