Friday, July 10, 2009

Spare the Sponge, Spoil the Child

This article was originally published at

I have a seven year old with learning disabilities. She’s a cute kid, and I love her tons, but she has a small problem that challenges me on a daily basis: She’s mentally a five year old with the reach and appetite of a seven year old.

Case in point, I have sugar cubes I like to add to my tea. No matter where I store them, she’ll invariably find them and eat them—every single one. At this point, I may never drink tea again. It’s quite difficult to get out the ladder and climb to the eaves where I’m currently hiding them.

Yesterday, she was on the prowl for some cookies my wife had picked up. When I told my girl that not only had I hid the cookies, but that she couldn’t have them until after dinner, I was met with a classic tempersulktrum. First her spine seemed to liquify as her body collapsed in upon itself while she simultaneously threw her arms upwards. Then they came down in a masterfully timed descent with the crumpling of her legs. Before hitting the floor she sprung back up while wailing, then repeated the process a few times. It was quite the spectacle.

Spare the Sponge, Spoil the ChildI usually send her to her room and tell her she can come back when she’s ready to behave. This time, however, I was struck with a sudden idea. Grabbing a discarded candy bag, I told her it represented her stomach. Then I took a sponge and told her it represented a cookie. (Ew! A sponge‽) Then I put the sponge inside the bag and asked her if there was any room left in the bag. When she saw there was none, I told her that’s why we want her to eat dinner first—so there’d be room in her stomach for it. The light went on in her eyes and I knew I had won a decisive battle.

I personally know a handful of ladies who can sew up fluffy, colorful, cloth stomachs with insertable, stuffed snack and dinner dolls faster than I can scratch my armpit, but lacking said skills I did the best I could. Even after some thought, however, I couldn’t come up with a better visual aide. Using real cookies and dinner in a ziplock baggie would look disgusting. For the time being this was one tempersulktrum I managed to simply blot up with a sponge.

How do you teach your children to not snitch treats before dinner? Please share your tips.


Douglas Cootey is a married, full time dad raising four girls in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah who has long ago overcome his aversion to the color Pink. Douglas blogs about overcoming AD/HD & Depression with humor & pluck over at the award winning A Splintered Mind. He also co-produces a podcast with his 17 year old daughter. The random thoughts of his addled mind can be found at DouglasCootey and SplinteredMind over on Twitter.

Photo credit: Look What I Found
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