Monday, March 30, 2009

The Grinch that Stole Legos

OK, I could use some parenting advice here...

We struggle with our 7yo son...he is a wonderful child in so many ways, but he has always, always, been stubborn and headstrong beyond what we can easily deal with. Many times I think of him as just needing more "control" over things than most kids. So we try really hard to give him control wherever we can.

But lately it isn't enough for him. Mostly it comes down to homework and chores around the house. This weekend was no exception. And it ended on a bad note last night.

Our kids are still young enough that we have a simple evening routine - dinner, bath/shower, independent reading, being read to, lights out. Always the same. Last night our boys were playing with brand new Legos right before dinner, and as a treat we let them go back to playing Legos after dinner. After about 1/2 an hour we got them all upstairs and into the shower.

We told out 7yo that it was time for him to either read or work on his project (he has a project, a big one, due tomorrow at school and won't start it. I'm letting the chips fall where they may on that one, making it his responsibility when it's not ready tomorrow) Anyway, we got one of his famous tantrums, and screaming "NO! I'm playing LEGOS!!" I calmly told him if he didn't do his reading/project for 15 minutes I would take his Legos away today. He said he didn't care.

So, I took every friggin' Lego out of his room this morning. Packed them in big boxes and put them in the attic. But I felt horrible doing it, and I don't know what to do. I want to say to him, until you show me that you can handle your other responsibilities -- homework and reading in particular -- I keep the Legos.

But then I struggle. I hate the homework. I think a 7 year old that spends 7 of 12 waking hours in school should not have to do more at home. But, he does have to, and that's just life. How can I be understanding and firm at the same time? How can I stress the importance of independent reading and still give him freedom? I hate the threats, and the tough love, but I can't figure out how to get through to him, to let him know that some things aren't negotiable.

Any thoughts?


  1. I think you are on the right track, but then again I always think I am too harsh and admire you for your level headed and patient approach. It's just going to take something more with him. Don't forget to tie in his teacher so she knows to stand on your side of things.

    Good Luck!

  2. I agree it's silly that there is homework at that age; but 15 minutes of reading in the evening is what you would want him to do anyway, right? I know how you feel about taking away those Legos; but once he calms down, just tell him that if he reads his 15 minutes or whatever, the Legos come out. Otherwise, no...

    But don't expect him to be all "Oh, yes, Mother, now I understand." He'll still be upset, but he'll get his reading done. It is important for him to know that sometimes he isn't the boss. We went through this with our David - I took all his stuff away from him and I just felt like dying inside. But he had to learn that things weren't up to him, you know? And he's fine now - a great kid that always listens.

    On homework, read Ending The Homework Hassle by John Rosemond. Good book, and funny, too!

  3. Just remember the sweet little heart he made for you for Valentine's Day, and follow what you feel is right. You did exactly what I would have done. I'm sure it'll all work out for the best.

  4. I think you did the right thing. I had a tough cookie too......wears you out! But he needs to learn self control and the consequences for his actions. I think you are right on target. (And the suggestion for John Rosemond's book: EXCELLENT!)

  5. My daughter (now 10) can be a little like this. But she is scared to get in trouble at school (as opposed to at home!) and so she will buckle down in the end, with my help. I am a great procrastinator as well. I can relate to her in that area. I think it is important to teach them responsiblity. What will happen if his project doesn't get done? Will it be worth it to find out?

    How involved a project is this? Can you get in there and help? I find that if I get involved we both end up having a good time and we both take something from it in the end. As the projects have come and gone, I have been less and less involved and she has been better and better about getting them done in a timely manner. (This means finishing said project a day early! Although we have known about said project for at least a month!)

    I believe in rewards. My middle son just turned 8 and like yours loves his Legos -- especially his Star Wars legos. I see nothing wrong with offering a few incentives to help get a project done. If you get your project done well and in time without complaint I will let you pick out some Legos at Target. ($10 or less, preferably)

    We had a book report due (my 8 year old, in 2nd grade) the day we got back from spring break. I thought it was harsh, at first, but then I realized it was a good way to make sure that the kids keep up with their reading. Reading has never been an issue with him, but writing is. It's a struggle and it is painful for him and painful for me to watch. He's a bright kid and so instead of getting frustrated with a pen and paper, resulting in major tears, battles and tantrums I decided to have him dictate his book report to me and I typed it on the computer. The result was fabulous and far more superior than what would have resulted from his sloppy penmanship which would have ended up being incomplete. I told his teacher we did this and she was fine with it and glad that we were able to get the result we did.

    I would have absolutely taken away the Legos. I have taken away many things over these past 10 years I have been a parent!

    Sorry about my novel!!!

  6. I have PhD in marriage and family and I 100% agree with what you did. Kids need boundaries...they WANT us to put them in makes them feel safe. They are not capable of completely doing it themselves. My kids are almost 12, 8 and almost 3 and we STILL have that same night routine. Even my almost 12 year old, shower, reading bed. every night! You are doing the right thing. I would make him earn them back bit by bit as he demonstrates responsibility.


  7. Perhaps you could have him earn some of his legos back bit by bit. That way you might have a more lasting impression on him.

  8. I have 5 kids ranging from 9 to 6 months. My seven year old girl is very similar to how you describe your son. I think part of the problem is that they are hoping we reinforce the rules... it makes them feel safe. She messes her room up so bad and refuses to clean it. We started warning her last night that if it wasn't clean, she would go to bed early and miss dinner tonight. Sometimes I think it makes me feel worse than them, but they need to know we mean what we say. There is so much changing all the time in the world, we are their stability. I used to do similar stuff when I was younger. I acted like I hated my parents for their disciplining me... I felt closer to them for that. As for the legos, there are several methods. Personally, I would make him wait until the next day. Give him about 30 minutes and then ask him to do something for you. When he starts protesting, explain to him that how he reacts will determine whether or not he gets to play with them anymore today. I have also found that the 7 year old an 9 year old really don't like time-outs (they're for babies!!). So time-outs have been very effective. We bought a monkey rug at Target for $2.50 and it has greatly improved their behaviors!! :)