Oh the super power of little people to turn a grown reasonable adult into a fire bomb or worse a melted icy pole. It happened to me when my three children habitually carelessly plonked their school bags in front of my kitchen bench – smack in the middle of our living room. That hit the invisible red button inside of me. How could three little bags dropped by three little people mean so much to me? Irrational – yes but important for completely insane but real reasons. Can you relate?
I tried asking nicely, reminding gently, scolding firmly – nothing was working. Each day I looked at those school bags and they seemed to mock me! I needed a better plan. I put myself on pause. Oh yes I have been known to need an adult time out so I can get my loving attitude back and think reasonably again. I admit it I’ve had to honestly say “I’m really upset right now, so I will get back to you about this.’’
Have a plan
Days later I was ready with a revised plan. This is how it went: I calmly asked my three little powerful people if they wanted to put their bags away or would they like to pay me to do it? This was step 1 of my plan: To set my limits of expecting the bags to go away without demands, bribes or threats! I even gave them a choice.
Step two of my plan: If they didn’t respond, I simple picked up the bag and placed it in their bedroom. Without a word spoken. I so desperately wanted to make a show of it but lecturing, scolding and shaming is not part of my new plan. Not seeing those school bags as I cooked dinner brought a smile to my face – I was feeling better already.
Step 3: Later that night I mentioned that I had to take time out of my busy schedule to put their school bag away. My rate of pay is pretty high as I am a very experienced mum and how would they like to repay me? I accept money ($20) or labour. They could pay with their pocket money or they could do some jobs for me. Which would they prefer? Again giving them choices. You see this is not punishment, but a consequence of their decision making. Doesn’t it look a lot like real life? As adults we are faced with choice constantly to do a job ourselves or pay someone else to do it for us.
My powerful kids have been known to sort laundry, vacuum, sweep, dust and clear dishes. I gave them at least 30 minutes worth of work.
Most importantly training had happened! Those school bags went into their bedrooms quickly and still do!
Step four: re-enforcing the learning by simply asking calmly that very important question: “Are you going to put your bag away or pay me to do it?”
I discovered that I can transfer this plan to many situations … I‘m sure you can think of a few for your home. Have some fun and give it try!
Heart to heart connection
No matter how much discipline, rewards, and skills I have to get kids to behave and learn responsibility, if I don’t have a positive loving relationship with my children then:
rules without a relationship will simply breed rebellion
Consequences without a loving relationship leads to resentment
Rewards without a caring relationship feels like bribes
I don’t want my training/discipline or correction to lead to rebellion, resentment or bribery… because that is NOT effective training. Nor will a child internalise the learning.
Sad for them, not mad at them!
Building these loving relationships needs heart to heart connections. For children it translates into; play, listening, time, touch and words etc. It also means I don’t withdraw my love, affection when their behaviour isn’t to my standard. I am going to stay connected all the time.
I am sad for my children when they are experiencing the pain of consequences, but not “mad at them”. That’s how I can maintain a real heart connection during all times of training and growth. We know it can hurt, we have all felt it so we emphasise with them during these times.
Bible references to consider: Ephesians 6:4 – the word here is more like parents educate, train teaching rearing of a child, bring up of a child, learning and instruct NOT “chastening” or “discipline”. As in Revelation 3:19, Hebrews 12.