Wednesday, April 09, 2008

My Monkey Chatters


Is what I woke up to the other day, when I realized that the gate that always keeps the early rising toddler upstairs and in our room, was wide open. I was fighting waking up, but the mama's third eye sensed an escape in progress and I bolted up and asked where he thought he was going. He popped up from the third step and shouted the above explanation - the longest so far - back to me. This? Is. Huge. Took me a moment to realize I was really awake and hearing that.


A few nights ago, I wanted to keep Bubbles focused on his dinner for a few moments longer.
[For the record, not one of my children has ever been interested in food or ingesting it, unless it is infused or coated with sugar (okay, Elijah just opened up his mouth and swallowed, but not happily), and raising children who inherently dislike food will lead you to do extraordinary things to keep them at the table so their pediatricians will not report you for malnourishing them. My mother claims that this is adequate and expected payback for my many years of (I am very embarrassed to admit) being a verrrrry stubborn anorexic]

After he asked for some approximation of 'water' (oh no, nothing comes for free anymore in the land of ABA and speech therapy!), I gave Bubbles a ceramic mug with a ceramic frog inside of it. The frog is part of the mug. Bubbles took one look inside that mug and stopped mid-air as he was trying to vault himself over his high chair. He sat back down, looked in the mug and looked at me with a very serious and disturbed expression. (Not being a big talker has made him drama king of the expressions.)
I told him to have a drink of water from the mug. He looked at me like I had just handed him a live chicken and told him to bite the head off. (He is more of a beef-eater, so obviously, he would never, ever do that.)

"Go on, have a drink of water."
"OHNO!" he cried. His words were suddenly unleashed:

I had two thoughts simultaneously:
A) Quick! Grab the camera!
B) Dude, you are so busted.

In response to Thought A, I did. And I shot about 8 seconds of footage before he saw the camera and did his usual 'Is all done?' and reached for the camera to see the footage I had just shot. Kids today and their digital little impatient minds.
And in response to Thought B? Clearly, this little guy has been holding back.

I know that articulation is hard for him; he actually knows that too. Which is why he is so great at communicating non-verbally. He knows that helping himself to a cup, then grabbing my hand and leading me to the fridge so that he may point at the juice, is the fastest way to get juice.
Saying 'juice' is not easy for him. He may say 'juh', but even he knows that I could interpret that as a few different requests, such as 'jump' or ' I wanna go to Hawaii, let's go!'. He knows that even we cannot understand him well, and watching him put so much effort into being understood at once breaks my heart and warms it.

For weeks. AKU! AKU! Okay dude, we have no idea what you are saying but erm, oKAY! Eating breakfast? AKU AKU! Bathtime? AKU! Go to the store? AKU AKU! AKU AKU! Finally, last week on our little retreat, at breakfast; AKU AKU!! But we? We are smart. Because this time he had a little tiny spiral bound notebook and a crayon in his hands. Dh got it first, "Oh wow - he has been really into that blue dog amateur detective show lately. A CLUE! A CLUE!!"
We finally got one.

He has made huge strides with the principle of following instructions. I have to say, as parents, we thought we had covered this. We even thought we were rather strict, or so others would tell us. But when we started ABA, people thought it was 'too harsh' or 'over the top' - because getting your children to follow instructions when you tell them to is just as awful as raising a trained monkey, you know. It started with the three step. Tell, show, do.

  1. Bubbles, put the toy in the basket. (wait 3-5 seconds before moving onto step 2 if necessary)

  2. Bubbles, put the toy in the basket like this. (show him exactly what I want him to do, and wait 3-5 seconds before moving onto step 3 if necessary)

  3. Bubbles, put the toy in the basket. (using his hand, guide him to put the toy in the basket.)

Repeat as necessary. This seemed extreme to onlookers, and tedious to us at first, but very quickly we saw results. Bubbles, like most children, does not like the third step. He does not like to be physically made to do something. However, because Bubbles' mama is still smarter and bigger than he is, she let him know right away that this was not optional.

Oh, the tantrums. We went from bad to worse. But that was such a short week, I can barely remember it. At least not once I saw him decide to 'put the toy in the basket' on the first step. Fine, lady, just don't friggin pick my hand up and make me do it. Happy? Suddenly he was putting away toys whenever asked. One or two reminders and then you can leave him to complete the task. And he will.

Threw a bowl of cereal on the floor? Out of the high chair, onto the floor for some three-step cleaning up. Would it have been faster to sweep? Hell yes! Did he clean every single piece of cereal up? Hell yes! Has he thrown his bowl of food since then? Hell no.

We were leaving a friend's house with many many trains. It was sad to hear it was time to go, especially when more than forty thomas and friends engines had been connected on the track. Bubbles cried, "No, no no! NO GO!" And I went over to him and opened the box for the trains and told him to put them away. He stopped his tantrum, and started to put the trains away, one by one, all the while crying about it, but never stopping until the trains were all put away. He amazed and was praised by everyone there. The other day at costcow, he wanted to walk instead of ride in the cart. At costcow, where you will get mowed down by a cart if you are shorter than 3 feet! I told him that he would have to hold my hand or the cart. "Do you understand that you have to hold on?"

"YESH!" (I love how he says that)

And the amazing part? HE DID. He did for the remainder of our shopping expedition, which included about 4 more aisles. He never once let go. He is two.

So yeah, now the tables have turned.

Whoa! He just came downstairs when you called him? I gotta get me some of that ABA! Does it work on teenagers? That boy is the best listener! What a sweetie!

We're working on the six year old; I still have hope for her because she is still malleable, and also still driven by incentives and deterred by consequences. Seriously she is awesome, but she could use a little three-step guidance in her clean-up skills.

And what I have to say to those families who think I am training a monkey, but from my perspective, are being railroaded and directed by their children while their 'progressive' parents sip tea and talk about respect and choices, and child-led parenting (oh yes, it is a term):


If my toddler runs out of the park and towards the calliope sounds of the ice cream truck and does not see the oncoming car? When he hears me bellow, "COME HERE RIGHT NOW!" , the odds are extremely in my favor, that he will.


Vine Wine said...

You are definitely my hero today. I love to hear how creating structure and clear rules is "bad" or "detrimental" for children from the group of child-directed parents that I know. Bubbles is only going to be happier and more confident in his life because he knows how to listen and he knows there are clear boundaries in his life.

Good for you.

Anonymous said...

Go Gwendomama go!

Kristen said...

Woo-hoo!!! Way to go Bubbles and way to go Mommy!!!!

Tricia said...

Lordy- being a parent means being a parent!!! Go, go, go!!! Yeehaw!

I am a total bitch to my kids sometimes- I swear I can be so mean, but they do it, and they know I follow through. (I'm not cruel, just when I say no, I mean no, and if you are going to cry about not getting another chocolate chip cookie, go upstairs, all done)

On the other hand I need some ABA for my RAD 6 year old- Seriously, I'm looking into it.

harvestmoon said...

I guarantee you I am not being railroaded. Sometimes I am directed and sometimes they are directed but we all strive for respect. And the use of respect instead of domination is why I am not railroaded. I show them respect; they show me respect. Everyone's feelings and needs are equal in importance.

Feel free to wallow in self-love for your new found parenting strategies but there is no need to denigrate that which you do not understand.

I do not agree with your choices but that does not lead me to judge and put them down. They are valid for you, so who am I to judge your choice? Do you need to denigrate a choice to make yours seem more valid?

gwendomama said...

hello harvestmoon;
i am neither wallowing or denigrating, honey.
this is no 12 step program, and you are free to leave at any time.

perhaps you misunderstood my comment about respect.

respect is of utmost importance in our family. respect for you, and your family, respect for themselves as they learn that manners are really an appropriate way in which to navigate this world.

do you let your children run loose in restaurants out of respect for their needs?

i do not denigrate your child-directed choices of parenting.
i can question anything, anything at all.

Anonymous said...

Harvestmoon-you clearly do not understand ABA. Applied behavior Analysis is a science and works very well. I think you would change your opinion of ABA if you saw a child not progressing in language, social skills, recepetive and expressive directions, self-help skills, play skills, articulation, etc., and having severe behaviors due to (mainly) rigidity issues. Quality ABA is all about respect and teaching the child in a way that they are successful by breaking down skills and contriving siutations so they are better able to express themselves. By simply "showing respect" to children in need of this type of intervention, a child would be denied the right to learn and it sounds like Bubbles is making great progress in a good ABA program.

Tracey said...

I disagree! You ARE NOT being a MEAN parent. You are being a PARENT.

My word for "OH MY GOD! A SERIOUS AND UNSTOPPABLE DANGER IS IN THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE" is shouting "Halt!" I sound all drill sergeant-like but it TOTALLY works. Better than "stop" or "no" because they hear those words every day. But a good, strong "Halt!" means "Holy Crap! STOP YOU FOOL CHILD!!"

jess said...

Yay for Bubbles! And an even bigger Yay for Mama!

Cutest thing I think I have heard in a while now is the way he said "I don't know." He has such an amazing way of expressing himself. Even if you can't quite catch the words themselves, the reflection in his voice definitely tells you his emotion at the time.

Also I love the frog cup. Seriously. And I might need to get one or two of them myself.

gwendomama said...

Anon 3:34am
well said and thank you, from on ABA advocate to another.

Boss of Seattle said...

Harvestmoon, (just the name sounds so sweet and innocuous, doesn't it girls?) respect comes in all sorts of forms. The respect I would give you as an adult (if you weren't so mean) would be very different than the respect that I would give to my 5 yr old. For example, I would give you the keys to my car and trust that you can drive. My son ALWAYS asks for the keys and I always say NO because he is 5 and hasn't yet reached the developmental milestones that would allow him to be a good driver (nor can he reach the pedals). I know this is extreme, but let's boil it down to something more realistic. You can drink as much juice as you want. My 5 year old is allowed 2 glasses a day. End of story. No discussion unless I - the MOTHER, WHO WORKS HER ASS OFF TO KEEP HIM HAPPY AND HEALTHY- say so. I am the adult, I do most of the work, I set the rules. This extends to my 13 year old as well. "Asher, if you want to go to Liam's you have to clean your room." 'But' always follows. If you want to go to Liam's you have to clean your room. If I were to constantly allow space for him to feel like he can be 'directive' with me then I would be cleaning everyone's rooms and doing very little actual parenting. He knows the limits, and complies. It gives him the safety to be a child and NOT have to make adult decisions -or even decisions that he would be capable of making in two years from now, but is not ready for presently. I respect the magic of childhood and don't want to drag them out of it by placing unrealistic expectations for cogna Asher is 13. Bubbles is 2. He needs everthing done for him to SURVIVE. If G lets him rule the roost they will all starve, wallowing in shitty diapers (or should I say diaper because he can't chane his yet and that means only one to mess). Getting this child to comply, as a member of a family (oh yes, he does have a social contract to adhere to even as a 2 yr old!), will have a powerful, positive, and long lasting effect on his ability to maneuver in and be a positive contributer to society at large.
Get over your self rightousness and find the beauty and truly responsible nature of what G and ABA are offering her child.
And as G (kind of)said, I bet I would not enjoy dinner in a restauraunt with your brood "directing" the atmosphere...

Anonymous said...

Yay, Bubbles!!! I could have benefitted from
using some of these tricks myself a few years back.

And, fyi on the speech articulation, my youngest
who is almost exactly one year older than Bubbles
was speaking nearly in pure vowels a year ago.
He graduated from speech therapy in February
after a year of it and he's now a chatterbox who
is very understandable and only missing the 'th'
sound. So... a lot of progress can happen in a
relatively short time at this age.
best wishes, Anita

harvestmoon said...

Hey, I got no experience with ABA and I really can't speak to that at all. For everyone calling me "mean" and not understanding ABA, please re-read my comment. I addressed one aspect of the post. Describing parents who are not authoritarian as being "railroaded". I am not authoritarian, we parent by consensus. My kids (6, 8, 11 and 13) are not terrors, are respectful to others and get full say in every decision we make in our family, from what music plays in the car, to whether or not car seats are used, to where we live.

It may not work for *you* but that does not mean we are being railroaded.

harvestmoon said...

to the boss of seattle, we disagree completely. if i force my child to comply, it is only because I have failed them in finding a common solution where everyone's needs are met. it is not necessary to force compliance but neither is it necessary to provide options. it is a choice in parenting. obviously, you feel rule setting is preferred and I feel consensus is preferred. that does not mean, however, that I need to speculate on how rude your children would be or how you are railroading your children. Is there no space for acknowledging differences without denigrating the other choice?

Tricia said...


Following the conversation here. Could you clarify "car seats used". Do you mean whether or not they use a car seat? Curious?

Boss of Seattle said...

Harvestmoon, you were mean and judgmental. When you say thing like if 'I have to force them to comply I have failed...' it is a value judgement pointed at me (thinly veiled as a statement of personal truth). I hope your kids are nice. I know mine are. And rules? We all have to live by them. Consensus is great. I like it in the format of my knitting groups. But in the real world we all are forced to comply to a certain degree (what you don't know is that I was Sudbury educated and a rebel at heart and hope that my children have minds of their own too...). I can tell you that if you lived in Washington state and your kids were out of the car seat and you were pulled over, they would be temporarily removed from your custody, you would be fined a bunch o' $, and spend a crap load of time in court sorting it out. Do I like governmental control over my family? Hell no! Do I think I have to suck it up? You BET! Rules are for better or worse part of human and natural existence. The sooner my children realize this the better equiped they will be to deal with the rest of the 'rule loving' world.

mamadaisy said...

BRAVO!!! it always gets worse before it gets better, but i'm so happy to hear the hard work is paying off.

and yes, does this method work on teenagers? five year old? middle aged husbands? eh?

harvestmoon said...

@tricia: yes, I do mean whether or not they use a carseat. For example, my 2nd born HATED carseats and would scream whenever he was placed in one. In hindsight, it was most likely a separation issue. We tried different seats and cars. Since he was a tiny infant, I really couldn't talk to him and figure out the problem though we did find his tolerance for the carseat increased if I was very close to him and could touch and hold him.

So i just didn't use a carseat with him until he was about 8months and could tolerate the separation better. We walked, we used busses and we used rapid transit. I asked neighbors to pickup groceries if I couldn't walk or bus to the store and it sometimes took all day just to do one errand.

At other points in their lives the kids have simply refused to get in their seat. I always kept a good supply of books and food in the car and we'd just hang out until the kid who wouldn't get in the seat was ready. If I anticipated an unwilling child and an emergency, I asked neighbors for help. And now that my eldest is 13, he is willing to babysit the 6yo if she doesn't want to go with us to do errands.

You would think that giving kids so much freedom to make their choices might result in kids who refuse to follow rules, but instead, it has resulted (in my family) with kids who make informed decisions, and kids who decided to use carseats (not simple boosters, Britax SE's) until they physically outgrew them at 100lb. My 13yo and 11yo JUST this past November stopped using their carseats as they approached 95lb. My 8yo sees the change that her brothers are no longer using carseats and she wants out of hers so we are researching and have found a harness which she is willing to use and I am comfortable with (safety wise).

harvestmoon said...

@boss of seattle, you seem determined to take offense where none was implied or intended. If I force my kids to comply, I have failed them. W
hy you decide to infer "mean" from me talking about MY family and MY parenting, I cannot comprehend.

Tricia said...

Harvestmoon- relieved at the car seat issue. I was having a hard time with what i thought you meant. My kids have all gone through phases of not wanting to get in their seat (generally very short lived) never as an infant. I was concerned that while it is certainly your choice about whether or not they sit in car seats- with all the research out there- well, you know, how could you not buckle them up? Again I would respect that choice- but admittedly have major judgment about it. So, yes, whew, glad I don't need to be all judgmental.

With my lifestyle (school, suburbia eight kids, etc.) I do not feel I have the choice to wait 'em out. I have pulled to the side of the road when one of them unbuckles, suddenly, for reasons unknown, and waited, but only if we were not in a time crunch.

I do respect my kids and whenever possible give them a choice- as I mentioned above about the cookie- If they are still hungry they can have an apple or banana or you can cry and have a fit, that's fine, do it in your room, or say okay mama and be mad at me and stop crying.

Re-reading my (already long) comment,I'd have to see here that while you may be a self confessed child directed parent, there are ultimately choices that you make for them. They had to be buckled up to travel in the car. You let them choose when, but they still needed to be buckled. I'm sure there are many more instances like this.

So, ultimately, how does that make your parenting any different than mine?

gwendomama said...


As you can see, your parenting choices are not as different as you think they are.
My children have also been given the illusion of choice (no cookie, but here's a choice of healthy food - or, which jammies? but bedtime is still 7:30, period.) But I realized that in many instances, the illusion does not serve them well. If there is no choice about holding hands crossing the street, why give one? If there is no choice about the carseat issue, then why give one? Frankly, when you said that about the carseats, I was ready to tell you to get the helloffa my blog. you don't go to a dead kid blog and brag about how your child rode around with no carseat.
thanks tricia, for pointing out the carseat photos. I am glad that you ultimately kept them safe, because let's face it...respect for your child's process or not, that is your job.

And I think that the BOS said that you were mean because you are clearly defensive and this whole thing started from you responding to me saying something to the people who were all IN MY FACE about MY CHOICES.
was i talking to you?
am sorry if you thought i was. but i don't even know you.
As I said, I think you would find that we have more in common than you think.
But you? You don't have my child, and have not had to make the choices to help him that even you may have to wrap your brain around.
I do and I have.
So, a little respect please? If you can afford it to your children, then offer it to a stranger.
Nobody ever pointed their finger at you. You came forward.

Boss of Seattle said...

Well said Tricia. Let's call a truce and say we all L-O-V-E our kids. It's true. Harvestmoon, just recognize that this (gwendomama), altough public, is the deepest expression of truth for my friend. Try to find a more constructive voice. Most of us who read, love her, because we know her. Show us all the respect that WE deserve and tred lightly. Thanks.

Boss of Seattle said...

Tread lightly (not tred) anybody got any wise ideas about keyboard issues with a sony vaio? Sorry to USE you so G...

Anonymous said...

Wow, Harvestmoon you amaze me. What use is it in the long run to pretend that allowing your child to not do the things they don't want to now; errands,car seats, etc...will in any way help them. You mention that your neighbors fill in when a child doesn't want to do something. I wish as an adult that my neighbors would do my laundry and sweep my floor but unfortunately I have to do things I don't like and so does my child. Yes it is not always the most fun for her but I have to say she appreciates the time when she can do as she wants and have complete free choice and she understands when that is not possible because we happen to live in society.

BOS - you are my new hero next to Gwendomama, and I grew up in Seattle so I am happy to see the new boss in town is doing a great job.

Lin said...

Brava, G. I'm so impressed with you and Bubbles...what extraordinary progress.

I'm trying to stop laughing, though, about Harvestmoon's comments. Can you see me saying, "So, he didn't like his carseat, so for eight months I walked down the mountain every day to pick up basic supplies or asked my long suffering idiot neighbors to pick crap up for me. The other kids? Oh, well, they just got used to bossy baby and neurotic mama's response to said infant. You know me, I'm just one patient bitch.

Denise said...

Wow G,
Once again I have missed all of the action.
I say yay for bubbles. Yay for ABa and i was never a big fan of it to begin with. My hubby uses it at his work with the kids. I always said gah that is so harsh. He does use it occaisionally with the Cam man.
Desperate times and all that. Loved the video of precious bubbles.
As always you have my love and respect.
Oh and harvest moon:
I have to wonder why you would come on to someone's blog and make those kind of comments.
They really serve no purpose here.

Jen said...

What does ABA stand for?

And where were you when my kids were two???

Anonymous said...


Canan Eoy

Anonymous said...

Loved the reaction to the frog in cup. I had one when I was young. Did you purchase your cup recently? If so, where?

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Anonymous said...

I really can't stand these people who feel that children need to make their own choices all the time at all costs, at the expense of the rest of society. First of all, when children have bondaries, they feel safe. When they feel safe, they build and flourish. They learn respect and to respect others. Making yur child the center of the universe, tempting as it is sometimes, all you do is show them disresepct for others. More importantly, it harms them in ways into their future as adults. A child who never learns no, becomes ill equipped to deal with the realities of life. No, you did not getthe scholarship. No, you did not make the tennis team. A child who never learns to cope with no at the beginnning makes for a very trooubled adult. We have all seen it happen.