Basic training is over. Parenting 101 has been taught, reviewed and painstakingly replayed over and over again to finally land in this new glorious game of discipline. My children have been in ‘ training camp’ for seven-ten years, depending on the child- and they are adjusted, prepared, and educated enough to embark in this brave new world. I have finally reached the pinnacle of parenting in this phase of fundamental survival. They are beyond the potty training days of sticker charts and rewards for ‘good behavior’. They can wipe their own butts (good Lord, that is finally over- with the exception of some nasty smeared messes that scream for wet wipes and the fine motor dexterity of an adult). It’s time people. It’s time…
Instead of rewarding them with Popsicle flavored treats and puffy colorful stickers for every time they do something that is already EXPECTED of them- they will get with loving praise:
The ability to live in this house.
In place of the “YAY for you sweetie!! You brushed your teeth and got dressed this morning!!!”
They will get, “Here is your breakfast. You know what to do next.”
You see, there comes a time in a child’s life where I believe they need no reinforcement for those things that are expected of them on a daily basis.
But here’s the catch.
No matter what I have done to instill these small but COUNTLESS tasks into their day, they constantly need reminders!
What mother doesn’t complain of REPEATING herself to the point of a breakdown every STINKIN’ DAY of their lives. Every day.
Every day, people.
Yes… exhausting, enraging, slowly festering insanity that bubbles in the best of us.
Constant. Reminders. Every. Day.
“Did you put the papers where they belong?”
“Did you put your laundry away?”
“Did you do your chore?”
“Did you brush your teeth?”
“Did you clear your plate?”
“Did you hear what I said?”
“Did you put that away like I asked?”
“Where does your backpack go?”
“REALLY? Do I need to remind you about this FOUR TIMES in ONE day??”
Oh, I could go on and on and on and on….
As every mother could.
I am tired of eventually losing my marbles on them for the ‘little things’ that they forget to do. I am tired of them not listening to me when I give them instructions. I refuse to allow them to disobey or disrespect me- ever.
So I came up with a new plan. A new way of life around here. This relinquishes me from any reminders, yelling, erupting frazzled nerves that eventually collapse in tears of a distraught and exhausted mom.
This discipline program is very basic and simple. Always how I like it. Easy to manage and maintain. Another must for us busy mamas. I sat my kids down to explain…
“Here’s the deal chickatee choos. You are officially in-house emancipated from your mother.”
“What does emanchigayted mean?”
“Emancipated! Independent! Meaning- I will not remind you of anything ANYTHING anymore. I will not yell, and repeat things four HUNDRED times anymore. I will not- I repeat NOT get to the point when I am staring at you with those glaring eyes and my blood racing to my red face ready to scream ‘Do you NOT get it???’ No no no, dear loves. This mama is done.”
“You have been trained well, soldiers. You are officially declared on your own.”
“Where will we go? Are you kicking us out?” (The drama starts to spiral with bursting tears from the hormonal tween.)
“Seriously? Right now I would seriously like to do just that. Now. Pull. It. Together.”
“You will never be kicked out of this home until you are 18. And then, my foot will gladly meet your smelly butt to propel you into this world. (Kids giggle- “Smelly butt!!!”) BUT- LISTEN TO ME! (They freeze.) For now, I am teaching you how to live in this world successfully, and by doing so- I actually pray it works.”
“Mom can we go now?”
“Oh ye little ones. This party has just begun…
Here’s how it’s gonna go down:
I have put your names on this paper and will have it on the fridge for you to see anytime.
You have a total of 15 points you are allotted throughout the week for ‘mistakes’. There is grace in this house- always. You literally are allowed TWO mistakes on things that should be as natural to you as eating and sleeping. There surely is enough grace here.
WHEN you do not follow through on ANYTHING that is expected of you, you will be given a point. I will mark it on the paper, and gladly inform you of said point.
That means- you will be doing everything EVERYTHING you have been trained to do, without WITHOUT me reminding you of anything ANYTHING. I will simply be giving you a point. If you reach 15 points, there will be the consequence of grounding and early bedtime for Sunday.
Get it?” (They currently HATE to be in their rooms and go to bed early- this is what works now. That can change- it always does.)
“Like what? What do you mean? What are things are we supposed to do?”
“Picking up after yourself. Turning off the tv when you leave the room. Clearing your plate. Doing your homework. Putting your papers in the right place. Hanging your towels after your showers. Keeping your rooms clean. Putting your laundry away. Washing your hands after school. Picking up after yourself. Being RESPECTFUL always to me, your father, and to each other. Getting dressed in the morning. Brushing your teeth. Doing your chores. ETC. All of the things you are able to do without the help or reminder from ME.”
“So what if we don’t get ANY POINTS!!! Can we get a prize? A toy? Something???”
“Aw, of course sweeties!!! You will get the greatest gift of all!!! You will get the honor of being a Carter and living in the Carter house! You will get fed, and cared for each day you carry out your responsibilities!! LUCKY you!!”
“Oh brother… come on mom!!!! Something??”
“If you go all week without ONE point, I will buy you ice cream.”
“YAY!!!! I can’t WAIT!!!!”
“Good luck children. Good. Luck.”
And so I implemented this new system a few months ago. Each week I put up a fresh piece of paper with their names on it and grab my markers ready to give out the points. No yelling. No reminding. No fretting. No exhausted and pissed off mama. And, It WORKS!! I am thrilled with the outcome of this simple and effortless idea!!!
They absolutely HATE to get a point.
My kids have risen to the call. They are rarely dependent on me for these daily tasks. I don’t tell them to do anything. I simply say- “You just earned yourself a point.” And they immediately panic and desperately try to remember what they missed. It pretty much always comes to them. And they go fix it. And I am left with little yelling and reminding over and over again.
Oh it’s still frustrating- because they are getting points left and right. But at least I have this ‘tool’ to manage them and teach them the ‘art of responsibility’ and ‘self-motivation’.
So far, they have both hit 15 on numerous occasions, and take their consequence with fair tolerance. Cassidy has of course, done the math and realized that if she can only make two mistakes a day, she is safe. But that is tough for those days when she can collect five points in one interaction that isn’t “pleasant”. Ouch.
And Lord knows if they will ever earn the ice cream. I threw that one in for good measure. I wasn’t going to, but then I thought being ‘perfect’ is hard to come by… I suppose my giving in to that idea will be the dream that never dies for my little irresponsible cherubs. But, why not give them something to reach for after all.
They watch their points closely. They are proud of themselves when they have few. They push themselves to be more intentional when they have too many, for fear of hitting 15.
It’s a beautiful thing when something works well. I will embrace it until it doesn’t.
In time… always in time.