Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Was I too harsh?

You know, until we had Bean, I hadn't been around many little kids.  I don't have a babysitting or sibling background to draw on either.  I only have the memory of the discipline my parents used with me.  So I am really flying blind with parenting and I have no illusions that I am mother of the year (any year) by any means.

So sometimes usually I find myself second guessing the way I discipline Bean.  Second, third, and fourth guessing sometimes.

Yesterday was one of those days.

I've mentioned here recently about an incident Bean and I had in a grocery store.  In that incident, Bean ate a piece of candy that she wasn't allowed to have and that hadn't been paid for yet.  That's not that bad on its own.  But Bean seems to have a problem.  To be quite honest, my kid's a klepto.  She has no sense of ownership or possession.  I don't think she steals things to steal.  Maybe she does.  She's only 4 so I tend to believe it is just because she has not yet grasped the concept that not everything in this world belongs to her.

In the past, she has taken items that belong to her cousins.  Stuffed animals, candy, toys, etc.  She's even "borrowed" things from a couple of kids at school.  If there is something she likes, she believes she can just take it home.  Now, again, she was even younger then so her understanding of ownership probably didn't exist at all.  There is a little "funny" I found recently online that pretty much sums up Bean's thoughts on what does or doesn't belong to her.

A Toddler’s Rules of Possession

Yep, that really does sum up what she believes.  And I know all kids go through this.  But it just gets tiring trying to explain the concept over and over to her.  I know she has to understand some of it by now.  Even being an only child, I understand she doesn't have someone else competing for things with her all the time. But she must realize when her father and I tell her that stealing is wrong and that grownups get punished very badly by having to go to jail and all that.  I've explained that if she keeps doing this that one day she might not have any friends because no one wants to be around a thief.

And truly, at 4, "thief" might be too strong of a word for it all but that's what I've used with her.

Yesterday when I picked her up at school, her teacher explained that at snack time, Bean took a portion of another child's snack and lied about it several times.  The teacher knew Bean had done it but when she asked Bean, she just kept denying it over and over.  It wasn't until later that day when they were outside playing that she finally got Bean to confess.  Because of the continued lying, the teacher explained that she had no choice but to write Bean up for it.  Now I don't know what exactly that means.  I didn't think about that until we were on our way home.  I don't know if you can get kicked out of preschool but I guess maybe it's a possibility.

So now Bean has a permanent record.  Great.

The teacher said that she couldn't understand why Bean had done it and it was so unlike her.  Well....not really.  But it is becoming a habit and I'm just at a point where I don't understand what else I have to say to make her see that just because she sees something she wants or likes, she just can't take it.

All the way home I tried my best to figure out what I could do to make her understand how bad this is.  There was only one thing that I haven't done yet that I thought might get through to her.  So I did it.  And now I'm wondering if I went too far or overreacted.

Once we got home, I made her sit on the couch so she could watch me.  Our living is completely cluttered with Bean's toys.  The whole house seems to be nowadays but I digress.  I started picking up all of her toys and placed them in her playroom.  Once I had that all finished, I walked her to the door of the playroom.  I said "Bean, you see all of the toys you have and love to play with?"


"Well, they are in this room now and this is where they are going to stay.  You are not allowed to play with them or have them until you can stop taking things that do not belong to others.  This is how it feels to have your things taken from you."

"No, no, no, Mommy!"

"You don't like it when people take your things, do you?  Other people don't like it when you take their things."

I locked the door and shut it.  The crying began.

I have decided that each day I will show her the toys and explain it all again to her but the door will keep being shut and locked until I see some improvement.  She is allowed a few of her toys and her art supplies but that's it.

Is this too harsh?  Should I have done something different?  It wasn't a decision that I thought long and hard about.  It was more of a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that I felt my child had embarrassed herself and me at her school.  I don't want her to be a person that others do not want to be around.

I guess I could have read several parenting books or asked in some online forums that have become so prevalent.  But life still goes on when your reading or online trying to find some answers and yesterday this was the only answer I came up with in the moment I needed it.

I will keep you all updated on how my punishment works or turns out.  I don't mind getting parenting advice from anyone.  That doesn't mean I use any of it.  But I am more than willing to listen because you never know what you might learn.


Not Cake said...

I think that is a good punishment. What if you gave her a set time without her things, like a week and then if she did it again you would do it over for another week instead of leaving it open ended.

My daughter is 9 and I STILL struggle with her lying...but most of my friends have the same problem with their daughters of the same age:) My oldest is 15 and she grew out of we just have to deal with boyfriends and driving and...:)

Vicki Valenta said...

I think you came up with a brilliant solution. My only caution is that you shouldn't let it go on more than a couple of days. At 4 years old her ability to link her toys being locked away to her taking someone else's toys is not too long.

I will say that, I think, if she is cunning enough to lie when asked about it, she knows it was wrong.

And, yes, you can get kicked out of preschool. My son was!

captwc said...

I think you made an impression and that is what you were trying to do! I agree that a time frame of about a week is good idea. She should know when the punishment is over. But also that it will be repeated if necessary. I love you dear.

Holly said...

I think what you did was fine. Kids can learn from experiencing how things feel themselves so hopefully this'll do the trick.

Annie said...

I agree; you're fine. But I also agree with Vickie Valenta that it doesn't need to be a long time to get your point across; it could actually diminishing the effectiveness after a couple of days.
I have three boys--we don't deal with lying or stealing as much as physical stuff. I am regularly saying that hitting is wrong, and that adults who hit people go to jail.
Good luck--I'm interested to hear if this has made an impact in a good way!