Well, it took a while but we finally have some leverage on our children. When your kids have had nothing, expect nothing, and are used to nothing, it doesn't leave you much to work with on the discipline front. You can't take stuff away because it either doesn't mean anything, or it means everything. Like Habtamu and shoes. We don't know what the story is there, but the boy gets really edgy about his footwear and it would just be cruel to even threaten to take a pair away. Grounding doesn't mean anything unless you can explain to them what they're missing out on, and in general, lingering around the house is just stressful for everyone.

It's taken six months but the kids finally have a routine that they understand and like, and they have expectations. Which means, we can now say, "Because you (fill in the offense,) the TV will not be turned back on until Thursday" and it stings a little. It's enough to make them think twice and start cutting deals.

Hitting. No discussion. No TV. One day minimum. This knowledge alone has stopped Habti faster than I can grab his elbow when starts to wind up.

Burping (not regular burping but the, "Look at what I can do" kind) at the dinner table means you take everyone's plates to the dishwasher after the meal.

Yordi tried out some new English today. In specific she tried out the phrase, "Don't you talk to me like that," on her mother. Unfortunately that's a one-way statement. One-way to the no TV zone. Chris responded with the grammatically correct, "Oh no you didn't," and thus ended today's viewing of The Parent Trap.

It's just nice to have an avenue of discipline that doesn't involve dragging, suppression, screaming, banging, yelling, crying, etc...

I also wanted to mention that, when the kids were still speaking Amharic they would have this little banter between them. Kind of like how you see lawyers talk to their clients in movies. They would either lean in toward each other, or say something so nonchalantly that you'd hardly know that one was addressing the other, and suddenly a decision would be announced. The example I remember is that at meal times one would often talk their sibling either into or out of eating something, sometimes mid mouthful. There would be a whisper, or something that sounded like, "Hmm, which one is my salad fork" and abruptly the other would point to their plate and say, "This? No thank you," even though they had just devoured half of it. Or the opposite, one would approve of something and start cooing into their bowl, then the other would take half-hearted spoonfuls and choke it down.

I bring this up because the tone and rhythm of that banter has returned, but now it's in English and I still feel like I'm listening on their secret language. Chris wrote about the, "Don't hit me, and I won't hit you so we can watch Hercules this afternoon, Ok?" pact, but there have been many other communiques that are reminiscent of table talk during a card game, or like two mobsters making deals in a confessional.

Oh and speaking of language learning, the kids are now in the epicenter of the, "Why?" phase. Insert both eye roll and eye twitch here. They love to ask it. Won't answer it.

Why? Because it's time to find something else to do other than watch TV.


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