Monday, November 14, 2011

I Want the Treat, Not the Trick

This past Halloween was a fun one for us. It was the first year that Alec really understood what was going on and had fun dressing up and going house to house for candy. Even Chase kept his costume on and made it around the whole block. It was also the first year that I passed out treats to the trick-or-treaters. In past years either Chad has done this or we haven't been home.

While passing out candy to all the little princesses, dinosaurs, ghosts, superheroes and monkeys, I began to realize that there were two distinctly different types of children. On one hand, there were the kids that would cautiously walk up to the door, shyly say "trick-or-treat" and act very appreciative when I let them pick out their own treat from the bucket. They were always very polite and never walked away without saying "thank you." On the other hand, there were the kids who ran at top speed from the last house they visited up to our porch. They shoved a hand into the bucket, grabbed as much candy as they could and ran to the next house without so much as a "thank you" or "Happy Halloween," and in most cases I didn't even get a "trick-or-treat" when they arrived. I also noticed that it really didn't matter what age the kids were, so I never knew whether I was going to get a "trick" kid or "treat" kid when a trick-or-treater came up to my porch.

In one instance, a group of three or four older boys, probably high-school-aged, walked up to our door. It was later in the evening, so Chad and the boys had returned from their adventure around the neighborhood, and Alec and Chase were helping me hand out the candy. The trick-or-treaters rang the bell and said "trick-or-treat," and I held out the bucket telling them they could pick something out, just like I had been doing all evening. Each boy politely took one thing and thanked me. But before they turned around to leave, Alec decided he wanted to help by giving the boy in the front a piece of candy, a Twizzler. I just assumed that this boy would take the Twizzler without even thinking twice. But instead he caught me completely off guard. He smiled and said to Alec, "Thanks, but I already took a piece." Alec again tried to offer the Twizzler to the boy, and I even told him that it was ok to take the second piece (afterall, he had been very polite so far). But the boy insisted that he didn't need it and just said to Alec, "That's ok can keep that one for yourself."  He thanked us again, said "Happy Halloween" and then went to catch up with his friends.

Now after almost two hours of watching countless trick-or-treaters of all ages help themselves to numerous pieces of candy without so much as a thank you, I was left just about speechless. I stood there wondering what this boy's parents had done to turn him into such a nice young gentleman. There are adults who don't act as politely as this boy had! What had his parents done that the parents of the "trick" kids hadn't done? And most importantly, what could I do to ensure that Alec and Chase grow up to be like this boy?

My best guess is that there isn't really an answer to this question. I'm sure there are plenty of wrong things to do, but I don't think there is one specific thing that will guarantee that Alec and Chase turn into "treat" children. I like to think that I am raising them to be good kids, but I can't help worrying when Alec runs over to Chase, pushes him over and grabs a toy out of his hands, or when Chase clobbers Alec on the head with a toy hammer. Despite timeouts, my numerous pleas to "be nice to your brother" or "take turns," and removing the problem toy from the picture, nothing seems to get  through to them. I realize that they are just kids and that this behavior is somewhat normal for their ages. But then I'll see other siblings playing so well together or an older sibling helping a younger one instead of fighting with them, and I go back to the question of what these parents are doing that I'm not.

I have tried to explain to Alec that we use our words to express something, not our hands or feet (or teeth). This worked a little bit, but now I'll find Alec one inch away from Chase's face yelling at the top of his lungs, "CAN I PLEASE HAVE THAT TOY? CHASE!!! CHASE!!! I WANT THAT TOY!! PLEASE CAN I HAVE THAT TOY?!?!" He thinks that just because he uses the word "please" that Chase should give him the toy. When Chase doesn't give Alec the toy (which is almost always the case unless I intervene), Alec looks like he's about to burst a blood vessel restraining himself from grabbing it. And if Chase tries to run away, Alec will follow right behind him and "accidentally" bump into him and knock him down. So I'm pretty sure I haven't succeeded in creating a "treat" kid out of Alec yet.

As for Chase, he's just doing what Alec has taught him to do. Alec would take a stuffed animal or soft toy and make it jump on Chase's head, but he knew it wasn't really hurting Chase (at least I think he knew...). The thing is, Chase doesn't understand the difference between making a stuffed bunny "hop" onto someone's head and pounding a hammer into someone's head. And because of this I'm pretty sure Alec has lost a few brain cells in the past few months. So the best thing I can do for Chase now is to teach Alec to be nice, which hopefully will set an example for Chase until he is old enough to understand right from wrong. But if I haven't succeeded in making Alec a "treat" kid yet, I obviously haven't succeeded in making Chase a "treat" kid.

I also am constantly reminded that if I want my kids to be nice kids, I need to be nice too. I'm sure when Chase hears me yelling at Alec for not listening, he doesn't understand why I'm yelling. He therefore thinks that yelling is just a normal part of life. Sadly it is a pretty normal part of my life, but maybe I need to be focusing more on how I act instead of how the kids are acting.

Every once in a while I will catch a glimpse of my boys being "treat" kids. But for the most part they still have a good bit of learning to do. Actually, I guess we all have some learning to do, whether it's learning to be patient, learning to take turns, or learning to handle situations without yelling all the time. For now I will just hope that my kids are just, as they say, "boys being boys." But one day I hope these boys will be nice gentlemen who will make other moms speechless over their polite actions. I know that's a lot to hope for, but it really would be a great treat.

They're still young... but will they be my little tricks or my little treats?

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