This morning, our 10-year-old Maya, decided that my husband – her Dad, Casper, needed a schedule. She ascertained, that after his brief absence from home, he needed guidelines if he was going to survive the tiny anarchists (mainly her!) who occupied our home.
This had been a tough re-entry!
He returned home last night, all buoyed from his experience at work, excited to see the children, having missed us all terribly.
He had only been gone for 2 ½ weeks – but, somehow, in the short amount of time he had spent on location, filming, he seemed to have forgotten that no one at home listened to him!
Literally within hours, 4 impudent, obstinate girls, literally, took him down. He was forced to retreat to his massage chair in the corner of the den.
Having read John Gray’s book, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, I understood that it was good for men to have a cave to ruminate in, however our home was not big enough to accommodate a cave, so Casper had to content himself with a corner – And his corner didn’t seem to be providing the solace that he needed to regroup!
On top of that, I had zealously implemented a whole new parenting technique – with incentives and privileges – which he had not been completely brought up to speed on. He let me know that he wasn’t that impressed by my strategy – from his perspective, it didn’t seem to be working so well.
While he had been absent, I had sat the girls down and told them that they would earn an allowance in exchange for a clean room and a made bed every morning. It meant $5 week, $1 a day on weekdays and no monitoring on weekends. The little ones, Maya and Celeste, had been pretty good, and there was a definite improvement in the tidiness of their room. But my teenager, Grace, who had tasted the spoils of modeling jobs and commercials, could not be motivated by a $5 bounty – she had been ruined!
And, as for the 20-year-old, I’d had to negotiate expensive incentives like tanks of gas and plane tickets!
As far as the incentive system, I had to admit, that we were on shaky ground – they had lost their luster, as the girls had figured out how to outsmart me and reap the rewards of their privileges without having earned them. Crafty little stinkers!
My system was quite simple – in addition to their allowance, they could earn points that equaled in value ½ hour of computer, video and TV time.
For some of the less appetizing chores, I had to pay a ridiculous surcharge – I allocated a full point for each individual dog turd, but, still, the garden remained littered with nuggets.
I also discovered, much to my chagrin, that the girls were still sneaking TV and computer time in their rooms. I tried to outsmart them by hiding the electronics, the remote controls, and unplugging the TV. I was amazed at how many plugs and cords came and went from their TV, I felt like I was unhooking it from life support – but no matter how confusing it looked to me, my girls could hot wire that TV in no time at all.
And, soon I would hear the high-pitch of chipmunks and other cartoon characters blaring from their room again!
The purpose of this parenting technique was two-fold – to help me not lose my temper when they wouldn’t comply, and to help them learn cause and effect. And, I have to say, that my part was definitely working. Maybe because I was no longer engaged in a power struggle, instead, I was having fun finding ways to outwit them at every turn!
I would advise them to go to bed when I thought it was an appropriate time, but if they didn’t listen, which they invariably didn’t, I wouldn’t yell at them to get back into bed. Instead, I let them know, that if they were cranky, overtired and late for school, that I would accompany them into the Principal’s office and explain to him the reason for their tardiness.
For some reason that was inexplicable to me, Maya was terrified of visiting the Principal’s office. It was strange, as she was pretty much fearless about everything, and had no problem defying authority at home. But, for as long as I could play the Principal card, I would!
And, so far, miraculously, they had not been late for school. In fact, Celeste, who had circles under her eyes a couple of mornings, actually figured out that she perhaps needed a little more sleep and opted to go to bed earlier all by herself. This was not such a bad thing!
However, the night that Casper came home, the girls were overexcited, I’m sure because they had missed him, and wanted his attention. Well, they certainly got his attention, but it wasn’t the most benevolent!
SO, before he drove them off to school this morning, Maya penned a schedule for her Dad– this was his guideline for a sane life!
7:45am – Drop kids off
9:00am – Gym
11:00am – shower off & snack & potty
12:00pm – scream into a pillow
12:05pm – lunch
12:50pm – computer or TV
1:45pm – do something
2:00pm – get ready to pick up kids
2:45pm – pick Maya & Celeste up and at 3:00pm p/u Grace
4:00pm – Help w/ homework
Thank goodness for our children – We think we have it all together until they remind us exactly where we don’t!