Reward Chart

MOODY. Bratty. Wailing. Complaining. WHINING. Angry. Frustrated. Loud. Stomping, kicking, hitting.

Crying.

Can I just say WTF?

I’m trying, people. I’m really trying to be a good mommy. The kind that stays level and doesn’t raise her voice or say things that don’t make sense in the heat of the moment. The kind that doesn’t simply give in to the psychosis and succumb to the madness. I want to deal with meltdowns in proper ways. Ways that make me reflect later and feel proud. Ways that make her feel better and saner.

But often I do succumb to the madness. I become a monster with her. She raises her voice and I raise mine louder. She says crazy things, then so do I, dammit. She lashes out and I grab her by the arm.

Learning opportunity? Um..  Suuuure. Let’s talk about how to deal with our feelings. Let’s think of other ways to cope with anger and frustration. Count to ten. Deep breaths. Try to do something else. Pause. Time outs. Take things away. Make it quieter. Reward. Punish. Punish. Punish. Reward.

Anecdote: The night of her birthday I stayed up late making cupcakes for her classroom birthday celebration. I don’t bake. It makes me feel nervous and inadequate. At the last moment and after a second trip to get extra baking supplies, I realized the school policy is that food should be store bought. Oh God, I thought. I emailed to the teacher and had a panic attack about sneaking in illicit homebaked goodies to the school the next day. I snuck ’em in anyway and the whole thing was a great success. (See photos here.) So anyway, we get home after school and she’s in that touch and go stage. Pouty, fragile, frustrated, etc. And then, while I’m paying a wee bit of attention to her baby sister, I get an angry “MADDIE, MADDIE, MADDIE! All you care about is MADDIE! You don’t love me at all!”

Calmly, I told her that she was confused. I was certain that she must not love me. I outlined the reasons. “I took you to the beach. I made you a beautiful birthday card. I made cupcakes and brought them to school for you. I snuggled with you. I took you to the movies. I sang you songs. But still you are so mean and have such bad behavior. Surely, you must not love me.”

Quietly, she disappeared. A few moments later she produced a folded card with “Mom” written on the front. Inside, scribbled illegibly, “I’m sorry.” She gave it to me with big soggy eyes and a quivering bottom lip.

What does all this have to do with a reward chart? Nothing really. Except that I’m struggling to walk the line between her growing up and battling for independence, and her childish need for simple reassurance that she’s a good person and that she’s loved. Nothing reassures a five-year-old that they are loved more than a piece of paper taped to the door and stickers, I guess.

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