Parenting is a tough job. Period. The good far outweighs the challenges, but the path is sometimes (or oftentimes) a bit bumpy. Monkey and I have been entrusted with the lives of six eternal souls whom we are hoping to raise as responsible, compassionate, contributing, and faith filled people. As the saying goes, there are no handbooks that get delivered with the baby. So we find ourselves muddling through the often murky waters of child rearing, praying that our kids won't need therapy someday on our account!
In the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, the kids have shirked many of their responsibilities at home. Their rooms have been nothing less than disastrous and household chores have been practically nonexistent. I had been pretty lax with all of this until about 3 weeks ago. I asked the kids to complete a few tasks and my pleas were adamantly ignored. When I confronted my children, I was met with groans, arguments, and a few foot stomps. This behavior, which I find unacceptable, led to my frustration, which led to a ban on all electronics within our home, "until further notice." No computer, no WII, no Netflix, etc. The next day, while the kids were in school, I collected all remotes and devices and locked them away in a super-secretive location. I then set out to create a new chore list for our home.
Basically, the Daily Chores are the sole responsibility of each child and, needless to say, are expected to be done everyday. The other chores are on a rotation with the Love Bugs taking turns or working in pairs. I am not looking for perfection, but I do expect their best effort. I've come to terms, long ago, that our house will never look like a magazine, and in that rare occasion when all seems to be in place, I have learned that it does not last long. Chore Charts have come and gone in our home, but for now, this is what we're enforcing.
The Chore Chart goes hand-in-hand with certain privileges. Electronics are privileges. Extra-curriculars are privileges and so are friend birthday parties, sleepovers, eating out and musical instruments (piano, guitar and trumpet). So if my children work together to help around the house, they can do much that they desire. It is a simple concept, but the consequences can be difficult.
A few weeks ago, Cucumber was invited to a birthday party after school. Monkey and I said she could go, as long as she did her chores. She was so excited and began counting down the days until the party. She even spent some of her own money to buy her friend a gift. As the date of the party drew closer, Cucumber became almost defiant in completing her chores and her resistance was accompanied by a few tantrums. The final straw was when her teacher talked with me about Cucumber's behavior in class being less than stellar. That night, in our "Parent/Child Meeting Place" (it happens to be the garage since it is the most quiet and private spot in the vicinity) Monkey explained to Cucumber that she had lost her privilege to go to the party. In addition, she had to write an apology note to her teacher and deliver it the next morning with a spoken apology. It was also explained that if she wanted some of her privileges back, she would need to adjust her attitude. The lesson really hit home, when after school on that Friday, she saw her classmates leaving all together to attend the birthday party. Cucumber sat in her seat in the van and cried. I cried too, because I felt her anguish and deeply wished she could have attended. Since then, Cucumber is making progress and as of today, she has earned a sleep-over at a friend's house this Friday night.
We are going on the 3 week mark of no electronics, with the exception of my sole use of my computer. Hey, don't judge. I've kept up with my chores! At times over the past few weeks, it has been tough for the Love Bugs, but Monkey and I are sticking to the rules in place. Unfortunately, Honey Bunches was fed up with the ban and he took my computer and hid it in his closet, deep behind his clothes. When we thought he was going to his room to play with his Pokemon cards or his Lego's, he actually was playing on the computer. So back into the garage Monkey and I went to meet with Honey Bunches. When he was confronted with the issue, he hung his head and cried. My heart ached for him for making the choice he did. He said he was sorry, but our family believes in penance. We gave him the option of coming up with his own punishment, or selecting one of three options we gave him: 1) No trick-or-treating. Instead, stay home and pass out candy to those who come to our door; 2) Donate all of his Pokemon cards; or 3) Being grounded for 1 week (a ban to his bedroom with the exception of bathroom breaks and mealtime). He chose to sit out from trick or treating.
Since the electronic ban, we have experienced some really positive outcomes. The first is that the kids are being creative in their play. They spend more time with each other and the fighting between them has decreased - not dissipated completely, but certainly diminished a bit. As a family, we play more board games together, the kids are practicing their instruments more and they are reading more. Win, win and win! Don't get me wrong, there are times when I think it would be easier to just give in and let them have everything back, but then the lesson would be lost. So for now, we will stand firm and love our Love Bugs through the lessons of responsibility, accountability, and all of the other lessons life has to offer.