So, I’m still a pretty new parent. As my bio would tell you, I kind of got saddled with two teenagers after choosing to make my boyfriend my life partner. It required a long thought out choice, and a very high level of commitment. After all, I couldn’t stay with his when the kids were reintroduced into his life, and then just bounce later because I didn’t want kids. To whom is that fair?
Well, I made my choice, so I went from caring about only myself to being part of a family and raising two teenage kids who never had much in the form of rules, boundaries, or support. We have done a lot of the traditional punishments, of course, but we’ve also needed to get creative, as every good parent does.
I’ll start with some of the small stuff that we have tried before build up to the most recent, and very successful, “picking punishments” idea that we have had. For starters, we require productive time from the children every day. On school days, this could be a single, quick activity, thirty minutes of performing productive activities, or an after school club. On weekends or no-school days, we require two hours. This productive activity time must be done before ANY screen time will be allowed at all.
We also started doing weekly goals. I thought this was great, because it forced the kids to actually think about what they want to do or accomplish during the week. We required five goals a week. Only one is allowed to be a gaming goal, and at least one had to be a schooling goal. We didn’t require this to be difficult, either. It could be as simple as reading at least a chapter in a book, drawing a picture, or not lose any points (I’ll get to the point thing next). If they completed all five goals, they could choose a reward. These rewards we things like $5, getting a drink/snack from the gas station, things like that. We also started doing monthly goals, where we required a minimum of three goals. These were tougher goals, something you couldn’t accomplish in a week, but also included bigger rewards, liking buying a video game, clothes, or a new poster for their room.
Now, the points. This specifically has to do with their chores. After all, no one will continue to pay someone who is a crappy employee, and we see no reason to give them an allowance without positive work results. Some parents don’t have this problem, but my kids are extremely lazy and self-centered, so we are using this as one of the ways to combat those traits. Anyway, my son, for example, gets $5 in allowance every week. If he doesn’t do something correctly or “forgets” to do it at all, then he will lose a point. One point is worth one dollar. If he loses five points in a week, he gets no allowance what-so-ever. Therefore, the kids have learned how to pay better attention to their chores.
However, they only pay better attention to their chores. We still have a lot of issues of laziness through the rest of the day. Not only are they inherently incapable of cleaning up after themselves, but they also like to argue and talk back. They think that this is okay so long as they still do what they’re told, but we are beginning to teach them that it is not okay at all.
How? By Picking Punishments.
This is, I swear to you, exactly what it sounds like. Michael and I came up with a handful of quick, but annoying, punishments. This includes the 10 minute timeout, writing lines and walking the dog, as well as a number of exercises (20 pushups, 30 situps, 40 jumping jacks, 30 squats, etc.) and some extra little chores (dusting, cleaning the microwave, cleaning behind the trash can, etc.) The idea is that none of the punishments should take more than 10 minutes, and should be just annoying enough to make them never want to draw again. Believe it or not, it’s working! My son, who likes to argue and argue long after he first got in trouble for arguing, quickly realized that having to draw each time that he tries to argue, and not just the first time, eventually shut up all on his own without me having to raise my voice at all. He was furious, and spent a good half hour in punishments. The next time he stopped arguing a little faster, and even faster the next time. Then, this morning, he started doing his punishment, and opened his mouth to argue, then shut it and proceeded with his situps. I was so proud of him! My little jerk of a son is finally figuring out how to keep his crap to himself. My daughter, who’s no so much argumentative as she is a complete slob, is very, very slowly beginning to learn how to clean up after herself. Where she used to leave all of her crap lying around the living room, she will now make sure that she never leaves anything lying around, since it risks her having to draw. Still working on her cleaning up after herself in the kitchen, but there has been definite improvement, without a doubt.
Even better than that, though, is the Star system that we’ve started. Michael and I got tired of coming home in a good mood, then having argumentative, messy, insolent children ruin that before we can even sit down. Therefore, we now have stars. If, for example, my son decides to argue with me about something, not only does he have to draw, but he also loses a star for that day. We have Weekend Rewards set up for them if they get enough stars, rewards like doubling their allowance or extra video game time. The improvement in attitudes and behavior has grown SO much faster, having both a reward for positive behavior combined with a punishment for negative behavior.
At the very least, this has had a much better effect than simply grounding them, though I don’t think that any parent should ever frown upon the idea of writing lines. Other than losing their electronics, there is no punishment that my children hate more than having to write lines…