You are always exactly a week away from heaven, or a week away from hell. If you stick to your guns and hold your boundaries, blissful cooperation is right around the corner. But if you give up at day three all of your effort will be declared officially worthless. And the kids win.
Apparently this is a lesson I supposedly received more than one time while working at the wilderness camp. John swears he said it to us as our trainer, and repeated it again throughout his private tutoring sessions with me (aka: dating). Somehow, like most of that year of my life, such important nuggets of wisdom all seem like a bit of a blur.
This is what child-inflicted stress can do to a person, people.
This is why we continue to have more children after the first two nearly killed us.
Having forgotten this nugget, I had been recently toying with the idea of implementing some creativity into my discipline style. Before I go on, let me explain that such an idea would truly be an act of sheer parental desperation. For me. Creativity in discipline = things like achievement/chore charts, “systems” of rewards and consequences, prize-boxes, or other color coded laminated things that the child has to physically move herself when she breaks a rule.
Truthfully, I could do it, and I wouldn’t even have to utilize ideas from Pintrest. Did you forget I was an elementary education major at the world renown and cutting edge Baylor University?
I know all about management techniques for young children. And older children for that matter.
I was a wonder at implementing age-appropriate versions of all things elementary school in my high school classes, and as a result, suffered far fewer behavioral problems than most of my peers. That said, I just can’t bring myself to treat my own flesh and blood like I might treat them if they were my students. Call me crazy, but I believe there needs to be a difference between home and school.
Note: for all of you mothers who have and do utilize any/all of the above methods and find them effective with your children, go ahead and scoff right back at me. I’m not judging you. Well, I guess I am. In a roundabout way. But it isn’t personal, I assure you, and we can still be friends.
I actually tried a chore chart. Once. About a year ago. It did work for one whole week. Then it just kept falling of the fridge and eventually I think I used it to kill a spider, thus, defining all of Eliott’s accomplishments by comparing them to something I typically end up flushing down the toilet. Ultimately, I decided her ego didn’t deserve such treatment of the chore chart, so I never recreated it.
But two nights ago, John reminded of the similarities between camp kids and all kids, and that his lesson is probably universally true. You are always exactly one week away from heaven or hell. The question is, who is going to break first. Me or the mini-me?
We seem to be further along this week than I had counted. Breakthrough number one came first thing yesterday morning, when I heard Eliott wake up (early because it was Thursday and she knows we have no school and absolutely no where to be) and say to her sister: “Come on Carter, we have to get dressed and brush our teeth and do all our jobs.”
Even in my state of semi-consciousness, this brought a smile to my face.
For this act of brilliance I rewarded Eliott with cartoons before we went to the gym. She blissfully plopped herself in front of Sesame Street which was apparently the life-water her all-powerful-ego needed to recharge and take over again.
The rest of the morning did not go well.
I have found that my style of “natural consequences” as a parent is virtually identical to my style as a behavioral camp counselor. That is to say, it’s emotional. I realized pretty quickly that it was far more beneficial to discover my own comfort zone in making kids miserable than try to copy the approach of someone else. For one thing, I’m neither physically intimidating, nor particularly threatening. Unlike John, kids don’t worship me just because I am big, athletic, and a dominant presence.
In addition to emotional, here’s what I am: Long winded. Verbally creative, especially when provoked/agitated. Sometimes funny.
I realized I had finally found my own power source the first time I heard one of my teenage camp boys mutter under his breath: “Dude, will you just chill out before Chief Claire starts running her mouth at us until we miss breakfast again?”
What? You don’t like hearing me lecture you for forty-five minutes?
We have found success people.
Apparently five year old girls are not so different from fifteen year old boys. Yesterday, as I verbally browbeat her from the front seat of the car all the way to the gym (talk about distracted driving, this is probably more dangerous than texting) she finally whined in despair, “I just want you to stop talking to me!”
Oh yes. We have found success people.
The blood in my veins ran a nice flavor of malaise, and suddenly, my heart rate calmed to an almost buzz-worthy state. I think my skin maybe started tingling. I probably got a bit lightheaded.
As I pulled in to the parking lot, I switched my tactic from frustration and anger to genuine love and encouragement, because I realized, the attitude had at last begun to break. In this moment of actual sensitivity, not the fake kind that just recites a script so mom will shut up, I said these words: “Do you really want me to stop going crazy and just leave you alone?”
“Well, sweetie, what are you going to do about that?”
“Start doing my jobs without being told.”
And all God’s people said…