My older two lovely children never became overly attached to any characters, movies, toys, blankets, or stuffed animals. And then came E. Nemo (the pillow and blanket) traveled with us everywhere for nearly five years. Thomas the Tank Engine – or any train for that fact – would stop him dead in his tracks (pun intended). He once sang the Darth Vader theme in his sleep. Pokemon is a current favorite. But the be-all-end-all for him is Legos. There could be worse things, right? For now, I am thankful for his Lego obsession.
We probably have four drawers full of various Lego pieces, including Bionicles, Hero Factory, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, Atlantis, and Indiana Jones. The vacuum frequently sucks up pieces (we have a rule that if it’s left out on the floor, it becomes vacuum food), and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stepped on those pieces in the middle of the night (usually resulting in some hopping-on-one-foot and cussing). But Legos keep him happy and entertained. When he gets a new kit, he will put it together – very quickly – as per the directions. Then he will take it apart and build something completely new. He’s always coming up with new creatures, planes, weapons, and rockets. We are constantly trying to find a new Lego set that will take him longer than a half hour to complete. No luck to date. The Lego Advent Calendar was added to our household Christmas decorations last year. I’ve never seen a kid so happy to get up every morning so he could see what the new set was and put it together.
It’s no secret we’ve been having issues with Ethan lately. So I’ve resorted to bribery to encourage good behavior. I’d much rather reward than ground or yell. Consequences of poor choices don’t seem to have much affect with him, but holding a reward over his head somehow usually works. So, last week, since he survived the first week of school without much incident, I took him to Toys R Us to spend the allowance he’d earned. He, of course, bought two new Lego sets. This week, I have a small set (under $5) sitting on the kitchen counter. He sees it every morning and knows that if he gets through this week without arguing about homework or getting in trouble at school, he will get that set Friday afternoon. Yesterday, we posted a calendar for September on the fridge. If he gets through this month without any homework battles, without any “pink slips” at school, and without getting into trouble in class, he will get the Lego Harry Potter visual dictionary. Oh yeah, forgot to mention, he’s also VERY in to Harry Potter at the moment, and can’t wait for the Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 Wii/DS game to come out (that’s another reward for another month).
Sometimes I worry we’re setting ourselves up by rewarding him like this with toys and such. But I do believe with each child, you have to find what works with them to encourage the good behavior and good choices. That is not going to be the same for every kid. When I was younger, I used to think it was unfair that my brother, sister and I were “treated differently”. Hah. What geniuses we are when we’re young, and one more apology I apparently owe my parents. My three kids each have their own interests, their own personalities, their own quirks, their own push-buttons. I’ve learned I have to play on that and go with what works for each kid. They all have the same household rules, and standards of behavior expectations, but the rewards and consequences are different.
For now, I say, “Thank you Legos” for giving me something with which to reward my youngest child. We have had relative peace in the house for the past fifteen hours. Granted, we’re on day 1 of September, and every day is not going to go as well as yesterday afternoon and this morning, but at least I know I have *something* that works, most of the time.