(I posted this yesterday before Blogger starting having severe PMS. It has disappeared from my blog and from my archives…but thankfully I have networked my blog with Facebook and I was able to retrieve the writing from there~~whew! I was able to copy and paste it into a new post. I posted Part 3 here…)
I’m following up on a post from yesterday about those kids that seem to make us have to rewrite our parenting playbook…
Today I wanted to talk about some creative ways to work with those kiddos who are, ah, oh-so-creative in their ability to pillage and create havoc.
Many years ago, I purchased a little poster called an If-Then chart. The idea behind it was to list every possible infraction a kid could commit and to assign a consequence to that infraction. It seemed a reasonable, thoughtful approach to parenting, a contract of sorts between parent and child about goals, expectations and negative consequences if those expectations were not met.
For my crew, it was less than effective. Even though I colored the poster all in really cute and used my best scrapbooking freehand writing to fill in all the blanks.
First and foremost, right off the bat, my fatigued mommy brain had only thought up infractions that they had already committed. I didn’t have a category yet for fishing a goldfish out of the tank and washing it in hand soap in the sink (a completely true story, by the way. That was a 2 of 8 event, one of my more compliant children). There was 5 of 8’s popcorn kernel up the nose. There was 4 of 8 scaling one of the 60 foot pecan trees in the backyard and giving me heart palpitations that continue to this day. And that doesn’t even begin to touch 3 of 8’s inexhaustible creativity in all things whining, pestering and general chaos-making.
“I see your If-Then chart. I have counted the cost. And I’m gonna have to go for it…”
And I was bound by the fact that if I hadn’t specifically addressed certain mayhem factors, then the kids could legitimately point out that it wasn’t covered under the auspices of the If-Then chart.
Not that we don’t have rules. Because we do.
But I have discovered something that is pretty genius in not being super specific in consequences. A little something from my psychology days that finds application here.
There actually is a great power in your kids knowing you will respond to bad or destructive behavior.
But not knowing exactly how you will respond.
Here’s the part where we need to talk about the French penal system.
For decades, if someone commited an egregious crime in France and were found guilty, they were hauled to prison and put in solitary confinement. No cable t.v. No workout center. No continuing education.
And here’s the deal~~they had no idea how long their sentence was. No.Idea.
Before we get all up in arms questioning the humanity of the French system, let’s jump ahead a bit to this little factoid. In the U.S., our recidivism rate, that is, the percentage of people who have already been in prison once who then commit more crime and return to prison, is over 70%, even higher in some states. By comparison, the French recidivism rate was almost nil. Almost nil. When people came out of that system, even though their basic needs had been met, they did not want to go back in. And one of the major factors was that element of the unknown that had haunted them throughout their incarceration.
You’ll notice that I used past tense verbs in describing the French system. That’s because a few years ago, they began to make changes that are more like the U.S. system. And you guessed it–recidivism rates have begun to climb. Sort of the If-Then chart phenom I was talking about.
Back to a sunnier topic.
Disciplining our kids.
I like to keep it fresh.
We have a general no-fighting policy at our house. And if you choose to fight, then you most likely will be scrubbing floors or weeding or wiping down cabinets…come to think of it, my house is cleanest when my kids are most disobedient. Hmmmm. Or you may not get to go to that youth event you’ve been wanting to go to all week. Or you might not get to watch your favorite show. Or you might have to go to bed early.
Or you might have to bathe one of the dogs.
Harsh, I know.
And if there are two kids who are fighting consistently, then those will be the two who have to complete a project together.
So I’ve made our rules more broad. No fighting. Be respectful. No destruction of property. Do your schoolwork. Use wisdom (a great category for dealing with goldfish bathing, popcorn kernel nostril events and pecan tree free climbing…).
And I’ve given myself lots of wiggle room in terms of consequences.
Because at the end of the day, my goal is to have low recidivism rates.
Vive le France.