Thursday, November 8, 2012

Desperation is a Pin

I was three years old, hair cut to my shoulders, blinged out in twin bunny barrettes, cast in plastic. I stood just at the corner of the brown flowered couch, shifting my weight from the right to the left, buzzing with pride, eyeing Mommy's fingers while she hooked a pin through my Geranimals t-shirt and fastened it with a smile.

I had earned a safety pin. The moment is seared in my memory.

The only problem is that my mom refutes the entire story and my dad just laughs that "You're nuts" sort of laugh when I bring it up. I think my mom's exact words are, "Why would I put a safety pin on you as a reward? It doesn't make sense!" (Something like that, but watch the comments and I'm sure she'll correct me if necessary.)

Between you and me, I'm 99% sure they just forgot about it. And true, it's totally weirdo, so maybe they're just too embarrassed to take credit?

All I know is, I was there, man. I wore that pin. It caught the light; glinted in my own brown eyes.  The pin made me a better girl.

Screeeeeeeeeeeech. Fast forward, oh, about 33 years.

I've wracked my brain trying to find a solution that would work for Homeboy. He's doing fantastically well in so many ways. He's making all kinds of progress. But he's 4. And at least half-maniac. With the ego of Donald Trump and the rugged good looks of one Silas Martin.

Dude's a force.

So, you know, I took a page from Mom's play book. I busted out the pins.

A reward works better than punishment with Siley.
But it needs to be immediate (and de-e-e-efinitely not sugar-related.)
And he needs to be able to wear it around as a constant reminder of his capacity for awesomeness.
Stickers might seem like a more obvious choice, but only if you enjoy shredded stickers strewn about the house and stuck to the TV and toilet.

Pin on the dominant arm, as close to the wrist as possible to eliminate possibility of rogue unpinning.
Carry extras in your pocket.

Sometimes the pin-ee might be prone to saying things like, "I don't want any more pins" whilst doing something like log-rolling himself across the kitchen floor instead of putting on his socks. This is easily remedied by replying with as little enthusiasm as possible, "That's fine. No more pins."

Pin-ee will also, most definitely, be prone to the following: "Okay, I will obey!" and "Sure I can!"

So, where's my crown? Even a sash will do.

I promise to share it with my mom.

What's your secret ace-in-the-hole for wiley pre-schoolers?

I'm all ears.  Literally.


  1. I think this is a great idea! Sounds like you've got his number. Good job, Momma.

  2. And I am literally laughing out loud! You're a genius. He wears those pins like a soldier wears his badges. I'm totally stealing this. I've got a 4-year-old too and any non-sugar reward is a win.

  3. Ooh - I like it. Because stickers(often given by other people we encounter since preschooler's little bro has a lot of therapy/doctor appts that he has to try to be good for) always wind up stuck to clothes in the dryer or my coffee table (which I would go back and tell my pre-chlid self not to purchase).
    Do you have anything for potty training -specifically pooping in the potty? Mine CAN but 99% of the time WON'T.
    (Sorry for hijacking this post with a long comment.)

    1. P.S. I totally know what barettes you were sporting. Do they still make those?

    2. They totally still make the barettes.

      As for the pooping? I shudder to recall how difficult that was. Esp. for Silas. Someone (I think on a blog comment) said that once it finally happened, I would almost immediately forget the angst and sort of take it all for granted. I have to say, it's true! haha.

      We tried EVERYTHING with S. We even gave up a few times. In the end, like everyone says, he did it when he wanted to do it.

      Wish I had better news. :) Good luck!

    3. We had the pooping dilemma with our 4-year-old and struggled with it from the time he was potty trained at 2. He totally could but just wound up running and hiding and holding it, thus soiling himself and causing a huge mess every time. Doc said to try suppositories, those wound up causing a ton of trauma related to the act of pooping and the whole thing was a fiasco.

      Fast forward to my moment of desperation, when I bought $20 worth of Hot Wheels cars (his favorite cheap reward at less than a buck a piece). I told him every time he pooped himself, we threw away 5 cars out of his bucket (of easily 100). Everytime he went on the toilet, he got to pick a brand new Hot Wheel in the package out of the bag. Never pooped himself again and by the time the cars ran out, the habit was well-established enough not to go back to old behavior.

  4. Love the idea. A little late to help me (my kids are 17 and 20) but it will be a blessing to many other mamas!

  5. How did you get to be the BEST Mama ever? ; )
    He sure does have good looks! Movie star quality!

  6. I love this. Whatever works. Seriously. My aunt still makes fun of me for potty training one Skittle at a time. Never underestimate what a kid will do for nearly nothing. ;-)


  7. I love it. I might try it when my Silas is a little older. He's only just turned two. :D

  8. Genius! It definitely falls under the why-didn't-I-think-of-that category. I'll have to keep this idea in my back pocket for future reference. Thanks!

  9. I could probably make a santa length list of all the tricks I have tried. I like the pin idea. I potty trained my daughters one toe nail at a time. If they made a deposit, I painted a toe nail. By the ten toes, we would clean off and start again or head to the fingers. Seriously one of my most brilliant ideas.

  10. Along the same lines, my child's school gives plastic beads (cheap crafting beads) for running a mile. As they earn a bead the kids put them on there shoelaces

  11. Along the same lines, my child's school gives plastic beads (cheap crafting beads) for running a mile. As they earn a bead the kids put them on there shoelaces

  12. Awesome. So incredibly awesome. Good job Mama(s).

  13. I loved this post. It made me laugh and yet was so wise! Kuddos to you for figuring out what makes your boy tick, as far as rewards go. :) I'll have to check these comments again for other people's suggestions-I have a 16-month old who is fiercely independent. And looooves "stickas". Oh, and she totally rocks the old-fashioned barrettes that were mine as a child.

  14. too funny! great idea though. stickers are the worst! 1 year old finds them and they're in his mouth, 3 year old sticks them all over the place and they usually end up in her curly hair!

  15. bingo! nice. kudos to you two mamas.

  16. Brilliant! Where were you a couple of years ago? =)

  17. You get to wear the tiara, sash AND the glass slippers! I recognize greatness when I see it.

    I remember I wore the tiara for a day. Was dealing with especially sassy mouths. I told them to go put their mouths on a doorknob. Timeout on the doorknob. It's a super power. Ends arguments. Whining is vanquished, bad words cower before the doorknob. At first it is a novelty. (34.2 seconds) then it transforms into TORTURE. Sixty seconds. Keep sanitary wipes.
    You may now applaud.

    1. This is the most brilliant advice I have ever heard. Unfortunately, my doorknobs are weird L-shapes. Maybe I can improvise with a nostril?

  18. You? Are a genius.

    Do you think this works on ten year olds? ;)

  19. That is such a fantastic idea !
    I wished I had have known this years ago.
    I can't offer suggestions about toddlers now as I've past that stage with my kidlettes BUT I do know that the best form of 'encouragement/disipline' for an older child or teenager is house chores. If my lot need punishment for being naughty they have 10 minutes vacuuming the house ! Needless to say with 4 of the little darlings I generally always have a very clean

  20. Well I'm putting that in my back pocket for Leo! I wondered yesterday what the pins were but forgot to ask. Did he get one for being so good at our house? Because he was.

    Also, man oh man, his eyes just kill me! What a guy!

  21. I could have used all this about 8 years ago when my oldest was 4. :)
    our other two have always sort of been agreeable...flexible with change...easily distracted..but not that first born.

    he's a jewel, but man oh man does he have a plan that's the best plan...better than all other plans on the planet...especially better than our plan. He's been that way since he came out. seriously.

    it has looked different at every stage of his 12 years of's a barrel of fun somedays at 12. NOT.

    I wonder what he'd do if i started pinning him? would he bite? think he'd go for it?

  22. I work with people who have brain injuries. In order to modify some difficult behaviors we give positive rewards too. So I like a calender with stars that leads to an extra activity when full. That way you feel kept in check for providing more fun experiences in their life too.
    I experiment with my 2 and 4 year olds at home, more effective than punishment in my experience.

  23. This idea was made for Pinterest. Just sayin.

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  25. Awesome! And also, it made me remember stringing tiny friendship beads on safety pins. Ah, nostalgia.

    When my boys were 3 & 4 I was way frazzled, so I went straight to supernanny's website and printed off reward charts! (They had to move their astronaut to outer space) The prize was usually a dollar store toy or trip somewhere cool (and cheap). I do the same for potty training, but with stickers on charts. It gives a place for the stickers while buying me time to get a prize. Lately for little sister, I leave the prize on the bathroom counter. Motivation, baby.

    I think we'll be making some friendship pins soon. Maybe we'll send you one. :)

  26. My daughter started chewing gum VERY young, but I kept that as my golden ticket. I think I could have convinced her to clean the ENTIRE house for a stick of gum. Even now that she is 8 a pack of gum is still a great reward for her.

    I say if you find something that works, gum, pins, stickers, nail polish, USE IT!!!

  27. Oh please dear lord let this work on Siley's future bride. Amen.

    Do you think it will work for a TWO instead of a FOUR?

    Really, it's worth the try.

    Your mom is a genius.


  28. Oh, for Pete's sake, I need to weigh in. You always did have a great imagination and I am very pleased it has worked magic for you and the Pilot. But......I am SURE it never happened here on the home front. You crack me up girl!!!!! And if it did, did you ever have as many as Siley has?? I think he is destined to be a military four star General.

  29. You are right. I learned early on that rewards work much better than punishment for behavior training. Direct disobedience is one thing, but just for training in good habits rewards work wonders. We do use the sticker chart with a reward for a full sticker chart. When he begs for toys at the store. I let him pick one out usually in the $5 and under range. But, he has to work for 20 stickers to get it. They are given for immediate, "Yes Ma'ams" followed by obedience or extra compassion and kindness and helpfulness or sometimes for brushing teeth without complaing. He's two stickers away from getting to go to Dinosaur World, which was a two chart prize. He averages about 2-3 stickers a day. PS My youngest is 20 months and named Silas too. Love it! : ) - Gloria

  30. I cannot stop laughing. What kills me is how chill he looks with the pins. Its like he's thinking I'm a bad dude with these pins.

  31. we do a points system of sorts for our wily one...very similar to yours. she gets to "spend" her points at the end of the day OR save them and carry them over to the next day. we made a list with items to "buy" 4 points= 30 minutes for a computer game, 6 points= a special dessert...etc, etc. Totally works for her. Better to focus on the positive behavior than the negative. :)

  32. Great post, love the pins. Finding what works for each child at each age group is the key, for my oldest boy who had no sugar issues, we potty trained him with cherries -worked really well.
    The 2nd boy, (sounds like Sila's lost "older twin") was all boy - he needed structure, had to know his boundaries. We used little green army men because we didn't hear about your brillant pin idea!!
    When he got a little older we started giving him money which went into a jar and when it got to a set amount he was allowed to pick out something to give to a poor child - and he had to wrap and give it to them. He really wanted to do that!!!

  33. i wish this would work on unruly 9 year old girls with a will of their own. what did your mom do when you were 9?

  34. Love it. I'm the same age as you, so maybe you remember friendship pins? The tiny gold pins with the tincy beads (ok, probably not toddler/pre school safe)? Maybe thread pom poms on each pin for rewards?

  35. ok i'm so glad i popped by today. i really needed to read this! i'm always looking for ideas for miles. sugar is for sure not an option. and he loves rewards and doesn't react a lot to time outs or any other forms of discipline. i give stickers. and then he gives them to cammie. and then pushes her over. and sometimes kicks her in the process.

    being a mom is fun.

  36. oh my.
    i love envisioning you proudly sporting your pins by the sofa in those sweet barettes! could you write a book. pretty please???

    also. i'm glad this is working for you and the cool dude...and your mamas comment is hilar!!!


  37. Remember "friendship pins"??? When we took basic safety pins and threaded little beads on them they became the MOST coveted jewelry. Go buy some little boy-colored beads or shapes or buttons and thread them on the pins. He will be eager to get them for a long time. Or use them as wampum so he can "buy" something bigger.
    Good Heavens that boy is adorable. Sheesh

  38. Awesome! I do something similar with my boys but with black jelly bracelets (or rubber bands on occasions when the bracelets are MIA). I start out every morning with ten on. If especially good listening, direction following or unrequested helping is going on, I hand out a bracelet. Five bracelets by bath time earns an additional book before bed, no bracelets, they're down a book (from the standard three). These bracelets are SOUGHT after in our house! The best part is that handing out a bracelet usually encourages the other child to behave out of pure competiion!

  39. What a cute idea! I love that your mom has no memory of it..too funny!

    When my sister was potty training my nephew (someone had mentioned potty T above) the ONLY thing that worked was: Cheap "prizes" from the Dollar Store! Every time he'd go IN the toilet, he was able to unwrap one prize. He was potty trained within a day. Prior to that, he just didn't care much if he was in a wet diaper. Then I babysat him without prizes. He went to the bathroom in the toilet, came out and asked "Where's my prize?" Me "Oh..the prize is that you did it! Yayy!" Emerson "No! I get a prize!" was hilarious. Nothing else worked!

    I love Silas saying "I don't want any more pins" and you just rolling with it...

    Love your stories and I forgot to that he vacuums stairs for you! what? What? That is GOLD!



    PS: Rock this Saturday, Shiny!

  40. I am going to take Erin's (above commenter) idea with black jelly bracelets! Safety pins would be a serious hazard to everyone's health in this family. I am not one to hand out parenting advice as I have an 8 yo boy who log rolls across the floor instead of putting on socks. I can suggest parenting books, my new favorite being Grace Based Parenting. LOVE it. It's not so much a 'what to do in this situation' book, as a reminder that we are to love as Jesus did. Kevin Leman is my other favorite parenting author - Have a New Kid by Friday is great.

  41. My only thought was add some cool beads to his pin. :)

  42. We used temporary tattoos. They don't end up all strewn about. They can stay on the skin as long as you need them to, and you can take them off also when necessary. I had a drawer full of them with my two toddlers and they could pick one out as a reward when necessary. I have some of the most stellar pictures of them *covered* in these.