(Cross posted at Morning Star, my homeschooling blog)
One of the things that I struggle with the most as a parent is consistency with discipline. I think that I just heard a collective "AMEN, SISTAH!" from pretty much every parent reading this, because heaven knows that one of the hardest things to do is follow through with that threat that you just made to Boseephus, Jr. about how if he did XY or Z one more time you were going to ground him for an entire year plus take away all of his desserts and send all of his action figures to starving kids in China. No sooner are the words out of your mouth then you realize that aaawwww MAN, now I need to actually do those things as discipline, or run the risk of my children realizing that I have no backbone whatsoever! And the implications of THAT are scary. Simply scary.
Well, I will confess that I am, more often than not, of the back-boneless variety. I am the classic Threatening Repeating Parent: "If you don't do such-and-such, then _____________" and I lay out some kind of consequence, only to remind said child of the consequence fifty times more, all the while growing more and more frustrated and closer to losing my temper. And, admittedly, sometimes completely losing my temper altogether. I hate that more than anything, really, because one of the things I'm trying to teach these little munchkins that God blessed me with as kids is SELF CONTROL, and it's hard to teach that when you're foaming at the mouth.
We're part of a history co-op with some of our best friends which meets every other week to do all the really fun activities that none of us moms really wants to plan for just our own kids. This week we were meeting at our house, but Monday morning I was spending time in school struggling with The Kids and their attitude. Both of them, oddly enough, because Declan is usually just fine. Finally I told them, very calmly and firmly, that if they didn't stop reacting to me in an irritated manner whenever I spoke to them or corrected them, if they didn't completely change their attitudes, they would not participate in the co-op. The way it would work is that they would be back in my room, on the bed with books, and they would not come out at all. Not to say hi to their friends, not to have a snack, or go to the bathroom or get a drink, et cetera and so forth. The only thing that would get them out of that room would be if the house caught on fire. (Hey, I'm not unreasonable!)
Well, Declan straightened right up and proceeded to finish up his schoolwork without any attitude. Reilly, on the other hand, did not, and long story short, lost her attendance at the co-op. She apologized for her behavior, and then said in a very sad voice, "I really wish that I could come to the co-op." I told her that I did to, but that she had her chance to change her behavior. She had her choice to make, and she chose to continue to be rude to me and I'm done with that. When co-op time came, off she went to my room, and she wasn't heard from until everyone left, which was about two and a half hours later.
Back in December I read this blog post over at Woulda Coulda Shoulda and it really made me rethink how I dole out consequences. The line that really jumped out at me was when she wrote, "Hey, I’m ready and willing to believe my daughter is super special and everything, but with 80+ kids I’m supposed to believe that her absence ruined the show? And also that THAT takes precedence over raising her to be a pleasant, respectful human?" One thing that I've realized is that I tend to back down on my consequences when it's something that I deem a "memory". It's as though I think The Kids are going to be scarred if I have them miss out on something that they could look back on fondly when they're adults. (Does that make any sense?) I'm realizing, however, that more important than memories that might be made while they're growing, is their development into repectful adults.
So, Reilly missed the co-op, and hopefully a lesson was learned. Hopefully not just by her, though. Hopefully I'm learning too, and will continue to grow a spine.