As parents, we take inventory of our kids’ favorite things.
Sure, it’s good to know what they like.
But the real reason is much more practical.
We give them things they like…and when they act poorly, we know exactly which things to take away.
It’s the evil part of parenting, but critical.
“If you don’t clean your room, we’ll take away toy X!” has zero impact if the kid doesn’t like top X, right?
Our daughter, Beanie, has a Disney Princess calendar that hangs on the door to to closet. Each night, she crosses off that day as part of her bedtime ritual.
One recent evening, she was acting horrible. Why? We had no idea. I’m guessing she was over-tired, with a teenage-size tantrum coming out of our four-year-old.
We tried to calm her down, but nothing worked. Not hugging. Not talking. Nothing.
So then we went for the jugular and threatened to take away her calendar.
Bingo. Or so we thought.
Instead of calming down at the prospect of losing her beloved calendar, it only perpetuated the tantrum.
Which left us one option: take the calendar.
So we did. And it wasn’t pretty. Even though we told her she could get it back tomorrow if she was good, the tantrum continued for 20 agonizing minutes before Beanie fell asleep.
In the morning, after a good night’s sleep, she was a different child. Happy. Loving. Not crying or screaming. And apologetic for her behavior the night before.
As I drove her to daycare, I thought about ways to give her calendar back to her that re-enforced the positive behavior.
“#ParentingWin,” I thought to myself.
That evening, when I picked her up, she could not have been more proud of herself.
“#EPICParentingWin!” I thought to myself.
Then she grabbed my wrist and excitedly dragged me over to her cubby.
With the biggest smile on her face, she showed me, with tremendous pride, her latest creation.
“You took my princess calendar away from me, so I made a new calendar all by myself!”
Hanging on the wall was a hand-drawn calendar that looked something like an Escher piece, but, overall, very calendar-ish.
Bean had created something to replace what we had taken from her. She had passively-aggressively shoved our punishment back in our face.
My instinct was to be REALLY mad. But I took a deep breath and then all I felt…pride.
Instead of crying about her situation, she did something productive and creative about it.