Monday, February 8, 2010

Milkjuice, Anyone?

Last night at dinner, James decided that it would be a good idea to mix some orange juice into his milk. He insisted it would be a delicious concoction that he would thoroughly enjoy. My first instinct was to inform him that this was not only gross, but not allowed. After all, I knew very well that he would take one sip of his milkjuice and figure out that he didn’t like it. But instead of saying “no,” I took a deep breath and told him yes, he could go ahead and make up a glass of milkjuice. I also explained that he would have to finish the entire glass of milkjuice if he wanted a snack later that evening. He acknowledged the rules, mixed up his milkjuice, took a big drink, and gagged. Truly stunned that his precious milkjuice was anything but delicious, he turned to me and said, “Mom, this is GROSS!” I took a tiny sip and agreed with him. He then began to plead with me to reverse the “drink it all before snack” rule. I didn’t budge. He cried, took sips, gagged, and made awful faces. Oh how I wanted to save him from his fate. But I didn’t. I held firm. By the end of dinner he had finished off his milkjuice, shuddering as he took his last sip.

For those of you who are now convinced that I am the meanest mommy in the whole world, let me explain my thinking. I’ve recently been inspired by a book called Parenting with Love and Logic by Jim Fay and Foster Cline. The idea behind Love and Logic is to pull away from controlling your children (“no, you can NOT mix milk and juice together!”) and move toward letting your children experience the natural consequences of their actions ("Sure, go ahead and mix up a yummy glass of milkjuice! But you’ll need to drink it all because we don’t waste food in this family."). I love this idea because I know full well that controlling parents do not mix well with independent, curious 5 year old boys. My husband and I are classic controlling parents. Left to our own devices, power struggles abound. The idea behind Love and Logic is to avoid power struggles by allowing children make their own decisions (within limits, of course) and experience their own consequences (which, to be fair, still have to be implemented by parents). Since the child is in control of making the decision, the decision is the bad guy, not the parent.

Along the same lines, we recently implemented a new bedtime plan. Like most families, we do a snack-bath-bed routine. Like many 5 year olds, James had started resisting along the way. He dawdled over snack, resisted brushing his teeth, took his own sweet time getting on his pjs, and cried if he didn’t get to play a bit before bed. All along the way, Andy and I were constantly giving instructions (drink your milk, eat your snack, get back in your chair, stop getting out of your chair, brush your teeth, take your clothes off, come back in the bathroom, brush your teeth, hurry up, stop shooting baskets with your clothes and the laundry chute, get in the tub!)

Searching for a way to give James some control over the process, limit the parental nagging, and yet still get him in bed before 10 pm, I happened upon the idea of a visual timer. These nifty little devices actually let children *see* how much time is left by slowing decreasing the amount of red color on the clock. When the red is gone, the time is up. After getting a visual timer and showing it to James, I explained to him that he had 45 minutes for snack and bath. If he got done with snack, toothbrushing, bath, and pjs with red left on the clock, he could use whatever red (time) he had left to play before bed. I then set the clock, put him in charge of deciding when to have snack and when to have bath, and didn’t give him any more instructions. It seems so simple, but it’s been so effective. The first few times, I had to bite my tongue to keep from reminding him that he needed to hurry up during snack if he wanted to have time for bath (oh, how I do love to control!). I had to resist telling him that his goofing around before getting in the tub would lead to a very short play time. And I did endure some tears the first few nights when he ran out of time. But then, miraculously, it began to work! I now see James sneaking a peek at the clock when he is eating snack so that he can judge how much time he has left. He stays in his seat for snack (most of the time) and moves pretty quickly through tooth brushing , bath and PJs (usually). Most nights, he has a good amount of time left to play. And he willingly climbs into bed for books when the timer goes off.

So I’m beginning to buy into this Love and Logic stuff. It’s nice to have fewer power struggles, and it’s such a joy to see James begin to make his own thoughtful decisions.

And I even got to try some milkjuice.

A note from Baby Bella:
We were so inspired by Becca's (aka Baby Bella Mama) blog, that we have decided to bring the visual timers she mentioned above into our product line. We are expecting them next week and are now taking PRE-ORDERS! And Baby Bella Mama readers get a special bonus... order before February 15th and receive 10% off your timer!
Use coupon code TIMER in the checkout to receive this discount.


  1. Of course, there are always us adults who don't believe James and are about to go try it for ourself! Perhaps it's an aquired taste...

  2. Your milkjuice story totally reminds me of my husband's milkjuice cereal story! When he was a kid, there wasn't enough milk to fill the cereal bowl almost to the rim (the way he liked it!), so he pulled out the orange juice. His mom watched and all she said was "Don't do it! You'll regret it." He thought he knew better of course. So Mom said, "if you do, then you gotta finish it ALL." And the rest of the story went the same as yours did--gagging and all! I love that story!! Ha ha!!