Lately, it seems, Brendan’s mouth does nothing but get him into trouble. Now, some of it comes from being a typical 10 year old. I think every single 10 year old I’ve had the pleasure of meeting has been mouthy at one time or another, especially to their own parents. The difference between Brendan and everyone else is that he just can’t let a subject go. And once he fixates on something to be mouthy about there’s a good chance that he’s going to end up having a meltdown before all is said and done.
We’ve used a variety of tactics to combat both the overall mouthiness and also the unhealthy fixation on the subject. Some things work, some don’t. Even those that do work don’t have a 100% return rate on them so we are constantly looking for new ways to deal with the situation when it occurs. The one we are employing currently involves adding punishment for each time he continues to be mouthy after originally being punished.
For example, last month we needed to leave for an appointment and the boys were playing Skylanders. Unfortunately, as happens sometimes, we had to leave before they were able to complete their level. While video game save points have come a long way from when I was a kid playing on my old NES, in this particular game you can’t save mid level. You either finish the level or have to start over later. Like it or not we had to turn it off right at that moment if we were going to make it to where we needed to on time.
Brendan began to whine and moan about losing his progress and swore there was only one more thing to do on the level. Looking at my watch I figured we could spare another minute or two and hopefully avoid an all out meltdown. But by that point Brendan was so agitated that he couldn’t get things to work and eventually I told him he’d had his chance and that we would have to turn off the video game anyway.
Long story short he spent the next 30 minutes yelling and screaming at me about how it wasn’t fair that he had to turn off the game. I grounded him from the game for the rest of the day almost immediately. After that he was given one warning to drop the subject and move on or he’d lose more days. From that point on anytime I heard “but mom” or “that’s not fair” or “you have to give it back to me” or anything along those same lines I just added another day to his grounding until he learned to keep his mouth shut and let the subject go. On that particular day he got up to 21 days of grounding before understanding that his mouth was getting him in further trouble.
So we have been trying this out since around Thanksgiving and it was hard to tell if the technique was having any effect. Depending on the day, the subject, the privilege that was to be lost, etc we would have to ground him from something anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks. We were hoping that he’d get the point and that those long lengthy punishments would quickly fall by the wayside, but it hasn’t seemed to go that way.
At one point he was grounded from video games, TV, and something else (the exact thing escapes me now) and had at least 10 days left on each. Matt was away on his business trip and Brendan was having a rough time adjusting to daddy being gone. The end result is he was miserable and ended up in tears about everything, so Matt and I decided to give him a second chance. As a one time thing we lifted all groundings early and told him that any further mouthiness would reinstate them instantly.
He took it to heart and managed to stay ungrounded from all things until daddy got home from his trip. Then this morning he finally had his first mouthy incident. It had been long enough that we didn’t reinstate the old groundings, they would have expired by now anyway, but he did end up losing a privilege.
The incident began with him wanting to pat Kaylee’s bear on the head. Kaylee has begun a new phase where she absolutely hates to have anyone touch her at anytime that she’s not asking for it. She won’t hug any of us, doesn’t like her toys touched, shrieks if I try to do anything with her hair, etc. All of us have made her shriek at one time or another as we try to do one of the things that makes her squeal, and I’m okay with that. Eventually she’s going to have to get over this whole thing, but until then we are dealing with it.
If someone makes her shriek we just back off an leave her be. It’s not worth forcing the issue because all she’s going to do is scream more. Brendan, though, can’t give it up. He just kept chasing after her and trying to touch the bear. I finally told him to stop because she obviously didn’t like what he was doing and that was it, he went off the deep end and threw a fit saying that wasn’t fair.
After realizing that he wasn’t going to let this go I took him to his room and explained that because he was being mouthy to me he was going to lose a privilege. But because he incident didn’t involve a specific one he would get to choose between losing Warhammer for the day or Skylanders. He opened his mouth to protest and I stopped him to explain further. If any words came out of his mouth beyond telling me which of the two he wanted to lose then he would end up losing both. In addition if he continued to protest beyond that then I would add one day of grounding to each of the two. I gave one final warning to think carefully before speaking.
Once I finished my speech he opened his mouth and I could tell that he was only just keeping himself under control. He asked me if he could ask a question before telling me. That in itself is a slippery slope. A lot of times that “one question” is just an invitation to start harping on the subject again. But I was impressed that he was showing at least some restraint and trying to ask a question instead of instantly falling into the “it’s not fair” line of reasoning. So I let him ask. He wanted to know what our plans were for the day.
Our plans were not too much. It had been a busy weekend and we were all going to take it easy as we prepared to go back to work and school on Tuesday. Armed with this knowledge Brendan said he wanted to be grounded from Warhammer and asked if he would have a chance to play Skylanders later. I told him we should have a chance, as long as the day went the way I thought it would. With one small huff, he let the subject go and we went on with our day.
Matt and I were both very impressed. Not only that Brendan managed to get out of the situation getting grounded no more than a single day, but that he used logic to help him decide which of his two privileges to lose. Truthfully I was hoping he’d decide the way he did because it wasn’t likely we would be able to play Warhammer with him today anyway. I don’t like taking things away from him but a lot of times it seems that is the only way to get through to him.