Communication Complication

When my son was six years old, my husband and I decided to move from California to Colorado. My son's father had remarried and had a one year old daughter with his new wife. When we announced to my son that we were going to move he was excited, but sad. He kept telling me we had to take his little sister with us. No matter how many times I explained to him that it was impossible to take his little sister with us he insisted she come. I gave him the choice to live with me in Colorado or stay in California with his dad and sister. He refused to leave his sister behind so I made what was the most difficult and painful decision of my life... I chose to let my son live with his father so he could still be with his sister.
My son lives with me through the summer and various weeks of the year when he is not in school. He now has a younger brother at his father's house as well as his sister and he of course has his sister here. I was a single mother for a long time and even though I dated and even lived with someone for a few years my son and I never felt at home. My son did live with me up until I moved and we have always been really close. When my son was nine he started storming off, yelling at people and throwing huge temper tantrums when he got angry. He argued about everything and never took the time to talk about the problem or listen when people tried to explain the situation. Then to my dismay, my daughter started to follow suit. It finally got to the point where I decided that something had to be done. After a long, private talk with my son I realized this was the norm for him when he was at home with his father. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. After trying to work through his temper on his own I realized he would need a little help with his communication issues. So I came up with "The Communication Cup." Here's how it worked.

1. I sat down with both of my children and placed an orange cup on the table. I explained to them that this cup was going to help us work through our communication problems.
2. I then told my children they had to pick an appropriate consequence for their inappropriate actions.
3. My children included my inappropriate actions into the list and I had to pick a consequence.
4. We wrote them all done and put them on the fridge

My son's list:
a) Storming off when angry, Put a quarter in the communication cup
b) Urinating on the toliet seat and not cleaning it (gross I know), Clean all the toliets in the house (we have three)
c) Yelling and screaming instead of talking, Put a quarter in the communication cup
d) Not doing chores, Do an extra chore of Mom or Dad's choosing
e) Sneaking food from the kitchen, Pay for and replace the food taken with his own money
f) Arguing or Lying, Put a quarter in the communication cup
g) Not doing homework, Do extra work of Mom or Dad's choosing
h) Continually asking the same question over and over again, Put a quarter in the communication cup

My daughter's list:
a) Storming off when angry, Put a quarter in the communication cup
b) Arguing, Put a quarter in the communication cup
c) Throwing a temper tantrum, Put a quarter in the comminication cup
d) Not doing chores, Do an extra chore of Mom or Dad's choosing

My list:
a) Cursing, Put a quarter in the communication cup
b) Not listen when being told something important to the children, Put a quarter in the communication cup
d) Continually asking the same question over and over again, Put a quarter in the communication cup

The children picked their own consequences after I chose the first one and I let my children pick my consequences, but made them keep the consequences within reason (after my son suggested I put $100 in each of their piggy banks). We only had to do the communication cup for a few weeks before things went right back to normal. Whatever money was in the cup I ended up dividing into my children's piggy banks without them knowing.
I love this idea and it really helped me get my son to talk to me again rather than yell. I would really recommend this to anyone who is struggling with communicating with their kids. Just remember to take their suggestions into consideration when it comes to things you do as well and let them choose the consequences, but make sure they choose them appropriately.

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