I’ve done a lot of whining complaining venting philosophizing this week about the pitfalls of parenting. Coping with the age-old dilemmas of whining and laziness sometimes exhibited by our darling children – it’s never easy. At our best, it can elicit sighs and prayers that we’ll make it through this stage. At our worst, we lose our tempers, yell and revoke privileges, and even bang our head against the wall. And that’s before we start dosing ourselves with liberal amounts of wine. (It helps. Really.)
I’ve tried being patient and correcting my children’s behavior time and time again, but that only works on my (and their) good days. I’ve tried time-outs. I’ve tried revoking privileges (desserts, bed time, TV time) and that has been fairly effective when the girls aren’t being outrageously stubborn. I’ve tried standing in the room and directing Bee’s every move – “Put away the baby doll. Now put the sock in the hamper.” – and ignoring her whining and crying, but that isn’t really an effective use of my time and hasn’t taught her to clean up when I’m not around playing Air Traffic Controller. I’ve cancelled errands and put off dinner and bedtime and everything else that was scheduled until the toys were picked up, but that just prolongs the agony for all involved. I’ve set a timer and piled any toys remaining into trash bags – to be redeemed by extra chores or acts of kindness and once I even threw the bag of toys away. All of these methods work on Gracie, the child who will clean with very little prompting. None of them work on Bee, the child who needs to learn to take care of her things and our living space. Bee? That child will look me in the eyes and, calmly as can be, tell me to throw the toys away. No lessons learned there. But there is a little bit of mama’s sanity circling the drain. So. Yeah.
From that lovely, barren wasteland of desperation, there was really no place to go but up. Or at least that’s what I kept telling myself. I dreamed and I schemed, and I schemed and I dreamed. I came up with a better solution. You know – because I am super and sneaky and formerly obsessed with SuperNanny. I came up with Two Jars to Rule Them All. (Otherwise known as my alternate blog title, but I thought it was a little lacking in the Love Thursday department. Meh, details.) I am going to buy two glass jars and a bucket of marbles or colored stones or some such colorful object that can be added to the jars. For every chore that is completed without constant reminders on my part or whining on theirs, the girls will earn a marble. Acts of kindness will be rewarded with a marble. Using good manners, getting a “green” mark at school, and other general good behavior – all rewarded with a marble. Whining, tormenting their sister, having to be reminded more than once, lying, etc., will all result in losing a marble. Egregious acts could even result in losing more than one marble, if I’m so inclined. Whenever the girls fill their jars, they get to redeem their marbles for a reward. I haven’t quite worked out what the reward will be, but I’m leaning towards letting the girls choose. It could be an extra half-hour past bedtime, a new book, an extra-special dessert, skipping a chore, a package of silly bandz – the possibilities are endless.
What I particularly love about the jars is that I will have so many opportunities to “catch” the girls being good and rewarding them for good behavior – something that is crucial in teaching them to make more good choices. If the girls know they could be rewarded for making good choices, they’ll try to create more opportunities to “get caught,” so to speak. Having marbles in a jar in a prominent place in the house will visibly remind the girls of their behavior so they can see how they’re doing. Young children have a hard time remembering what’s not right in front of them.
And you know what? Sometimes so do parents. Mom might even get a jar to help her remember. If I raise my voice, I lose a marble. (Not that I’m not losing my marbles on a regular basis, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.) If I calmly and expertly handle a tricky situation like a SuperMom, I get to add a marble. I probably won’t earn my reward as quickly as Bee and Gracie will, but I like the idea that they see grown-ups are accountable for their actions, too, and this isn’t just a measure to punish the children into submission.
Quite the opposite – cleaning the house and learning how to comport oneself is a difficult, but important, life lesson. It’s one I should have addressed before now, but love steps in no matter when an issue is raised. Love addresses problems both easy and difficult. And love isn’t afraid to be sneaky and devious in its solutions. That kind of love is what makes us SuperMoms. We just need to find some capes to make it official. Happy Love Thursday, everyone!