Sunday, May 02, 2010


I'm sorry guys, this is going to be a long post....perhaps in the running for one of my longer posts....I know, hard to believe.

Isaac has been hard for us from the beginning, mostly because he was always sick as a baby. When we moved here we were finally able to identify some of the reasons why he acted the way he did. We were encouraged by our pediatrician to take him to a counselor, and since it was free, and I was out of ideas, we decided to give it a try. I also started to pray more fervently for direction about how to help him and started noticing some triggers to his difficult behavior. For instance, getting ready in the morning was a nightmare. We had tears and rocking and whining every morning over something simple like putting on his socks. I realized that Isaac had a hard time getting his socks on because even though they fit, they did not slide on immediately. So I bought bigger socks and the problems greatly decreased. Such little things always seemed to set him off and I had a hard time understanding why something so little was such a big deal. We also struggled with some violence that he really only displayed in our house to me and his brothers (and the dog), never with anyone outside of our home.

Every Monday for a few months we would drive thirty minutes to Kettering for a forty minute session and then thirty minutes back. After a few months, Isaac's counselor and I concluded that most of the problems Isaac has stems from anxiety. The counselor also thinks he has some perfectionism and when he can't immediately solve the problem he will give up and let someone else do it for him. Isaac needs to take things very slowly and at his own time so that he can feel more capable of success. His counselor told me that he is very bright and has a great attention span and can express his feelings better than most five year-olds (he's 3 1/2) she sees. We have been working a lot on having him come to us and tell us what he is feeling rather than just act on his feelings. He told the counselor that he felt worried a lot and when she asked him what that felt like he told her his tummy hurt him a lot when he felt worried. So, he obviously can identify his feelings. He has been doing so well that he now only has to go once every three weeks.

I worry a lot about Isaac because he knows he gets in more trouble than Will and I don't want him to compare himself to Will. He used to pray and ask Heavenly Father to help him not be so naughty and that just broke my heart because I really don't want him to think he is naughty. I want him to recognize that sometimes he doesn't make great choices and that there are other ways to deal with things but I don't want him to view himself as a naughty kid. So, we have been trying to find ways to help Isaac feel empowered and also take more responsibility for his behavior.

I was looking at this blog and noticed a little reward system they used and decided to try something similar. It's kind of complicated but basically we use smiley faces and frowny faces and they can earn them by doing good or bad things. We let them help us choose rewards and they chose things ranging from junk food to toys. I still need to put a new book in the box and some envelopes for things like a date with mom and dad. They can buy a reward from the reward box but only if all the frowny faces are gone. They have to either pay the consequence or give us some smiley faces back until the frowny faces are gone. Mike and I also can get frowny faces if we yell at them (and yes, we have gotten a few this week). We feel like if we are going to expect certain behaviors from the boys they can expect certain behaviors from us. If we get a frowny face we have to spend extra time with them or pay each boy ten cents per face.

I was very worried about this new system at first. Isaac got two frowny faces for every smiley face he got and I worried we had made it too hard for him to get a reward. We did have easy rewards (a piece of candy is only one or two smiley faces) but he really wanted the soda and that was ten smileys and it just didn't look like he was ever going to get it.

But he did!! He worked so hard for his smiley faces. He made an extra effort to be nice to Eli and to help with chores. We have not been doing this for very long (only a week and a half) but the last few days have been so peaceful! I know that when the novelty wears off we will have to make adjustments but so far, I am so proud of the boys (even Eli who is still a little too young is understanding better). One day Isaac didn't earn a single frowny face the entire day and when I put him to bed I told him I was so proud of him and that I knew Heavenly Father was proud of him also. He let out a great big "Wahooooo!"

So, a little success for now and I hope it continues. Isaac will probably always have to deal with his anxiety (especially since he has a mom and a dad who get anxious about things) but I hope we can help him along the way and teach him better ways to deal with his feelings.


Michelle said...

Sounds like you are doing a great job of parenting.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Saimi said...

Wow, you are doing a wonderful job and I love how you and your husband are also included in the frowny/smiley face reward system.

Good for you! Your son may have his challenges but with parents like you, he's going to be fine!

Hang in there!

Marcy said...

We started doing a family store with money for good behavior and jobs. We made our own currency with Nephi's picture on it--they're called Go and Do Dollars. We used to just use the dollars for our store, but now--in order to teach tithing--we change the Go and Do Dollars into real money and then the kids buy stuff from our family store. It's been a good motivation for us.

I like to hear what you're doing. My 7-year-old goes to such extremes: either so obedient and helpful or so disobedient about everything. It's bewildering sometimes.

Jess and Jen said...

Isaac and Leah must have conspired together in the pre-existence. They sound very similar. We don't do the frowny face thing, but each week they start with a dollar in change that's for them. As they all have meltdowns, yell, fight, etc., we take a penny away. Some weeks, the kids end up with $.90; some weeks they get $.75; some weeks I swear I dump their entire jar out after one episode. Leah is our biggest loser each week, but it seems unfair to me: Abby goes to school and therefore has less opportunities to lose money; Lauren is too young to be truly devious; and poor Leah is in the perfect storm situation.

Leah gets easily confused. If she doesn't get it in her mind and figure it out on her own, she'll freak out, regardless of the "teaching" we're trying to do. It's like they told us as missionaries: let the investigators figure it out on their own. It'll mean a lot more. Leah might as well be our investigator. -Jester

Anonymous said...

Yay for success!!! Sounds like you're doing a wonderful job. That sounds a lot like the system we use (not as consistantly as we should) that we learned from Trish Tullis with green sticks and red sticks. I hope things continue to go well for you.

Serene is my name, not my life! said...

Hmmm, maybe I'll have to look into that.
One of our boys is very hard for us. What you might call a natural antaganist. He doesn't listen and doesn't care sometimes when he get in trouble or makes someone cry because he hurt them.

*sigh* I feel like I'm always getting on him for something. I try to make a big deal just out of the good things he does but he is so frustrating it's hard to be consistant.

Anyway, thanks for the post!

The Duke said...

I'm so glad Isaac made it to the pop! This sounds like it might work. Don't give up on it and don't be afraid to give it a tweak now and then. Great idea!

Jed and Kera said...

Yay for Isaac! You guys are so good at coming up with things! You and Mike and such good parents!