Whatever Works, Part Four Billion and Two

It's official. My 4 1/2-year-old is finally using a fork and a spoon.

Also: Playing with his very own iPhone.

Honestly, it's a double-dose of relief. He's finally truly turned a corner in the mealtime battle department, and also? He's no longer borrowing MY PHONE all the time, leading to missed phone calls, dead batteries, or emails from colleagues asking why I called them just to leave 10-minute-long voice mails featuring the Elmo's World theme song.

As several commenters pointed out last week, DUH, there was no reason we had to buy Noah anything as part of our sticker-chart arrangement: I simply dug up my old first-gen iPhone for him. (I'd given the phone to my husband ages ago during a cell-phone donation drive at his office, and he had OF COURSE never even taken it out of his computer bag.) I loaded up his favorite preschooler apps and games, his own iPod playlist, and of course, the Star Wars According to a 3-Year-Old video. He can't make phone calls or go online, which is great, although we're still struggling to enforce reasonable usage rules. (We always swore we'd never give our child any sort of handheld video game, and yet ... here we are, humbled as usual.)

And yet whenever I report our success to anyone -- my friends, his teachers, and his occupational therapist -- I've been so ASHAMED of myself. I feel like I bribed him, and bribed him with something utterly ridiculous. The universal response from everybody has been: You do whatever works. WHATEVER. WORKS.

His occupational therapist said she uses sticker charts for her children and refuses to see anything wrong with it. And besides: It got him to use a fork and a spoon, or at least consistently practice with one. Two weeks ago he shrieked at the suggestion of using one, and even when he did, he couldn't get a single full bite of food from the plate to his mouth without spills and frustration and tears.

Yesterday I gave him some banana slices at breakfast, and he asked for a fork. He ate every bite, just about perfectly. He's discovered that he likes applesauce and rotisserie chicken and that he can, in fact, just eat an entire bite of ravioli instead of manually dissecting it, leaving the filling untouched on his plate.

It's weird: I know if another mother told me about using a similar tactic with her child, I'd absolutely echo the words everybody's told me this week: WHATEVER WORKS.

Private treatment. County or school district programs. Occupational therapy. Behavioral therapy. Elimination diets. Supplements. Medication. Social stories. Floor-time. Auditory training. Self-contained special education. Inclusion. Mainstreaming. Trial and error.


My iPhone bribe/reward worked. Huzzah.

autism, boys, development & growth, developmental delays, food, milestones, picky eaters, toddler meal


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pinki... pinkiebling

YAY!!! So very happy to hear about this. Big ups!

nonmember avatar Lesley

Congratulations to both of you!  I'm of the opinion that if it gets you where you want to go and you can live with how you got there, it was THE RIGHT CHOICE.  And really, a MILLION kids have XBOXs and PSPs - this is no different.  I think it was a brilliant idea.

I'm jealous of your four year old, by the way.  My phone randomly decides whether to ring or not, can't go online, is probably five years old and, oh yeah, sucks hard.  I need to get me an iPhone.

nonmember avatar Lori

There's a big difference between a bribe and a reward when it comes to kids.  A bribe is used to stop bad behavior after it begins - "You can have the toy if you'll just stop screaming!"  A reward is used to encourage good behavior before it starts - "If you use a fork for a week, you can have your own phone." 

BIG DIFFERENCE!!!!  You have no reason to feel bad about what you did. 

nonmember avatar Brandi

Whatever works! That's really all it comes down to. Congrats to Noah and his achievment with the spoon and fork! And for once Jason's forgetting comes in handy!

nonmember avatar Heather

Hooray for what works!  And I am *so* glad you got out of dropping $200 on a new iPod!

nonmember avatar nicole

Confession: the husband and I have considered bribing our son with an ipad so he will finally toilet train.  If it works, I figure the cost of the ipad will pay for itself from the money saved from buying diapers. 

Carey... Carey2006

I TOTALLY agree!!! Whatever works!!!!!! (BRIBERY is a mom's best friend...LOL)

nonmember avatar allconsuming

Further to whatever works is whatever gets you by. It's a similar principle but instead of the focus being getting your child to develop a skill (holding cutlery, going a different way, using the toilet rather than the back deck as a bathroom etc) it's what stops you from needing to be scheduled.

nonmember avatar Amy MVR

Lori hit the nail on the head.  Would you go to work every day if you weren't rewarded for it?  Sure, there are lots of things kids will learn just for the sake of learning, but there are hard things that need more rewarding. 

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