Monday, January 11, 2010

Cavemom confessions-Bad Parenting

A few years back, in an effort to improve the tone of our home and encourage better behavior from our son Mr. Cavehair and I decided to try the reward system.  The punishment system wasn't working with a 3 year old cave-child who was wild as a hyena, and we were exhausted.  We quickly discovered that offering a reward for good behavior instead of punishment for bad behavior turned out a generally more desirable outcome. However...it has backfired on us.  BIG TIME.

Almost 4 years later we have discovered that we have created a child who cares to do nothing positive unless it involves a reward of some sort.  He bargains, he negotiates.  He actually has said "If I take my shower in only 8 minutes will you take me to Target to get a Lego Star Wars set?" (The answer is clearly NO, and he's never been rewarded quite THAT ridiculously, but still he's tried.) We created a child who wants to know what's in it for him before he decides whether he'll cooperate or not.

That was brought to a swift halt the week of Christmas.  After 6 weeks of horrible, no good, very bad days leading up to Christmas, we could take no more.  It was time for clear consequences.  The first one came in the form of a letter from Santa explaining why Santa could not bring the requested Nintendo DSi.  Santa brought the remote control helicopter, because cave-boy's behavior had been excellent at school, but Santa did NOT bring the DSi because cave-boy's behavior at home had been bad enough to nearly put him on the naughty list.  Santa called for a drastic improvement in the behavior at home towards cave-boy's mother and father should cave-boy expect something like a DSi in the future.  Then Mom and Dad stepped in with a new way of saying what was expected and what the outcome would be.  Whereas once we would have said something like "if you eat your dinner, clear your place, and get your shower quickly, you can earn 30  mins of wii" we are now saying "After dinner, the family is playing wii, however, if you do not eat your dinner, clear your place, or take your shower quickly, you will not play with the rest of the family."
Nothing about what we ultimately do is changing, but Caveboy's response is changing.
So far so good.  We're almost 3 weeks into it and we're seeing improvement.  But what I don't know is how much of the improved behavior is that Christmas is no longer on the visible horizon and so all the angst about it is gone for now.  I guess only time and perserverance will tell, but I sure hope its working the way we think it is because I do not want to be the one responsible for raising a man who will not do anything for anybody unless there's something in it for him.  That's no way to live.

6 comments:

Kristina P. said...

I think it's really hard to find a balance sometimes. I hope he keeps up the good behavior!

Hartson family said...

You are an awesome parent Lisa. You're always coming up with great solutions and finding ways to stay in control. Thanks for the example... as my caveboy is difficult too!

Juracan Family said...

I completely agree 100%. Always rewarding good behavior with things and privilege just breeds entitlement and there is NOTHING worse than an entitled kid, teen or adult. One of our favorite sayings at our house is "We all live here, so we all work here". This is the basis for why we don't give allowance or rewards for making beds, putting dishes in the dishwasher, etc... my argument is always, "as soon as I get paid to do the dishes, so will you." So far, it has worked. The kids really never argue when they are asked to do something. They don't always do it perfectly or the way I would do it, but they don't talk back and they do it. Setting a clear boundary and standing firm is healthy for everyone involved. Kids like knowing the expectations because it is consistent and there is no guessing involved for them. You sound like you have really figured it out...good for you! Nothing feels better than seeing hard work pay off :-)

rachel said...

I really admire you, Lisa. It sounds like you guys are doing the right thing with him. Good luck. If I had known how hard it was to be a parent...well, I still would have been a parent, but I feel like I'm making it up as I go along sometimes.

Marylois said...

I have found that it is a fine balance between reward and punishment. There needs to be consequences for actions. It's all about choice and accountability. If you, as a parent step in between the choice and the consequence then your child isn't learning a good lesson. Never threaten something you aren't willing to do. The trick is finding your child's buttons; those things that are really important to them. Having raised 7 children I have found that each child's buttons are sometimes the same and sometimes different. If I had to put a child in time out it was usually one minute for each year old they were. I would set the timer so we both could know when the time was up. If they made a big fuss while in time out I would reset the timer telling them why I was doing it. When the timer rang we would have a chat about why they were there so we both understood why. Usually I let the child do all the talking. By the time they were 10 I told them they stayed in time out until they were ready to come out and if they came out too soon I would know and they would be right back in, ie the behavior was still there. I am a firm believer in asking for Heavenly Father's help in knowing how to handle His child. He knows them better than I do.

By the way, I think you plans sound really great. Keep it up. Emma was my cave child. I had created a monster by always giving her what she wanted because it was easier while I dealt with the rest of them. It took a few years but I think I have succeeded now.

Marylois said...

One more note. If my children where fighting with each other I would put them in opposite corners of a room. That way they couldn't hit each other. They had to stay there until they solved their disagreement. At first I would have to help them through the process. It would go something like this:

Andrew, I want you to tell me what happened. William, you be quiet. You will have your turn next.

When he was done William would tell me his version of the story. To which Andrew would say: I didn't hit him!

I would then say: Andrew, William thinks you hit him. Is there something you did that would make him think you hit him? etc...

They would finally come to an understanding and could come out of the corners.

I have to say that when Elder Bednar used the example last conference of "He's breathing my air" I cracked up laughing. It was so true to what I have heard at home.