Let me preface my story of a hard lesson for my boys by talking about three year olds.  I know there are a lot of us out there saying that the terrible threes are way worse than the twos, and as far as the tantrums go… it’s true.  The tantrums are bigger, more defiant, and more outrageous.  But there is so much more to a three year old than their tantrums and fits.  I love just watching my boys when they are playing together nicely.  I love seeing how they are growing into little individuals with distinct personality traits.  I love having a conversation with them about whatever they feel like talking about. Recently husband talked with my son for over an hour about bugs…. yes, bugs.  They just sat there and talked.  They have so many thoughts about the world and their observations.  I just love it.  These are just a few of the great things that fill the time in between the tantrums, which unfortunately is where my little story begins.

My little guys absolutely light up my life but they can certainly push my buttons when they want to.*

My sons were having a particularly rough couple of weeks.  Everything out of their mouths was a whine, fuss, scream or complaint.  It seemed like there was someone in time out every minute of every day.  I don’t really know what was going on, but it lasted several weeks and I was exhausted.  On a Friday afternoon they were being particularly rough.  Nothing I was doing was working, so I tried to think of something they would really regret losing. We had a Disneyland trip planned for Sunday that I was dreading because of how their behavior had been.

As they were crying and screaming at each other, I stopped and called each of their names and told them they were not going to go to Disneyland on Sunday if they kept up this behavior.  Two minutes later I was on the phone with my dad letting him know that Disneyland was canceled and we wouldn’t be going.  Cue the loud horrific cries and wails of what was clearly a horrendous act. At bed time they each asked if they could still go to Disneyland on Sunday like we had planned, and I said no which resulted in a very long, loud bedtime.

On Saturday my mom asked if they could try to earn their trip back at dinner time.  What can I say Grandma is a bit of a pushover. Not wanting to argue with my own mother, I agreed and told the boys if they wanted to earn their trip back they needed to sit down, use their manners and eat nicely at dinner.  The chaos of the last couple of weeks continued and I was livid. Our dialog went something like this:

Me: OK you have had enough chances; you are not going to Disneyland.  I am going to take Lilly and you will stay here with dad.
Joe: No mommy.
Nick:  You aren’t going to leave us. We will still go.
James: Yeah we are going.
Me:  No boys you are not going.  I am going to wake up early and take Lilly.  When you wake up your sister and I will be at Disneyland.
Nick and James: No, we are going to go. Ha!
Me: I am not going to argue.  I mean what I say.  You are not going.
Nick and James: Silly mommy.
Joe: If I eat all my peas can I still go?

I was furious at my boys for continuing to argue with me when I meant what I said.  They were looking me in the eye and laughing at my proposed punishment.  All I could think was, who are these children?

Joe had realized that I meant it and was sad, but the other two were just getting under my skin.  I got up to refill my water glass so that I could get away for a moment.  When I came back they continued with their arguments which Nick followed up with a laugh and sticking his tongue out.  I looked right at him and said, “Remember this moment son. This right here has just solidified your punishment; you will not go.”

At bedtime they started in again and I simply said I was not going to discuss Disneyland. The next morning I got up early and took my daughter to Disneyland with my mom for a girls’ day.

Girls’ day at Disneyland

We had a fantastic day and grandma spoiled her little girl ridiculously with all kinds of treats.  We had a day just for her.  Usually we go wherever the boys want to go, but this time our day was catered to her.  We had lunch with the princesses, we went on It’s a Small World repeatedly, and the best part was when she napped, I got to shop.  I am a Disney fan and since my boys have been born there has not been a lot of Disneyland shopping allotted to this momma.  We had such a great day I hardly remembered that we were there as a result of a punishment for the boys.

I tried to look at the good side and Enjoy my day with my little girl.

When we came back from Disneyland the boys were pretty sad.  They were looking at her doll and her new shirt and realized there was nothing for them. (I had to repeatedly tell grandma no buying things for the boys.) Again we had a few tears and some pouty faces, but I told them that they could earn their next trip with good behavior and respect for mommy.

Let me tell you — the following week my kids were so much better.  I felt like I had to play the role of mean mommy.  I had to follow through with my threat to cancel Disneyland.  I have even heard my boys tell each other, “She means it; She will take it away if you don’t stop.”

In the short term I felt like the wicked stepmother telling Cinderella she couldn’t go to the ball.  In the long run though, I think it truly taught my boys a lesson.  I am not just standing in front of them barking out threats with no follow through.  If they behave badly they will have consequences.  They have learned that this momma means what she says.

We did eventually take the boys to Disneyland after they spent some time working on their behavior.

Have you ever taken away privileges for bad behavior? How did it work out?

** photo credit to Joe Dolen Photography