We had a perfect storm of bad behavior. The boys took it upon themselves to leave all manners, common sense and self-control at home. In fact, they were delighted to do so. I won't go into the ugly details of the three days but let's just say, when a stranger confronts your five year old for spitting in his brother's face while you pay the restaurant bill, you've hit the bottom floor in the discipline department.
Things went from bad to worse, to even worse than that. How a five and seven year old can muster so much disrespect for one parent, I'll never know. They demanded things right and left, acting entitled to their every whim and NOT taking no for an answer. I'm embarrassed by how often I resorted to threats even after that tactic showed itself to be useless. (By the way, how entitled does my five year old act? As if on cue, he just came out of his bedroom and told me to buy him an iPhone because "then I'll be good".)
I've always set limits, created routines and followed through with consequences. Don't those things guarantee positive behavior in offspring and peace in the family home? Apparently not.
It has become painfully clear that I need to make major changes. If my children do not respect me or my rules today, how will they act five years from now? Ten years? If they demand material goods at every turn, will they ever be happy with our modest lifestyle? Won't every day, every interaction be filled with conflict and disappointment? To be perfectly honest, what I experienced this weekend really scared me.
Sometimes sheer, abject terror is a good thing. In this case, it spurred me to action. I have vowed to read three books this month:
- The Blessing of a Skinned Knee (Wendy Mogul)
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk (Faber and Mazlish)
- The Five Love Languages of Children (Gary Chapman)
I have also implemented a behavior system, complete with rewards. I absolutely hate these things--let's just be clear on that from the beginning. After 18 years as a special education teacher, the last thing I want in my home is a green-yellow-red traffic light, sticker charts and a prize basket. I think I'd rather have a colony of ants. Oh, wait, I have those too.
|Prize choices after 24 stickers (approx. 2-4 weeks)|
|Chore Charts (we already had those), Lego pieces for the traffic light colors above the dreaded sticker charts.|
Lastly, I have completely changed our calendar for the summer. I had dreams of doing everything in here (and more).
Now I realize that if I want the boys to practice self-control we are going to need to stay home as much as possible. Summer attractions, amusement parks, even retail excursions (okay, especially those) are full of temptations to act out, demand more and succumb to the constant assaults on their little senses. I've taken a GIANT step backwards here. We are going to stay in our house/backyard as much as possible. There will still be lots of challenges but I'm hoping by playing a smaller arena for a couple of months, there will also be successes. The boys need to have some positive behavior experiences here before we take our show on the road again.
This was not an easy decision to make. As a single mom, there is no one to relieve me in the evening so I can go to a store or a restaurant. If I think it's best that the boys not see the inside of Target or Red Robin for a few months, that means I don't go those places. At all. And I don't like staying home. I don't like eating/preparing every meal at home. I like shiny new things and good food. But if I'm asking my boys to stay away from those, they are out of bounds for me as well.
To ease the transition, I've stocked up on library books. Although we are staying home together for the foreseeable future, the boys and I will still need our space. I plan to escape into one of these historical biographies while the boys
play throw build throw play Legos.
If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matters very much.