Lately I have been getting some fairly ominous reports from Kindercare about my daughter's behavior. Apparently I am raising a hoodlum. Doesn't listen. Socks kids that refuse to follow her orders (or get off the swing, or whatever the case may be). General unruliness.
Her dad's thinking is that she is fine, it's nothing to worry about. Of course, my husband could be on fire and would only be mildly concerned. It's his midwestern upbringing. My thinking tends to be a bit more "worst case scenario" in nature: in eight years I'll be visiting her in juvie. In twelve years I'll be begging some dour-faced judge for leniency on her behalf. Then she'll run off to Vegas to marry some guy whose given name is something like Leper. And then she'll celebrate the occasion by getting a tattoo on her neck. My mom calls this "slippery slope thinking" and tells me that it's a common problem for moms.
I don't want to compare my daughter to a dog, but I do think my dog training skills come into play from time to time with this child-rearing business. However, I think I've been using the wrong tactic. Operant conditioning involves punishment and reinforcement. You can punish for a bad behavior in hopes of making it go away or reinforce a good behavior in hopes of getting more of it. Negative punishment means to take away a good thing with the expected result of increasing a good behavior (or decreasing the naughty behavior). This is what we have been doing. Bad day at Kindercare = removal of a favorite toy (or something along those lines).
I've decided to give the opposite approach (positive reinforcement) a try. Threats clearly aren't working ("keep it up and you'll get no dessert"). So, I decided to try a reward chart. Good report from Kindercare = 1 sticker. 5 stickers = reward (maybe a trip to Coldstone Creamery for over-priced ice cream or something like that).
I think I'm struggling a bit with her behavior because I was always such a goody-two-shoes myself. If an adult told me to do something, I did it. My other half was a Marine so of course taking orders is not a foreign concept to him. Our kid is just so . . . feisty. I've just got to get this discipline business down now before she gets that tattoo.