It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Warring Agendas…

Nigel sits on the Quiet Stair.

Nigel has been compulsively, persistently, un-deter-ably climbing on the arms of the couch. The issue is not the climbing; my furniture isn’t so delicate that it can’t be clambered over. The problem is the boy. Nigel doesn’t merely scramble over the arm and plop onto the cushions. Oh, no. Nigel climbs up and stands, small arms waving, chubby toes gripping and releasing the curved arm of the couch, body wavering, teetering on the brink of disaster. This has been going on for the better part of a week, despite my persistent and unremitting warnings that he will fall and hurt himself, despite my unwavering response of lifting him down with a stern word.

Today, the little monkey managed to make a bridge of himself between arm of couch and neighbouring end table, his feet on the arm, his hands on the table. Had he been arched so that his wee butt was in the air, he’d have been safe, but no. Somehow or other he managed to do this backward, his belly facing up. Can you picture this? His arms are reaching behind him to the table, his feet on the arm of the couch. He’s kind of doing a crab-walk between couch and table, suspended, with no way to get out of this position but to fall.

When I happened upon him, he was just starting to grunt a little with the strain.

I considered letting nature take its course.

WHAT?!?! You would LET a child in your care hurt himself?

Yes, indeedy. He’d been repeatedly warned and redirected, but my warnings obviously had no reality to him. A small tumble might bring the reality home. (I’m not cruel. I wouldn’t laugh.) (Out loud.) And he would get a cuddle along with his “now you know why I said not to do that” debrief.

Nor am I foolhardy. (Unlike Nigel!) Lucky for the boy, he has me evaluating the risk for him. Left to his own devices, he’d have soon lost the strength to maintain that position, and would almost certainly have given his head a nasty wallop on the end table before landing on the floor. The drop to the floor was an acceptable risk; the blow to the head was not, so Mary rescued him.

Well, I rescued him after waiting just a moment, waiting for the look of alarm cross his face. I wanted to see if he would register the danger he was in. Seems he did. Only then did I rescue him, and reinforced what he now knew for himself – that climbing on the arm is dangerous – and a little scary. (Only exactly what I’d been saying for a week, but now he gets it!)

I rescued him.

And plopped him summarily on the Quiet Stair. Where he sniffled in self-pity, and, I’m hoping, a little genuine alarm at how close he came to injury.

What? Two punishments for one offense? Well, yes. For three reasons: first, I’m really tired of this behaviour, and want it to STOP, before he does hurt himself. Second, the scare he got wasn’t a punishment, only a scare. He understands the reasoning for my rule a little better now, but he still broke a rule/disobeyed me. But most importantly, because the Quiet Stair has always been the consequence for this behaviour. Just because he’s experienced a little reality check doesn’t change this. So, yes, the Quiet Stair after the (almost) Natural Consequence.

I haven’t used the Quiet Stair much with this group yet, though, so the protocol is not clear to the others. Nigel knows the expectations (as the oldest, and the most resolute limit-tester, he has the most experience with it), but the others are not so clear.

Compassionate Anna, hearing Nigel’s sniffles, trots over to give him a hug. I shoo her away.

“Nigel is on the Quiet Stair, lovie. He must sit there by himself.”

Behind me, Malli hands Nigel a book through the stair railings.

“No, Malli. No toys on the Quiet Stair.”

Emily toddles toward Nigel, a soft toy in her hand.

Oh, couldn’t it just melt you? All this compassion! All this empathy! What to do? One doesn’t want to undermine the effectiveness of the consequence, but neither does one want to discourage all these noble sentiments in the others. (Bad timing on the noble sentiments, guys!)

“Oh, you guys! Isn’t that nice? You can see Nigel is sad, and you want to make him feel better! What good friends you are! I tell you what. Nigel has to finish sitting on the Quiet Stair right now. Let’s put these toys [I take them gently from the children] right here on the couch [placed so that Nigel can see them from where he sits], and we will read the book together. Nigel needs a little more time to remember that he is not to stand on the couch. [Meaningful stare at Nigel.] When we’ve finished the book, Nigel can come off and share with us. How’s that?”

How’d I do?

1. Empathy encouraged. (check)
2. Compassion encouraged. (check)
3. Discipline maintained. (check)
4. Problem behaviour identified so children understand the reason for consequence. (check)
5. Consequence reinforced. (check)

Not bad, if I do say so myself.

Oh, and

6. Nigel will never again stand on the arm of the couch.

Bwah-hahahahahahaaaa…. I kill myself….

June 11, 2007 Posted by | Anna, Emily, health and safety, Malli, Nigel, parenting, power struggle, socializing | 7 Comments