After 8 years of parenting and reading more books than I can count, I feel confident in only one thing. This parenting thing is HARD, ya’ll. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for our parenting questions. I really thought that there was.
Follow a formula and your kid will do “this.”
If you, put them on a schedule…they will sleep through the night at 3 months.
If you are consistent in your training…they will obey the first time you ask.
If you conduct a potty boot camp…they will potty train in less than 3 days.
I have come to realize just how laughable this really is. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the above ideas. In fact, most of them have worked for me at least with some of my kids, some of the time. The trouble lies in our demanding that they work in all situations. And if we do that, we are ignoring the fact that children are humans. Natural born, flesh filled, sinners (Romans 6:23). Even the best of us are prone to give in to momentary pleasures, throwing caution to the wind.
Besides that, there is also the fact that children are different. Between my four children and the numerous other children that I have taught, I have seem everything from perfectionist to uninterested, compliant to defiant, thoughtful to manipulative, and calm to active. The list goes on and on and I seriously doubt that I have seen it all.
Bearing all of this in mind, there are two loose parenting principles that I have adopted as a regular practice. Most of the time, they seem to work.
Rules are simple.
Rules should be few and simple. They can’t be too difficult to remember or to vague that they include loop holes. For a long time, my rule was simply LOVE. Quite some time ago, my friend Lara introduced me to her version of this concept…Love up and Love out. I’ve used that saying ever since. After all, love covers a multitude of sins. No really, this rule covers pretty much every offense in my home.
I might ask: How are you showing love in this situation? Is there something that you could do to be more loving? When you didn’t pick up that shoe in the stairs, do you think you showed love and concern for the well being of your family who might trip over it?
When rules are simple, consequences are natural or logical.
As much as possible, I avoid terms like “time-out” and “restriction.” For the most part, I have found that a blanket consequence is ineffective in molding hearts and changing behavior. This is where consequences come in.
A natural consequence will be adminsted without mom’s help. For example, a child runs on the sidewalk, trips and skins his knee. A logical consequence is closely related to the offense and is aimed at teaching responsibility for your actions. Whenever possible, I include scripture. (guess we will have to do a post on that later)
A few of the ideas that I have used…
If you can’t find your shoes, mom will help you find them, but there will be a finder’s fee.
If you can not behave kindly toward your family, mom will assume that you need some time to think about it and send you to another room to sit. (usually the bed)
If you fight with your sibling, I will assume you have nothing better to do and give you a chore.
After you are sent into a room to clean up, I come behind and take the items that were left out. I assume that you no longer want these items and place them in “toy time out” for a week. (Mom could also donate the items, if this is a chronic problem)
If you are tipping your chair back, I will assume that it is unsafe for you to use it and you will stand for the remainder of dinner.
If you do not have good table manners, you will be asked to dine elsewhere.
If you are too loud, whiny, or speaking unkindly, you will lose the freedom to speak. (Works really well in the car, too.)
If you can’t get ready for an activity on time, I will deduct that amount of time from the activity once we get there. (Remember not to punish mom or the siblings because of one child’s negligence)
A few ideas from my friends…
If they play around instead of getting ready for bed, we don’t have time for stories. ~Christy
The kids weren’t diligent to do their schoolwork today so there wasn’t time to go to the library. ~Debby
Somebody ate his treat without permission so he did not get his treat later when everyone else was eating theirs. ~Julie
If teachers offer incentives for extra work or even situations like AWANA, I don’t nag them…I let them feel what its like not to get the reward or fun prize. ~Tiana
You splash water out of the tub, you wipe it up (works for any mess). ~Leslie
If you don’t eat what mama cooks you’re gonna be hungry! ~Amy
The rule is: We pay for half your car. We own the bottom half. If you’re being irresponsible, our half (the one with the wheels) stays home, in the driveway. ~Pam
We’ve set a “start-getting-for-bed time” and a “lights-out-time”. If they get ready fast, they can use the remainder to read. If they play around getting ready for bed, they can’t… the lights out time doesn’t change. ~Josh
I also don’t cap markers that were left uncapped. Dried out markers are no fun. ~Leslie