Every so often in parenting, it goes like this: A child manifests some new misbehavior due to a new developmental stage or obnoxious phase or just the slow attrition of once-established routines and limits. And I must step in, with force and vigor and determination, to beat back the advancing sloth or rudeness or whatever.
Today, I’m fighting such a battle on two fronts, namely, Logan and Levi.
Levi has decided he hates chores, work, and being bossed around. So suddenly he occasionally--or, as time goes on, frequently--mutinies. Just refuses to, say, put on his Sunday clothes, wash his hands when asked, pick up his toys, put on his shoes for school. And today I decided was the time to take action. He mutinied before school and threw a fit rather than dress himself. I ended up carrying him screaming out to the car. Consequence: No movie during quiet time. Much screaming, complaining, and wheedling ensued. And quiet time is my work time, so I ended up proofreading resumes while Levi ran old bills through the shredder next to me--not the best working conditions. In short, everyone was miserable because I didn’t let Levi watch his movie. But I resolved to be unshakable and--this is important--calm and matter-of-fact.
Later in the afternoon he was asked to pick up a bucket of toys he had dumped on the floor. He refused. Consequence: Time Out. He came out of time-out before his timer had rung. Consequence: Fresh clock on the time-out. Repeat four times. During this process, Jesse woke up wanting some snuggle time with Mom. Instead I’m lugging Levi back to time-out--again. And again, everyone is miserable. But I resolved to be steadfast and serene.
Logan, I realized, has succeeded in gradually shifting all his responsibilities to me. He doesn’t get ready for school until I’ve reminded and prompted him numerous times, and then when he does, it’s with muttering and murmuring. Ditto for homework, chores, guitar practice--in short, everything other than play, TV, or computer. So I sat him down with a list of all his daily responsibilities, from eating breakfast to putting on PJs. I informed him that I would no longer provide any reminders. The privilege for completing these tasks sans lip would be his accustomed TV, computer, and friends schedule. The consequence for not completing them or inflicting mouthiness upon me would be revocation of said privileges. He cried bitter tears. He outlined my flaws as a parent. We were all, indeed, miserable. Furthermore, he declined my offers to figure out a schedule wherein not only would he fulfill all his responsibilities but would accomplish them so efficiently he would have extra free time. So without a doubt he’ll fail tomorrow, he’ll end up grounded, and we’ll all be miserable because he’s here and unhappy rather than at a friend’s house and cheerful.
Now I’m off to recharge with an episode of Law & Order and an icy glass of Fresca. Pray that I’ll face tomorrow with a fresh store of determination, patience, and soft answers. And pray for the power of the learning process--even when it involves failure and punishment.