Thursday, September 12, 2013

Manners & Stickers & American Girl Dolls

Dear Em,
Reading and writing weren't the only things we worked on this summer. We also worked on manners. It would seem, my sweet little child, that sometimes you can be quite demanding. Oftentimes you have a little bit of an attitude, like a teenage attitude. Only, you're three.

It got to a point this summer where I was absolutely exasperated. Where did this rude little child come from? How do I get my child back (one with the manners of a southerner & the feistiness of a northerner)? For sure, responding back to your demands in aggravation wasn't helping. Constant reminders of using your "manner words" wasn't helping either.

In an act of desperation, I thought of stickers. Actually first I thought of ice cream, but then I thought of all the studies that say it's not good for your child to relate food to happiness & accomplishments...Bla Bla Bla... In my gut I thought the studies were all crap, but in my heart I worried about messing you up even further. So to be on the safe side, we'll go with stickers. I haven't seen any studies about stickers. Through gifts & activity books, & the tons of rolls that we got from Oriental Trading Company last spring, we had an endless supply. They would work perfect for my great idea.

I told you that for every time you used your manners words without prompting, you could have a sticker. You could use the stickers to decorate your cardboard castle. Once you had fifty stickers, we would take you out for a surprise.

I was correct in my prediction about how excited you would be about our little manners & stickers project. All of a sudden, your manners flowed from your mouth like a beautiful never ending song. You even said things like, "please, can I give you a hug," & then thanked me for giving you a hug. It shouldn't have surprised me that it didn't take long for you to collect 50 stickers. Perhaps I should have made it a goal of 100 or 1000 stickers, but this was an act of desperation on a Wednesday morning. I admit it wasn't the most thought out plan. So, we were off to Target to pick out a surprise. You picked out a little Barbie sized Princess Sofia doll.

Since that first surprise, we haven't really continued with the whole manners-stickers system. For one thing, you were kind of over the sticker part. It became too labor intensive for you to stop playing or whatever you were doing, go get a sticker, & put it on your castle. But I think you were still more mindful of your manners.

Then the American Girl Doll catalog came in the mail, & you fell in love with all things American Girl. You told me you wanted your very own American Girl Doll more than you wanted anything else in the whole world. I told you that they were very expensive, & that you were going to have to show us that you were big-girl enough to take care of one. If you could be a big girl who is helpful & kind & uses her manners, we could ask Santa (or Nonnie) about possibly getting you one for Christmas.

I didn't immediately equate your more exceptional than your normal three-year-oldness behavior with American girl. We had noticed that you were actually doing the things we asked you to, going out of your way to be helpful, cleaning up after yourself, & using the sweetest little manners. I just thought maybe you were growing up. Maybe we were making our way out of the tantrum threes & into the sweet-spot fours.

Then you had a little bit of a challenging day. There were a few timeouts, & at the end of the day you & I talked about using better listening ears. You looked up at me solemnly & whimpered, "Now I'm not going to get my American Girl?" I then realized that the American Girl Doll was basically one great big sticker, one that I hope we can milk all the way to Christmas.

Hey, I'll take what I can get.

I love you so,

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