Wren attended his first preschool class today. Afterwards he said he was going to go back, with Mummy. I said I would come sometimes. He was very busy at preschool - trying all the activities but most enjoying a big red chicken puppet and playing with a toy garage. He also liked the game "washing up" at the sensory table which involved squeezing water onto a table with sponges and using a squeegee to push and pull the water around the table surface.
Wren is among the older children in the class which makes a distinct difference to all my previous preschool experience in which Frost was among the youngest. Now I can be superior and enjoy singing and clapping along while the younger delinquents yell, run amok and body slam into each other in the circle center. Wren copied all the hang gestures and even tried words on some songs like Twinkle Twinkle. He talked nicely to the other grownups when they asked him questions and was generally a perfect little chap.
The Issue of Praise and Control
The whole idea of a successful child being one that does not cause trouble for adults brings to mind a book I am reading by Alfie Cohn. Its called Unconditional Parenting and has as its premise that our parenting should not rely on so-called soft control techniques like praise, time-out and reward, withholding affection in response to undesired behavior and other popular strategies to modify behaviour. His focus on is motivation and the whole child. Now, I haven't reached the chapter on alternative "unconditional" strategies to socialize our kids but my inept attempts to not rely on reward and conditions have failed.
The Battles over Allowance
A while ago we tried tying Frost's allowance to the performance of chores. This worked very well for a while and he industriously performed his chores (with complaint). I recall him calling out that it was "torture" while I was explaining our strategy to a friend. After a while he said that he would rather not do chores and not receive allowance as he had enough money and didn't like them.
I explained that chores were also about being part of the family and helping out so he conceded to doing chores "when I asked" and to doing recycling regularly. Allowance was not reinstated.
Last night he asked what he would have to do to receive allowance again.
Joshua and I had a "meeting" with Frost who suggested he receive allowance incrementally based on how good he was at doing chores. I said that I wanted chores to be out of a sense of collaborative responsibility to his family. Joshua thought this was funny and said that people don't do things without a motivation. Least not things they don't WANT to do. Frost agreed. He said he wanted to be GRADED on his chores. I tried to explain that I didn't want to judge him doing chores. I wanted help and hopefully he would know if he was doing a good job. I would like to hear how he felt about it. Frost said this was a burden, that he might know how well he was doing for a day but then he'd forget, especially his attitude. He said that he may forget not to complain and nag about chores so it was better that I give him a score each week. Josh said that the incremental allowance and the scores were like levels in a game, with rewards and might work well for Frost. I was appalled. I said I had just read how bad extrinsic rewards were as a motivation for behavior, that people need to figure out their own motivation. Both of them looked at me blankly. Joshua added that the only reason he did chores was because I bitched about it if he didn't because I like a clean organized house but neither he nor Frost really have the same standard.
I am confused. I shall have to try harder after Chapter 7.
Status quo is that Frost is going to keep his room clean, do recycling and do chores on request. We are going to have a performance review every weekend to evolve our understanding of performance (and reward). Allowance is reinstated as an independent (variable??) factor NOT A REWARD.
Stumbling into the Day
If illness is an allegory then I am truly stumbling in the dark (in my job search / parenting / diet / meditative practice). This morning I woke to Wren's 6am crying, got up and promptly fell over. In my pre-dawn haze I thought I must have tripped over last nights discarded clothes or the piles of bedding that have been displaced by the recent fall-heatwave. I stood up and fell over again. The third time I landed on Joshua. When I made it out the door the corridor was leaning at an odd angle, like walking in the galley of a ship listing in a storm. I was also beset with seasickness.
According to my doctor (who I saw for a TB test required for preschool) I have fluid in my inner ear, should try benadryl or another antihistamine if it persists. It has improved.