Monday, March 23, 2009

Threats, Punishments, and Rewards

Life with Ricki is never dull, and I really have to be quick on the “draw” to keep up with her. It is amazing at how stupid she takes me to be. (For example, if she is hiding something behind her back, out of view, she generally assumes that I will not notice and react. In actuality, if she wouldn’t be hiding it, but would walk by casually, I would have less of a propriety to notice the offense.) In addition, she knows my weaknesses, and plays them to her advantage, unashamedly.
I have had a tendency, over the years, to threaten a lot and be slow on application of promised punishments. After this was pointed out to me by a play therapist I had hired one year to work with Ricki, I made efforts to improve. Nevertheless, Ricki knows that if she manages to do something behind my back, the consequences will often be less than if caught directly in the act. The simple reason for this is that by the time that the “crime” is discovered, she may be at school, and it is likely to slip my mind before her return. Or, perhaps, on her return she may be carrying an excellent report from her aide, and she is expecting her reward. Such a moment may be a difficult time to punish her for deeds long gone, with the possibility of confusing her entirely.
So immediately before going downstairs today, for her ride to school, I was putting Ricki’s hearing aid in. [She does not particularly like the hearing aid at school. Sometimes her classmates are a bit big on the volume, and the aid amplifies it to the shrieking level the rest of us have to deal with. Ricki has a much simpler solution than covering her ears: she simply yanks her hearing aid out!] Therefore, I promised Ricki that if she wore the aid the whole day (with the exception of the 10 am break), I would let her hear a new cassette tape today. Then as she was slipping out the door, I noticed the second (sugarless) candy she had slipped in her pocket, after I had told her explicitly that she could take one only. I protested, but she dashed out and down the stairs. (Her driver will be glad she went downstairs on time….) My threats of dire consequences floated after her rather ineffectively.
So I am writing on my schedule today to apply “consequences”. If she has a prize “coming to her” due to schoolwork, or wearing of the aid, I think I will try to POSTPONE it by an hour, as punishment for not listening to me this morning. But consequences there will be.


TUC said...

This is also one of my biggest parenting weaknesses with all my children. They forget the infractions so quickly and then I feel bad for reminding them and giving them a consequence when there has been too much time inbetween. Be sure to let us know how the delayed hour went ;-)

TUC said...

Oh, yes, A Distant Mirror, what an entertaining read. I originally received it as a gift from a friend who knew that I was working on a novel set during that time period. Of course then the kids came and it seems that part of me dried up. Maybe I will get back to it someday when they are all in school.

David said...


We had four. We learned that a promised consequence must *always* happen, no matter what! Even if I felt bad about delivering on my promise at the time. It made me think twice before I promised a consequence, but defiance *always* had a bad outcome in our house.

Now our kids wonder why it seems that none of the families in town has an adult parent in the house. ;-)