Friday, October 25, 2013

Gallant Growing (at Two)

Poor Gallant has a cold.  We went to the doctor before the weekend began, to get confirmation that it was merely a cold.

He has grown a bit since mid-June.  Now he is 34 inches tall (one inch taller) and weighs 26.4 pounds (1.8 pounds heavier).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Old and New Behavior Management Systems for Smiley

I realized that I had not written about behavior management in over three years!

That old essay is now relevant to Gallant, who is almost two-and-a-half.  (He thinks with his hands, I try to restrict his stuff instead of putting him in time out, and reminders are often appropriate but never warnings.)  Those tools are still useful for Smiley, too!

We also still use our mantra of Listening Boys get nice things.

But during the last few years my wife and I have developed a few other tools to help Smiley learn self-discipline and proper behavior.  I'll describe three of them.

Good and Bad Weights

We knew that the behavior Smiley needed to work on most as a three-year-old was following directions the first time we said them.   For a boy his age he was a good listener, but he could still do better.  So, with that very specific goal in mind, we set up a new system.

We purchased a toy balance scale to use as our tool.  It was marketed as a toy to demonstrate addition equalities, but we instead used it for two years for behavior management.

We divided the day up into five parts: waking up through breakfast, after breakfast through lunch, after lunch through nap, after nap through dinner, and after dinner through bedtime.

Each time Smiley listened the first time for an entire part of the day he earned a "good weight" on the right side of the balance.  Once he had ten good weights the balance was emptied and he earned a ticket for twenty minutes of computer time.  (You can see the tickets I made in the photograph, in front of the balance.)

As Smiley grew older he began to notice things he wanted while we were shopping.  I set aside a small box in the hallway closet for this "ten good weight treats".  If we were at a store and he wanted a candy, Matchbox car, or other small treat my usual reply became, "You cannot have that now.  Do you want it as a ten good weight treat?".

Smiley initially always replied "Yes" to that question.  But he soon learned to recognize when an item's appeal was due more to its novelty and presence.  With some parental guidance, he began to consider whether the candy or toy he was looking at was something he wanted more than what was already waiting in the box of ten good weight treats.

The other side of the balance was used for "bad weights".  Any time he needed to be asked twice to do something he earned a bad weight.  This meant he did not earn a "good weight" for that part of the day, and also provided another threat: if he ever had ten "bad weights" then he would get spanked a number of times equal to his age (and the balance would be emptied).

Those spankings only happened a few times.  As any parent of little kids knows, some weeks are just difficult weeks: Smiley got to nine bad weights a fair number of times.  But, unsurprisingly, his listening ears really turned on at nine bad weights--the boy who had been sulky and contrary for days suddenly became a model citizen until he had earned ten good weights and the balance was emptied.  That is what physical punishment should be: something possible but rare that provides motivation for proper behavior much more frequently than it is actually experienced.

After Smiley got used to the good weights and bad weights, we extended the bad weights to also be earned when he broke a house rule he really should always keep in mind.  Like most small children, Smiley would often be so lost in his own thoughts that even common house rules such as "hang up your coat after you take it off, do not leave it on the floor" might need one reminder.  But breaking a few of our safety rules, such as "no roughhousing on the stairs", immediately earned a bad weight.

Dessert Choices

Smiley became aware of candy and began to eat dessert while he was three years old.  We told him that because he was three, after lunch or dinner he could make three choices.

This was not a lot of sweets.  At the time, he only knew about small candies: chocolate chips, M&Ms, and tic tacs.

Now Smiley is five years old.  He gets five dessert choices after lunch or dinner.  He knows about more types of candy, and has a small collection of sweets in one cupboard.  Larger candies are worth two or three "choices".  Eating dessert has become a tiny exercise in using budgeting while shopping to become happiest.

There was a catch: if he earned a bad weight he also lost one of his desert choices the next time he got dessert.

Fill In the Shape Tickets

We needed a new tool once Smiley started kindergarten.  He was away from the house much more.

So I made up five kinds of "tickets".  Doing any of the things on each ticket earns him having one of the ticket's shapes filled in.  One ticket can be spent for 20 minutes of computer time.  Two tickets of different kinds can be spent for something from the box in the closet that used to be "ten good weight treats".

The idea for the tickets came from a Gracie Game Day paper used at his martial arts dojo.  Smiley was given a piece of paper on which he earned filling in stars for being polite (much like the top ticket above) to eventually earn the privilege of attending an extra activity at the dojo.  He so much liked seeing the stars being filled in that I decided to use a similar thing for at home.

I am still wondering what to do for the sixth ticket spot.  Perhaps community help in volunteering and recycling?

UPDATE: After the first parent-teacher conference for kindergarten, we learned about the kinds of homework he will start doing and made up one homework item of our own.  That is now the sixth ticket.

Smiley also asked that we create a Super Ticket that kept track of how many normal tickets he earns.  When the Super Ticket is full he earns something extra-special.  We are not yet sure what that should be.  So far our best idea is to use the Super Ticket as an excuse for the family trips we already take to the Newport Aquarium, camping, etc.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Faster and Slower

Smiley is familiar with martial arts moves having names, both from film and from how Pokemon work.

The other day he was explaining to me how his running and stopping worked.
  • When he is running and wants to stop suddenly, he uses "Quick Slow-Down".
  • He uses "Speed Release" when he is running and wants to run as fast as he can.  Then he uses "Speed Slow-Down" to start slowing.
  • If he is running as fast as he can, he cannot use "Quick Slow-Down" or he will fall over.  So he uses "Speed Slow-Down" and "Quick Slow-Down" one after the other, a combination named "Super Slow-Down".
  • When he is older he will learn "Super Speed Release" to run even faster.

I suppose the last part is he explanation of why I can run faster than he can run.

Older and Older

Last week one of Smiley's teachers shared something funny Smiley said to her earlier in the day

They were at recess, and she had complimented how strong he was when he was climbing.  He replied by explaining:
When you are new you are weak.  When you grow older and get stronger.  Until you get married--then you get weak again.
From past conversations with Smiley I know that he is still a bit confused about how children get stronger as the grow older, but his grandparents are getting weaker and more frail.  I suppose he has no concept of how old age works, so "marriage" seems the best milestone in his mind for that inflection point.

Of course, his statement is funnier because in modern American society so many couples do "let themselves go" and exercise less after marriage.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Come Back Unity

Today when I turned my laptop on it started Ubuntu 13.04 without the side launcher or top menu bar.  All I had was the desktop!

Fortunately, I had a file on my desktop.  I could alternate-click on it and use the context menu to open it with my internet browser.

This page showed me how to check if the Unity application was installed.  Open a terminal with CTRL-ALT-T and then use internet browser copy (CTRL-C) and terminal paste (CTRL-SHIFT-V) to run the following commands.
sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager
export DISPLAY=:0
(The "sudo" command will ask for your password.)

Since I had no Unity application in the resulting list of displayed applications, I went to this page for how to reinstall the missing Unity application.
sudo apt-get install unity
All fixed!

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Autumn's First Cookies

This year Winter weather arrived as September changed to October!  Most of the trees do not know it is Autumn yet and are quite confused by the days of 60 degree rainy weather and nights below 40 degrees.

In mid-September we did lots of dehydrating, which as usual was sufficient to heat the house that time of year.

But the past few days have been too cold for that to suffice.  So it is time to bake!

My wife made Pumpkin Bread a few days ago, and we still have half of the last loaf left.

Recall that our bulk grain shopping at Azure Standard gives us teff flour and brown rice flour, but whole grain for quinoa, millet, and amaranth.  Those last three are what we use for our generic gluten free flour mix.  Our supply of mix was low, so today I did a lot with our DeLonghi mixer and its grain mill attachment.

Then Gallant helped me make our Healthy Brown Spice Cookies.  We have a new scoop for which squeezing the handle makes the dough drop out--which he can do "all by mineself!"

Now we have something else yummy to snack on.  Hooray!

Gallant Curious and Safe

True to toddler form, as Gallant grows in verbal ability he is asking questions increasingly non-stop.

Currently my days are filled by:
  • What that noise, Daddy?
  • What you doing, Daddy?
  • Where?

(The last one means "Where are we going?" and happens whenever we are in the car, whether or not I have previously told him about our errand.)

At least this is more variety than "Why?", a question which will develop later

Gallant is also more positive, which is a fun and silly change.  His  two generic affirmations are:
  • That good idea, Daddy.
  • Me safe now, Daddy.
  • Oooh, nice!

The first phrase copies one of the ways I give his older brother positive affirmation to conclude successful brainstorming or negotiation.

For example, Smiley might have wanted to play with his marble run after breakfast.  After helping him develop a more complete plan, I might conclude, "So your new plan is to first brush your teeth and get your socks on, and then once you are ready to go to school you will play with the marble run until it is time to put your shoes on and leave?  That's a good idea, Smiley."

The second phrase means "I am not worried."  My wife sometimes tells the boys some variant of "My job as Mommy is to keep you safe."  Gallant evidently understands "safe" as "not worried".

I figured that out the other day when Gallant was thirsty in the car and I told him we were driving home and I knew his water bottle was on the dining room table with water in it.
Gallant: Me safe now, Daddy.
Me: You are safe now?
Gallant: Yes, Daddy.
Me: Were you worried?
Gallant: Yes, Daddy.
Me: What were you worried about?
Gallant: Water bottle.
Me: You were thirsty, but now you know you will soon have your water bottle. That makes you feel safe?
Gallant: Yes, Daddy.
Me: I am glad you are safe now.
Another humorous exchange happened when the sound of loud rain on the car made him nervous.  But I did not fully understand that at the time; I erroneously assumed he had overheard someone talk about how driving in the rain was slightly more dangerous than driving on dry roads.
Gallant: Rain, Daddy.
Me: Yes, it is raining on us.
Gallant: Rain on car, Daddy.
Me: That's true.  In the car we are dry.  It is not really raining on us. It is raining on our car.
Gallant: Be careful, Daddy.
Me: Be careful?  Is something not safe?
Gallant: The rain, Daddy.
Me: Does driving in the rain make you worried?
Gallant: Yes, Daddy.
Me: Okay.  I will be very careful as I drive the car in the rain.