For the past 8-10 months, I have struggled with the reality of the fact that Jason is extremely stubborn and strong-willed. I was up for the challenge with Ryan's similar (yet milder) personality when he was my only child, but with two older kids in the mix, having a tempermental third child is absolutely exhausting.
Jason is not easily enticed, threatened, bribed or coerced into anything. He does what he wants, when he wants, on his terms. I've wrestled with the balance of breaking his will without breaking his spirit for quite some time and I'll be honest...it's a daily struggle around here. My breaks from the drama (at naptime and bedtime) are the only things that keep me sane each day.
Don't get me wrong...I love this kid to pieces. When he wants to be, he is as cute as humanly possible. Just yesterday while I was explaining to him that he was in time out for hitting his sister, mid-sentence, he grabbed my face by each cheek, pulled me in close and planted a kiss on me before walking away, having decided that he was done with our chat. When I'm speaking to him sternly, he will often give me an enormous grin and say, "Mommy, you need to SMILE! Be HAPPY, Mommy!" He's a manipulative little stinker.
One of his new favorite things is to listen to a kid hymn CD with his headphones in the van while we're driving. My big motivator for that is: if he climbs into his carseat immediately (without hiding in the way back, jumping into the driver's seat and messing with the radio buttons, etc.) then he gets his headphones for our ride. It's taken several times of the big kids getting headphones and him listening to my boring music, but he's finally starting to consistently get into his seat right away. Even though I have to remind him every time, it's worth one less headache getting out of the driveway on time.
Another huge carrot I can dangle in front of Jason is gum. Yes, I realize he's not even three years old, but the kid loves gum and chews it without swallowing. As soon as it comes out of his mouth (he used to try to play with it like Play Doh), it goes into the trash. Gum is now his prize for behaving at the gym. He's notorious for hitting, pinching, even biting the older kids (specifically Kaylin) when they're not playing the way he wants at the gym, so when he is gentle and kind for the whole hour, he gets gum in the car.
But the newest reward that I can bribe him with is the best of all: playing on my new iPad. I've had the thing for less than two weeks and this kid is completely, utterly addicted to his little educational games. (Because I know you'll ask, his favorites are Monkey Preschool Lunchbox, FirstWords: Animals, Shape Puzzles, Letter Quiz and Toddler's Seek and Find. Most were free or $.99.)
A couple weeks ago, I bought a star chart at the teacher supply store and have been using it to reward him for behaving while we do school. I set the timer for 10 minutes, give him a few activities and he gets a star when the timer goes off. At first, his prize was gum. Now, it's the iPad.
Then it occurred to me that I could reward him with a star for non-school incentives. The other day, Ryan was complaining that Jason wakes him up each and every morning by whispering, then screaming, "Ryan, are you awake???" It wouldn't be such a big deal if Jason didn't wake up at 5:30 daily. Both boys are early birds, but Jason wakes up even earlier than Ryan likes to get up.
So that night, while tucking Jason into bed, I explained that if he stayed in his bed in the morning and didn't talk to Ryan at ALL, he would get a star on his board. "Five stars and I get the iPad...?" was his response. "Yup! When you get five stars, you can play on the iPad."
Wouldn't you know it, that kid was quiet as a mouse the next morning. When I went in to get him, I brought the star board with me and he lit up like a Christmas tree: "Mommy, I stayed in my bed and I not talked to Ryan. I get a star!!!"
Now the big kids want to earn stars for iPad time. I keep track of theirs differently, but the concept is the same. Back when I used to watch Dr. Phil, he always recommended that parents find their child's "currency." Other than Jason's beloved bedtime blanket, I've had nothing to use as leverage to attempt to get him to behave. Until now.
This iPad is turning out to be the best investment EVER!