On Friday I re-introduced the marble jar. Rosie has been acting out, as some of you know, and I have been rather rubbish at finding a way to manage her anger. So, I weather the punches, slaps, bites and insults, until I blow my top and shout back, thus unleashing another cycle of rage and despair.
When I am in the worst stages of PMT (that’s PMS for my Canadian/US readers), it takes me less time to blow my top.
So, on Friday, I re-introduced a reward system. I used a few when Rosie was younger – star charts, a marble jar, that kind of thing. They worked, but eventually, they petered out. I got lazy, I guess. Her recent behaviour has been so poor, however, that I realise it’s high time I get back to them and make a big deal whenever Rosie does something kind or good.
Thus the marble jar. Rosie has constructed an elaborate (all her games are elaborate) system for the marbles which involves the empty shells of a coconut, one Bonne Maman jam jar and an empty Tiptree Preserves jar. The loose marbles are stored in the coconut shell, which sits over the mouth of the Bonne Maman jar. Next to it sits the collecting jar, aka. Tiptree Preserves. On Friday, I promised Rosie a gingerbread man if she managed to fill the whole jar by Sunday.
She did! It should have been called the great marble giveaway – I was so determined she should meet her target so we could make the gingerbread, that I gave her marbles for almost anything.
Brushed her teeth without being told to? That’s one – no two – marbles. Shared a piece of fruit with mummy? That’s one marble. Tidying things away? Another two. Read her book all by herself and wrote a few words phonetically? That has to be five – yes five – marbles.
The largest number of marbles are accrued when the child, in this case, Rosie, dresses herself up without incident and zips up her fleece and coat. This would earn her six marbles, but she didn’t want them. She says she can’t help finding the underpants uncomfortable. She says she can’t zip up her coat or wear her fleece because they bother her.
Today the underpants, although pouffie, are just not right. For several minutes she weeps and says she doesn’t want to go to school. Ben is over and trying to help, but she is distraught. For once, she goes to me. It seems even Daddy isn’t quite good enough. I suspect no one can be when she is this stressed.
She puts on one pair of underpants, a pair of tights, then removes everything and starts again, this time with another pair of underpants. She does this at least five times, but we have a bus to catch. Again, she wails that she can’t go to school. Finally, Ben decides it’s enough and that she is getting dressed. We both help her put on her clothes (she’s back to wearing the first pair of underpants she’d put on in the first place). She is deeply distressed, but we still manage to get her out the door and down to school before the bell goes.
‘Tomorrow, you can’t do this again, do you understand?’ I say, calmly, while we are on the bus. She nods. But come tomorrow, will she remember?