Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nanny Babble

So it turns out that if you nanny two children full time for four years, leave for fourteen months, then come back again part time, they will forget many of the things you worked so hard to teach them. For example, when I say "You may not play with that," it doesn't mean that when I leave the room, you should start playing with it. It means YOU MAY NOT PLAY WITH THAT. And when I say, "The screeching noise is an outdoor noise, please stop making it indoors," it doesn't mean that you should do it the tiniest bit quieter as if I won't hear you anyway. It means THE SCREECHING NOISE IS AN OUTDOOR NOISE, SO KNOCK IT OFF INDOORS. Tonight I encountered both of those situations, and both children were shocked to receive a consequence for their disobedience. (And yes, I just called it disobedience, even though that seems to be somewhat of a dirty word these days in child-rearing.)

We also have an issue that I consistently forget about, which is the IT'S MIIIIIIINE GIVE IT BAAAAAAACK issue. Around middle elementary age, many children decide that logic dictates that if something belongs to them, it cannot be taken away as a result of poor behavior. Jack just started this, and I firmly believe that the best way to deal with it is to sit down when he's NOT in trouble and explain that regardless of who an object belongs to, it can be taken away, usually temporarily (permanently if the behavior is really awful). It really doesn't work too well to take an object away and try to speak reasonably while the child in question is panicking and trying to take it back. Tonight I had to raise my voice so he could even hear me say that A) it was me who let him have that old flashlight in the first place and that B) if he misbehaves, I get to choose the consequence. I usually choose the traditional "let the punishment fit the crime" method, but if there's no punishment to fit the particular crime, I use an alternate consequence. Taking temporary possession of The Toy of the Moment is effective with Jack, so that's what I do.

I've also had to give early bedtimes tonight. Both kids are headed to bed fifteen minutes early, and I'm hoping that they can behave well from here on out so that that's all it will take. I really hate being The Mean Nanny, but I also firmly believe in being consistent and showing that I mean what I say.

To their credit, I will say that both of them behaved well for much of the afternoon. I offered to let someone vacuum my house, and Jack took me up on it (I am fully taking advantage of this stage, the Pre-I-Hate-Any-Chore Phase). Both kids busied themselves in my basement while I moved things around in preparation for making a kid area down there for them to play in when they come over. Of course it helped that the goal is something that benefits them, and also that there are all sorts of "treasures" that I no longer want lurking in various boxes and corners. Jack got the aforementioned old, crusty flashlight, and Mary Liz ended up with an old Christmas ornament. I'm sure their mom will be so excited that I let them bring more junk home, but trust me when I say it could have been much worse. I did, after all, make them throw away the dirty post-its and broken Father Time knick knack.

The kids have all day off tomorrow, and I'm hoping that it goes as smoothly as the first part of our afternoon. We can always have By Myself In My Own Room Time, but honestly, I prefer it when we all get to have a good time.

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