Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hypothetical Humiliation

Do you ever imagine what could be the worst punishment for your child? Not in a truly child-abuse way such as locking them in a cage in the basement, but a consequence that your child would just despise. Something that would really stop him in his tracks when the next time rolls around.

A certain child of ours loves to argue. About anything and everything. Drives me nuts. I allow my children to express their "opinion" (if done respectfully) and do not mind if they ask for an explanation to a decision or command (sometimes), but arguing for the sake of arguing is not tolerated. And oh how he loves to argue! He is the cliche that if you said the sky was blue, he would argue it is green (or, more truthfully, argue that it was a slight shade of blue-gray with some white clouds). So about a year ago, we instituted his "arguing strikes" - a piece of paper taped to the fridge where we tally mark every time he argues. When he reaches five tally marks, he loses a family activity (backyard bonfire, friends' birthday party). We didn't want it to be a foregone conclusion that he would always be losing an activity, so we set a "redemption goal": if he survives an entire day without arguing, his slate is wiped clean. This has proven to be extremely successful. Usually just the physical act of watching us draw a big black tally mark on the paper is enough to remind him to close his mouth and consider a better way to communicate with us. But we have reached that final faded horizontal slash on the chart a couple times, and he does not like the consequences. More often than not, though, he redeems himself. The chart worked so well for a while that we eventually removed it from the fridge. A reminder not to argue sufficed.

Lately, however, this child has returned to arguing. And, once again, he argues about anything and everything. So tonight, we told him that the arguing strikes would be going back on the fridge. He begged, pleaded, cried, ARGUED! that he didn't need the strikes and would stop arguing. He finally admitted he didn't want the strikes on the fridge because his friends made fun of him about it. When we asked him which friends even knew he had the chart, he named one friend (and, yes, I do remember actually having a conversation with this person when they spied it in the kitchen and asked me what the paper was for, and, yes, I could see this friend saying something to him about it - a friend who probably does their own fair share of arguing at home!). Regardless of his pleas, we told him the chart was going back up.

Later that night, I was trying to think of a way to impress on my arguer that we were serious. So I came up with this... Shawn said it's mean, but I figured that if my child was worried about what his friends would say, maybe he would actually work on arguing less. Besides, I couldn't talk Shawn into renting a billboard (and the logistics of getting the big black tally marks up there were complicated), and that's really mean.


Katherine said...

It made me LOL! Too funny. I might need to do something similar to this with my oldest... hmmmm....

K's Mama said...

Some of us just like to argue. Its just in the blood!!!:o) I need a system like that for the endless "Why?" questioning my 5 year old does.