Happy Face/Sad Face

It’s hard for me to write about how completely bastardish Jaden can get sometimes. I love her so much and I don’t want anyone to get the feeling that I ever love her any less than I do.

I’ve said this before but there’s this one thing my mom said to me in regards to my brother that’s stuck with me:

“Marcoda, I love your brother, I do. But sometimes, I just don’t like him very much.”

I understood it at the time. I’ve always been able to understand my mom’s statements when others might think them a bit harsh. She was just being completely honest: how many of us mothers can admit that sometimes we just plain like our kids a little less than would be ideal? Not even ideal; we’d take normal liking levels!

What makes the bastard cycle of angel/bastard/angel so hard is the angel parts are so good that it makes the bastard parts that much worse. Or maybe they really are just that bad.

Matt and I reached our limit of patience this past Monday morning when she growled at me.

No, we didn’t kill Jaden. Matt had been threatening soap in the mouth for months and finally did it: “Open your mouth.” She complied and he stuck his finger in and scraped some liquid soap on her bottom teeth.

Jaden didn’t like it and said so several times: “I don’t like that!”

Matt felt bad about doing it but it didn’t hurt her and it certainly caught her attention.

Not enough to stop her from lying to me about putting her shoes on. Or from hissing at me. Or from challenging Matt on every single step in the getting ready process.

By the time Matt and I dropped the kids off at his mom’s house, we were done and at a loss as to what to do. Why wasn’t she listening? Why was she growling? Why was everything turning into a fight? And lying? That hurt the most, to me. I hate lies.  I don’t know why but lying seems more intentional than yelling or ignoring us.

Matt suggested going back to a point system like with the potty training thing. I thought we’d use the same book we used then and just put new “tasks” in.

“Let me think on it for a little bit.” he said.

Later that day I get an email:

“Ok, I think I have it. I’m going to need some cheap wood and some finishing nails.”

It went on from there for a good sized paragraph describing a process where smiley faces and sad faces are awarded (or…de-warded?) for each behavior.

Here’s the deal: Matt found two identical pieces of wood that used to be part of a book shelf in his dad’s garage. He made one for our house and will be making one for his parents’ house. Along the top he numbered 1-15 and down the side, behaviors. He then hammered in some nails. At work…I mean using our own printer at home…he printed off some smiley and sad faces on those little circle stickers people use for garage/yard/tag sales. I affixed them to some of those round key chain things that video stores use for all the many keys the manager needs. I guess not just video stores use them. Sometimes book stores and, um, flower stores, they would use them.

Confused? Don’t be.

By Tuesday evening, he’d finished it:


You can see we didn’t mince words: Behavior is either “good” or “bad”.

My original offering included “No hissing/growling” and then I put my head down on my desk in despair because only we would have to put that on a behavior chart. Instead of giving that its own category, we’re just going to include it under “Sass/Defiance”.

“Bathroom” isn’t what you think. She’s fully trained and only has very rare and random accidents. (like a well-trained terrier) Bathroom is for after the expelling of waste: wiping, flushing and washing. (Man, Jaden’s going to LOVE this blog when she can read, isn’t she? Don’t worry, J, your brother’s turn is coming.) I think the rest is pretty self explanatory. And I also think I’m taking a huge gamble airing the major issues we’re having at home on the interwebplacething.  However, I also also think we’re dealing with some pretty normal issues and hopefully people looking for a way to deal with their kid’s behavior will find some ideas here. Well, an idea because our idea is the best and the only idea that possibly stands a chance at succeeding.

When she is acting as she’s expected to without begging, pleading or yelling, she gets to put a smiling face in that category. When she reaches 5 smiles in any one category, she gets to take away one of the sad faces from below. Once she reaches 15 in a category, she gets a dollar to save towards something. Well, maybe she does. We haven’t figured that out.

Same thing below only she loses privileges instead of getting them. I’m really hoping she doesn’t lose anything. Partly because we’re not sure (again) what will be lost. We’re relying on fast thinking if that point ever comes.

So far (two days) it’s working really nicely.


Last night, all I had to say was, “Do we need to put a sad face on  your chart?” and Jaden held her hands in front of her and emphatically shook her head and hands and said, “Nonono! No sad faces!” She didn’t yell, she just wanted it clear that she did not want a sad face.

If we have to remind her more than three times, no happy face. If we have to count, sad face. There are variables and us, as the parents, get the final say. The real challenge came tonight at dinner and she did “earn” a sad face for not eating. And yes, we made her put the sad face on the board. She walked back to her chair at the dinner table saying she was not happy about the sad face and didn’t want it on her board. She ate the rest of her meal without (much more) fussing.

Matt and I really hope this works. We didn’t want it to get to this point but obviously the pleading, yelling and threatening wasn’t working. The last couple days have been so nice. Jaden’s back!


In other quick Jaden updates: that vomiting thing that’s been vexing the house hadn’t happened in a couple months.

“Hadn’t” being the key word there.

She came into our room last night around 1:30 crying about monsters. I let her crawl in between Matt and I and she curled up against me while I wondered, “Are we about to break our ‘no-vomit’ streak?”

Yes. Suspicions confirmed, our poor stressed out Jaden told me less than 5 minutes later that she was sick and needed a bucket. Bad side: Poor thing threw up twice. Good side: we’re used to 5-7 times within an hour. Good side: we now know for sure it’s stress. Bad side: how do we de-stress  a three year old?

Good (and unrelated) side:

Jaden no longer sleeps in just her underwear.

Jaden no longer sleeps in just her underwear.


3 Responses

  1. hang in there darling, you and Matt are two of the best parents i have ever met, you work together to raise your children in a way that many mothers could only dream of. J’s just trying to figure out her limitations and regardless of it being the “Terrible Twos” i have ALWAYS sworn that it stems from 18 months to 4 years. Hang in there…she’ll find her place soon and then all will be right in the Bingmar Kingdom once again!

  2. I’m going to make a sign like that for here at work, and every time I hear you growl at your computer or at the phone I’m going to put up a little growly face. When you get five growly faces I’m totally buying you a puppy.

  3. WHEEE!! PUPPY!!!

    And you’re right, mytymaker. I am a very lucky woman!

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