In order to promote responsibility in our house, Randall and I bought a chart to keep track of good behavior and completed chores. It has some suggested chores and behaviors, as well as some blank magnets to write your own responsibilities. It’s cute. And every time Asher says the word “chart” I silently giggle a little. (He has a problem with replacing the ch sound with an sh sound. Someday I’ll be an adult…)
The boys earn smiley face magnets when they complete a chore or when they’ve had a day of good behavior. When the boys share and play nicely all day, they get a magnet. When they brush their teeth and pick up toys they get a magnet. At the end of the week, if the boys have earned enough magnets, they get to choose their reward. The first week, they earned a toy from Target’s dollar section. The chart really seemed to be working. The next week, they earned a trip to the zoo. That was the last time the boys earned a reward.
The thing is, they are often nice to each other and they always clear the table and brush their teeth. But they HATE picking up toys and making their beds. There is no amount of motivation that will make them clean their rooms these days…
The other thing I have to admit is that the chart is for me, too. Parenting is hard. I will always be new to each phase of parenting and discipline. I’m constantly learning and trying new things. But for the past five years one thing hasn’t changed much. I yell. I yell a lot. And when I’m trying not to yell, I just give them the evil eye.
A few weeks ago, I was trying to get the boys to brush their teeth before school. Asher was doing a good job but Isaac was choosing this moment to throw a fit and not brush his teeth. I rationalized with him. “Isaac, we brush our teeth twice every day. This is not a new thing. The reason I ask you to brush your teeth is because it keeps them healthy. We have to brush the food away so it doesn’t start eating away at your teeth, causing holes and pain in your teeth.” It wasn’t working.
I tried a different tactic. “Isaac, just brush your teeth and be done with it. You’re making us late for school.” That was the wrong idea. Then he started freaking out that he was going to be late for school!
So I tried my final measure. I squinted my eyes and gave him my I’m-about-to-be-very-angry-with-you look and said in a forced whisper, “Then Brush Your Teeth!” He continued to cry in hysterics and I lost it.
I slapped my own hand and yelled, “BRUSH YOUR TEETH!” And then I saw the look on his face. It was fear. My son is scared of me. That’s not a good feeling. That’s never what I intended. In those precious months when you’re expecting your first child, you pray a lot. You ask for health and happiness. You ask for guidance. You never pray that your child will fear you. It was an eye opening experience.
So I apologized. That’s something a parent can’t be afraid to do. I hugged him tight and apologized for yelling and told him I loved him and that we could drive to school and make it on time and helped him brush his teeth.
Then I went downstairs and filled out a blank magnet on the chart that said, “STOP YELLING.” When Isaac got home from school, we talked about how sometimes I mess up and sometimes I disobey, too. I showed the boys the new addition to the chart and told them that they would be allowed to give me a magnet if I stop yelling.
You should be pleased to know that I have earned that magnet for three or so weeks now, every day (but two). And the boys know, they can take away my magnet if I yell. They are eager to do that. Don’t worry. They threaten to all the time. Anytime I raise my voice to reach a kid’s ear that is far away, they ask if they can take away a magnet. I don’t think those times count.
But I’m amazed at how easy it has been to make a conscious effort to change. There are a few things in my life that have been my fatal flaws; temptations I’ve always struggled with and have never been able to make much progress against. But I thank God that He helps me to overcome this one struggle.
May we never be too proud to ask forgiveness from our own kids. May we always strive to learn and improve on our parenting skills. God, may you always be my guide as I guide my kids. Please protect them from the inevitable moments that I screw them up. Teach me how to be a good mother and raise godly boys. Amen.