The first thing we did, was review with her the pluses and minuses of gymnastics. I've mentioned the minuses, but the pluses are she thinks it's fun, great exercise, the coaches are loving, the sport demands that she respect her body with good nutrition and she's delighted that she's made some good friends as a result of her involvement with the team. We asked if she really, deep in her heart, wanted to continue. She assured us that she did.
Secondly, my husband and I thought about what behaviors we wanted to encourage and discourage. I considered what needed to be done before I even get in the car to take her to the gym. Then, I drew up this contract:
Diva's Contract For Being On The Gymnastics' Team
- All playdates, whether you've played or not, must be over by (time specified) so that we're not late to practice.
- All schoolwork must be done before leaving for the gym.
- Dinner must have been eaten before leaving for the gym.
- If you miss more 3 practices during the Season, for any other reason than illness as determined by Mom, you will be off the team.
- If you have any fits/arguments about going, Mom will inform the Coach. YOU can then tell him why you're not there.
- If you are late, you will still go because you have a commitment to the team and understand that showing up for practice is very important.
- You must be in bed by (time specified) – no arguments, please.
I understand that taking gymnastics is a privilege, not a right. I agree to the conditions above.
I presented the contract to Diva and she, on her own, reviewed each point, considering it carefully. She brought up her objections to several and I calmly explained why those points were being included. I told her that that if she did not agree to the contract, I would not pay for her gymnastics for the upcoming month. It was not a threat - it was a fact. She read the contract meticulously, once more before finally signing it.
The contract now hangs on the refrigerator. The beauty of it is that it clearly states what Diva's commitment is and what happens if she doesn't follow through. Since she has signed it, she can't say later on, “No, I didn't agree to that.” The proof is on the fridge.
Is it guaranteed to eliminate any tantrums? No, but it gives me an out if she does resist on any of the points made. There will be no yelling or manipulating, on my part, to get her to go. As in the real world, if the contract is broken, the privilege will be pulled.