Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Making Smart Choices

Evil Princess Commando, Sweet Princess Commando

If Princess Commando was an animal, she would most likely be a cat. She reminds me of our younger cat, Mitsy. She curls up with you on her own time- peacefully, graciously snuggling one minute; and then, as quickly as she perceives being crossed, she snaps-claws out-hissing! The only difference is that Mitsy makes herself scarce; but, the 8 year old girl throws herself on the couch in a whiney tantrum when she does not get her way. It is no secret that she has been dubbed "The Brat" within our family. Princess Commando's attitude has taken a turn for the beastly as she has begun to face the rigors of 3rd grade. The word from school is ( although I am inclined to believe this is a myth) that PC is a dream student in the classroom. She is well behaved, respectful, thoughtful, helpful and kind. I try to be sympathetic to her new challenges, yet firm in my direction with her. But, there is only so much ornery, selfishness that a parent can endure.

We were well overdue for some alone time. This past Friday, I followed through with a promise of a "girls night" with my number one girl. The Baby went to sleep at a reasonable hour. The boys found a way to busy themselves; and, The Mr. agreed to sleep in Princess Commando's twin bed in order to accommodate our sleepover. PC's only requests were popcorn, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie and some gaudy nail polish. She was in a rare good mood. She allowed me to braid her overflowing locks of hair. (She no longer lets me dress her hair in any way but "plain and straight." So, this was a treat for me). Despite being exhausted from caring for The Baby all day, I made it through the movie; and, PC was soon purring, blissfully curled beside me.  I had forgotten how much I missed time alone with her.

Any sign of sweetness, was eradicated the next day when Princess Commando came down for breakfast. She was quick to whine and hiss at her brother's benign teasing. She recoiled at our attempts to cheer her up. She was grumbly when we instructed her on what tasks needed to be completed for the day. In fact, she stopped using words, she just groaned through the day. She was pouty and obstinate all weekend. She was disrespectful to the Mr. and me. But, she looked adorable. She had unraveled the braids from the night before and her hair hung in crimpy plaits about her head. The hairstyle dwarfed her petite body; and, she looked a little bit like a child who was raised in the woods by wolves. When I showed her this new version of herself in the mirror, she softened. She actually enjoyed it and decided that we should braid her hair on Sunday night so that she could wear the new look to school on Monday.

On Sunday night, after her shower, I attempted to replicate my design. This time, I decided to add more, thinner braids. Her hair seemed to be a mile long and my fingers were stiff and aching when I was finished. We waited until the last minute on Monday morning to unweave the braids. This time, with the addition of the much smaller braids, her hair increased in volume.  The effect was not lost on her. As soon as she saw the big reveal, she broke down. "I hate it!! I hate it!!" "I'm not going to school like this!" "It's too puffy!" I calmly sprayed her hair with leave in conditioner to tame it. She did not look any different than the other day when this style was met with beaming approval.  She was not budging. She sat on the floor of the bathroom refusing to brush her teeth and move on with the morning. The Mr. was taking her to school on his way to work- so there was no time to waste. And, I had precious minutes left before The Baby woke up and my chance of a shower sped down the drain. I tried to hurry her along. But she became more and more disagreeable. I finally snapped- as this Monday morning was the last straw of mornings, and afternoons and evenings like this. I threw every ultimatum, threat, and bargain at her. She wasn't buying it. She finally left with the Mr.- but not quietly.

I mulled over how to handle this behavior. What has worked for us before? What consequences should I instill? I sought the advice of my mother, a newly retired 1st grade teacher, a mother of three, a grandmother of 6 and a veteran of doling out consequences. I took her suggestion to give PC a warning that Monday's behavior would be the last time she would go without punishment. If she were to act up again, I would bag up her beloved stuffed animals. She would go on a behavior chart and would need to earn 3 stars/ day for seven days and then she would be allowed one of her animals back. I also would have her fill out a "Making Smart Choices" sheet that was sent home from school as an example of the behavior plan that is implemented in the classroom.

She came off of the bus, happy and high on the bus social hour, as if nothing happened earlier in the day. I sat her down and laid out the new guidelines. She apologized and agreed that she would try harder. She reluctantly filled out the Making Smart Choices sheet. ( I didn't have her fill out the section about what rule she broke). Find the completed form below. It may not be the explanation that I hoped she would muster up; but, it's a start.

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