Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Finally, I confess

Less than 30 minutes after coming home from school and hearing the fun agenda his mom has planned for the long spring break weekend, a certain young man in my household was holding his cheek, smarting from the slap his mother had delivered across his nasty, back-talking little mouth. * sigh*

(No, I don’t usually hit my children. Yes, I reserve the right, on rare and egregious occasions, to slap the mouths of big boys who are spewing rude backtalk. Yes, I should probably reconsider.)

This is the child who is the proud recipient of our Daring and Radical Discipline Program, to which I have alluded. For almost 2 months now, he has had all privileges revoked. No computer, TV, or friends. And this is a boy who craves action, attention, and sociality like the rest of us crave air to breathe.

Twice a week he has conferences with his parents, in which we outline the basic responsibilities he must consistently fulfill before he receives privileges again. The list started with “kindergarten responsibilities” like dressing, showering, and brushing his teeth each morning. Because, yes, these were things this young man needed to be nagged about every day. Then we gradually added more age-appropriate items like, “Build up your younger siblings” and “Do your homework” and "No microrebellion."

The idea is that children of his age need to transition from obeying their parents toward being independently responsible and ethical. So once a responsibility goes on his list, Mark or I never mention it again. No nagging, no reminders. Because if we remind, then this child thinks, “Whew! I don’t have to remember that. If they really want me to do it, they’ll tell me—10 times.” Now his responsibilities are his alone. As soon as he learns to manage his responsibilities independently (at an age-appropriate level), he can have privileges. (We are giving lots of encouragement and coaching in our conferences, but we don’t nag and lecture otherwise.)

I don’t recommend this type of thing for normal use and I’m sure many of you (notably, those of you whose kids are all little) will think this is insane. It's not really my style at all--I much prefer catching the good, building the relationship, etc. But this is a kid who needed some serious intervention. Who has done some major lying, cheating, and flaking and who works the system to his advantage with amazing skill and persistence. When he was getting ready to turn 8 and be baptized, we made a major spiritual and discipline push with him. Now, 4 years later, we have the same concerns, the same issues. And translate those same issues to their manifestation 4 years from now, when he’s getting ready to turn 16—and that’s just not okay.

When I finally decided I needed to foment a productive crisis, tough love style, I worried and fretted and prayed for a couple weeks. And then one day, “like the dews from heaven,” this plan came into my mind. A plan that lets him take responsibility for either choosing the right or accepting negative consequences.

So far, he gets ready for school in the morning with no reminders, and that’s a relief. Because now my daily allotment of patience for this guy isn’t depleted before 8:30 a.m. But the other items on his list—not so much. He’s kind of hunkered down just waiting for everything to blow over—even though we keep telling him that this will only end when he makes the necessary changes. He’s going off track (out of school for 3 weeks) next week and he has a goal to have his privileges back by then. Which means he’ll probably get serious about them the night before. And then when he discovers he’ll have to be good for more than 12 hours straight, he’ll get discouraged. And probably mad. And then, I hope, he’ll have a change of heart.

Wish us luck.


  1. So sorry. I think your plan sounds radical but sound. I hope it works for you all. I believe it will because it's backed by fervent prayer (I'm sure).

    Did you catch that your blog is famous? Was it Elder Eyring who quoted your blog title? It's just amazing that he reads your blog! (tongue in cheek)

  2. Wow Ang that sounds like a tough row.
    Way to take it on.
    There is a young man in our ward that was like 13 when we moved in. His family was so great but he was just a punk. I was in the young men's and I didn't like him. Then it was like one day somebody flipped a switched, and now he is just my favorite. We had him come work for us last summer running our CNC machine.

  3. I definitely noticed that your blog is famous. And once again let me reiterate that I think you should turn your blog into a parenting book.

  4. as I was driving along doing errands thinking about how I could manage to buy that house next door I had the thought "I wonder how things are going with Logan". And whala I log on to your blog and my questions are answered. You guys could seriously write a parenting book. The plan does not sound easy, but it's so much better that you are being proactive now instead of reacive years from now or worse....not doing anything about it. If you stick to it I am sure you will be rewarded. GOOD LUCK!

  5. I always play catch up with your posts, it seems. And I'm grateful that when I want to "reach out" to someone, I know you're always there with something new to say. Most of my friends are on blogation lately. So I just want to thank you for sharing your experiences so faithfully and helping me feel connected through your joys and struggles.

    Logan is SO BLESSED to have you two. Think of where he'd be elsewhere... yikes. In the Andrus family, for example, where commands are issued haphazardly and then forgotten by all. My reign of chaos is not unlike the Queen of Hearts' in Wonderland. I actually threatened them yesterday with the phrase "heads are going to roll." (Can't remember what it was I wanted them to do, though.)