Green Light, Go!

To say my daughter is strong-willed is an understatement. She is fiercely stubborn, and she has been since she was an infant. (Sidebar: I have NO idea where she gets it…) She is doggedly independent, and in true preschooler fashion, she can go from zero to head-spinning-and-spitting-pea-soup-exorcism-style in 2 seconds flat. Fortunately, her tantrums are infrequent–she spends most of her time as a mildly ornery Scout Finch-type. She is typically charming and precocious, and her thoughtfulness rivals Ellen’s (more on that in another post).

But, today was an exorcism day. Ok, so the whole day wasn’t shot, but she did have a few minutes this morning when I thought I was going to need to summon a priest because my obstinate little darling was spewing 3-year year old threats and morphing into someone other than my child. I’ve learned to largely ignore her tantrums (and my husband is learning too), which works very well at home but seems to make people think I’m a lunatic for not “controlling” my kid if she goes into meltdown mode in public. Oh well.

Anyway, something hit me today–something so obvious that I am almost embarrassed to admit it. I have a master’s degree in education. Special education. Of course. How could I forget that? But aha! Surely I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve that I learned in teacher school. And why didn’t I ever think of these before??

And presto, just like that, I took a break from doing dishes and put my 6 years of higher education to good use. Voila. I give you Evie’s behavior card.

This sophisticated device– fashioned out of a piece of paper, a clothespin, a Sharpie marker, crayons, and some curling ribbon–was 6 years of schooling, 5 years of teaching, nearly 4 years of parenting, and thousands of dollars in the making.

I am happy to report that it worked. At least for today since it’s new to her. Of course, it’s analogous to a stoplight–green indicates good behavior, yellow means she’s going downhill fast, and red is to be avoided. We decided that at the end of the day, if her clothespin is on green, she can have a small reward, such as an extra bedtime story or special treat (my goal is to limit the treats). If she gets to yellow, she has to help with a chore and follow directions to be moved back to green. Red is an automatic timeout in her room, and just like with yellow, she has to earn her way back to green. Oh, and because I believe that she should take ownership for her behavior, she moves the clothespin (when we tell her to).

And here’s some proof that it worked. (Disclaimer: there is no guarantee this will work tomorrow. I am not a complete idiot–I know preschoolers are an unpredictable species, prone to sudden changes in mood and behavior.)

Here she is being threatened with a move to yellow if she doesn’t stop dumping Crayola bubbles (which are prone to staining–thanks, Grandma) on her pants. Notice that she has stopped engaging in the devious behavior. πŸ™‚

This was taken after getting another warning, this time for dropping trou in the front yard. She pulled up her pants very quickly when she heard that kind of behavior would get her moved straight to red. (Another sidebar: I really can’t understand where she gets these exhibitionist tendencies…)

Further proof–all Daddy had to do was say “yellow” when she wouldn’t hand over the contraband.

We only had to actually move the clothespin to yellow twice, I think. Sorry, she moved it; we told her it was time. She did end the day on green. And her time spent outside wasn’t all about being told “no.” πŸ™‚


Evie had fun playing with her little brother, Eli. (Don’t mind my husband’s attire. He’s been working around the house all day, which is the only thing that can explain his lapse in judgment regarding his shirt.)

And just because he’s so stinkin’ cute, feast your eyes on this handsome baby:


This goes down as another lovely day at the Dann house. Fingers crossed this behavior card is at least as effective as an exorcism. Now off to manage to dogs. One just brought me a ball and the other is playing with the Jumperoo (don’t ask)… πŸ™‚


2 thoughts on “Green Light, Go!

  1. Wish my tactics worked for more than a day on Alyssa! And you ask where Evie gets her exhibitionist ways… sounds like she takes after mommy… even if she wasn’t trying to get a dog out of the garage…LOL!!! πŸ™‚

  2. A) John was trying to mesh with the “suspect” later in the day.
    B) Sorry, I left Evie behind at the hospital when she was born as I knew she would be just like me. I knew she’s find a lovely family to go home with. (lol) Unfortunately, God knew of my plot and gave me Molly. With her extra chromosome, she is triple dog dare you stubborn.

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