I have written before about using John Rosemond’s ticket system with my 3 1/2-year-old son, Adam. It has worked wonders for us.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided that Adam’s habit of not listening to directions and being sassy was getting out of hand. We agreed one evening that we had to be diligent in using the tickets the next day. The tickets are just notecards taped up to a cabinet. The rule is that when Adam does not follow directions, breaks a known rule, or acts sassy, he loses a ticket and goes into his timeout chair for 5 minutes.
Now, here is the really important part: after losing all of his tickets in one day, he has to spend the rest of that day in his room with no toys. This was the part that he didn’t quite connect with the tickets yet, and that was our, the parents’, fault. As a result, he wasn’t too concerned about losing tickets, because spending time in the naughty chair is not a very memorable consequence.
It took two (nonconsecutive, as it turned out) afternoons spent in his room for him to really, really get the message that losing tickets is not a good idea. Both times, when he realized that losing his last ticket meant an afternoon of sheer boredom, he cried, he shouted, he begged… the whole works….but we did not budge.
Nowadays, I am happy to say, he is very, very interested in keeping all of his tickets. (We began with five tickets, and have pared it down to four.) This means that the incidences of him being sassy or defiant have been drastically reduced, and the whole house has become a happier place. And Adam himself has become a happier child, by all appearances.
I want to add that many parents find the idea of putting a child in his room, with only books for entertainment, for an entire day to be out of the question. For me personally, it took some time for me to come around to the idea, but now I am so glad that I did. Children have to know that you mean business. Children have to know that their actions have very real and very un-fun consequences.
There is nothing cruel about spending a day in a temperature-controlled, safe, and comfortable room. In fact, there are millions of children around the world who would give anything to experience that luxury, especially when there are colorful, interesting children’s books involved, not to mention the opportunity to eat your fill of healthy and tasty food at regular intervals.
Sometimes, making the decision for your child to experience something unpleasant is the most loving thing you can possibly do for your child. Sometimes it is necessary to step back and reconsider what is really “cruel” vs. what we just don’t want to see our child experience.