Tag Archives: rewards

Extras to Earn, Not Expectations to Receive :: A Week of Boundaries

leaving the house and boundaries

I read Boundaries with Kids in February (which feels like so long ago!).

While I felt like I understood the concepts, I floundered on the follow-through. I could see the issues described in the book being played out in my home, and like the true brainiac that I am – I just watched and I couldn’t seem to connect the dots.

I felt like I couldn’t come up with consequences that made sense. My kids would cross boundaries and disobey while I just watched, feeling paralyzed.

Instead of being constructive, I lectured and over explained how their actions made me feel. I saw their little eye glaze over again and again. Here she goes again… I reacted with words which doesn’t help at all. (And now I know better. This is explained in detail in the book.)

For a couple weeks, I felt like a train wreck.

So I did the only thing that made sense: I prayed.

Help me, Lord! I am so broken and needy. I know what’s right but I can’t do it! I keep repeating the same mistakes. I want to love my children by creating and maintaining loving limits but I honestly don’t know how.

For weeks, I felt like my prayers were going unanswered.

I was grasping at straws.

Then I saw our routine chart (you know, the one we never use and have visually learned to “not see” anymore – yeah, that one), and I realized that I had already done the work of creating boundaries. No reinventing the wheel necessary.

So, now I had my boundaries clearly laid out, but what about consequences for crossing the boundaries? Because as the authors said “It’s their job to cross the boundaries.”

And then I realized that the consequences should be the loss of the regular, weekly extra activities that we enjoy. In my desire to shower my kids with comfort and joy (great things!), I made the “extra activities” in our life the expected activities or dare I say the entitled activities. For example, a trip to the library is great! And when you take due dates into view, a trip is a need. But do we need to go there or do we want to? For us, the line between needs and wants in our schedule was blurred.

Not only was our schedule a blur, but our household chores were getting muddy too. Because there weren’t consequences for failing to follow through on tasks, I was turning to money to motivate them to obey. When I would engage with my older kids (7 and 9 years) to train them in some personal responsibility, they were beginning to expect monetary rewards instead of just doing the tasks for the sake of obedience. So, I allowed my lack of boundaries to fool me into the mindset that I should try to bargain, bribe, or beg them to obey.

And I’m not joking! The words: I’m begging you! Were becoming a part of my weekly vocabulary.

(Whoa.)

I took a hard look at my own life: why is this behavior so important to me? What is most important to my kids? How can I move them from consuming our schedule, home, resources, etc. to contributing to these? What will motivate and correct?

I already learned that money didn’t work. Like a cupcake with too much frosting, they bit a little and then scraped the extra off and continued without changing the behavior I was trying to change.

So, I considered my life again but more practically. If I want to enjoy something, what has to happen? If I want to have a peaceful morning, I put in the work the night before to wash pans, tidy up, and write the plan.

Plain old life requires work, but there are natural rewards in that work too – like peace!

(Lightbulb.)

I decided that I needed to train my kids to see life’s rewards as extras to earn not expectations to receive.

And this week has been so different.

Monday: I wanted to follow the routines. Now hear me, I’m a flexible person. I’m not hyper strict about most things. I enjoy my Type B personality (or my adult ADD) most of the time. So to reward my kids for their participation in our daily responsibilities, I said that I would take them to a new play place by 2pm as long as we each put our responsibilities first. I built free time into the schedule too. There was no need for anyone to feel burdened, just loosely guided.

One additional condition was kindness. No out of control arguments. I’ve been working for months on training my little people to treat each other with kindness and respect, to see and anticipate the needs and feelings of each other.

They were on board and super excited to go and play! What a treat. Usually Mondays are “stay home” days.

But they argued – again and again. I had to correct and redirect. I warned without lecturing or showing any emotion, until finally I had to say “You’ve lost the privilege. We will not be going to the play place.”

Boy, was it hard to stick to this consequence! They straightened right up, got back on track, and asked again if we could still go. Considering the fact that we actually hadn’t fallen behind in our routine. We could still make it – no harm, no foul. But I couldn’t give in or change my mind.

This is vital to establishing real boundaries. Boundaries that are consistent.

I told them that we could find another time in our week to add in this fun extra, but that they would have to continue to show me that they could respect the routine.

Tuesday: Library day. They couldn’t keep it together. Squabbles and dawdles robbed them of their “need” to go to the library.

At this point, I could see that I was really getting through to them. Not only was I being firm on the limits of their behavior, but I was being loving! I was calm, compassionate, and willing to listen to them. I wasn’t willing to compromise or change my mind. I asked for the routine to be followed without fighting (little arguments and disagreements aside – they are kids for heaven’s sake), and I meant it.

Wednesday: we got out of the house and enjoyed a little perspective from the outside, which brings us to Thursday and the picture of us leaving the house!!!

We enjoyed the library and the play place! We got out of the house (easily!!) by 9am with chores done and no fighting!

Am I being too strict? Is it fair to cancel plans and make they follow the routine? (Side note: we [my older kids and I] created this routine together, so this isn’t just a “my way or the highway” plan. It’s a collaboration.) I don’t think so.

This is parenting. 

 

*I am not a parenting expert. This post isn’t written to diagnose or treat any parenting issues. If you see yourself in my experience or my kids’ behavior, I pray this post will encourage and not discourage. I would love to connect with you personally too! Click here to read my previous post reviewing the book on Boundaries with Kids.

5 Reasons Why I Held My Tongue

I was vacuuming for the 3rd time this week, and can you guess what was all over the floor?

Toys.

Those little reminders that I’m still desperate for grace.

5 Reasons Why I held My Tongue

And before I could finish my sentence “Please stop what you’re doing and pick up these toys…” I stopped short. I didn’t add the usual “Or I’ll…” to the command. I stood there and just watched and waited for their obedience. I realized that if they aren’t able to obey simply because I’ve asked them to, then we have a big problem. A problem that threats that Or I’ll’s can’t cure.

My desire is to teach my children the lifestyle of respect.

I want to show them the joys and sacrifices of relationship. We all have a role and jobs to do in contributing to a family – which is a gift. We are privileged to have a place together, and with our place comes responsibility.

And while I use rewards and consequences to shape their behavior and guide their choices, those don’t last forever, and they are not supposed to replace their will.

5 Reasons 2

What will last are character, integrity, dignity, compassion, respect, and the discipline of delayed gratification. These are all a part of teaching my children to operate out of an inner place of wisdom and goodness.

So even though I still use rewards and consequences in training my little people, I was reminded in that vacuum induced toy-rant that my use of these alone cannot accomplish the mission we have as a family.

Here are 5 reasons why I didn’t say “Or I’ll:”

  • My kids don’t need to be threatened all the time. This is the ugly side of using consequences too quickly. It becomes a habit to manipulate behavior by stating upfront the consequence for not obeying. (And I won’t number the times these threats have been vain.)
  • They know they need to obey already – a threat doesn’t reinforce something good, but rather reinforces the idea that “mom is mean.”
  • Sometimes natural consequences are better than mom-inflicted ones.
  • Expecting obedience teaches them to take more responsibility verses operating out of response to the greatest stimulator and allows me to observe their behavior, growth, and questions. When there isn’t an “Or I’ll” to compete with they are allowed to ask why, what for, etc. within reason.
  • Clear instruction improves our relationship and doesn’t trigger their fight or flight. When constantly rewarding and doling out consequences, I am parenting to the “want” of a child. Putting that child in the position to choose their behavior based on their wants is to train them to make emotional decisions versus training them to be a disciplined leader themselves.

I’m learning that my children are wired to respond to me. There is no such thing as “no reaction” in relationship chemistry. What I observe as negative in their behavior may have more to do with my leadership style than their lack of obedience.

Cooperation does not equal obedience.

5 Reasons 3

Here are 4 helpful resources on the topic of “wiring” and behavior:

 

Get to Work.

I see what she does and I love her work, I love her drive, I love her goal accomplishing. I love it all.

She lives life well. Like it’s her job. I lived life…like it was an accomplishment to just make it to bedtime.

I lacked accountability. And a boss. I missed being told what to do.

I remember hating being told what to do when I was a teenager but having a job was a necessity. Working was expected before kids, and being told what to do came with the territory.

It was all about the money. That and keeping up with my friends.

When I was 20 years old, I had no idea that I should be grateful for the accountability of a job. Thankful for a reason to get myself up in the morning.

If I hadn’t been employed, I know I would have lazed my days away. I would not have been motivated to do anything with my life. I would not have found the joy of conversation and relationship. The joy of what it means to be human. To connect with a stranger.

Of course there were days when I dreaded my shift. I was wrecked by the anxiety of being out in society. I wanted to hide from the responsibility of my life.

But because I found the strength to conquer the nagging nerves I was rewarded first by the money in my pocket come payday – but more than that I grew in maturity in small increments.

In 2007, my reason to get up in the morning changed: I had a bright little baby girl whose sweet cries would call me to action. I had a new job. The primary reason to do this new work had no monetary reward, but she needed me and that was motivation enough.

But slowly the nerves and anxiety crept back into my soul, and I wasn’t as motivated to live my life to the full.

I lack accountability at home.

The temptation to hide from responsibility was strong, and I could spend hours in a day fogged by the deception that I wasn’t worth anything. Failures, family pain, and sleepless nights fueled this fog, and I was slipping farther from the mature, responsible person I wanted to be. I began to avoid more and more responsibility.

Motherhood was harder and more demanding than I could have imagined.

My new identity revealed flaws in my character that I didn’t want to admit were true. I had an insatiable desire to hide from myself and from reality.

The slippery slope of irresponsibility had brought me down lower than I wanted to go. A place where my whole goal was to have it easy. Effortless.

But an effortless life is #1 not possible and #2 boring and #3 not rewarding.

No responsibility = no rewards.

In 2008, I was challenged to spend consistent time with the Lord everyday. At the time I was pregnant with our second child.

It was not easy, it was work, and it did not have immediate results. But for the first time since having a job outside the home, I was accountable to something. I was committed to nurturing this one purposeful responsibility.

I owned it.

There wasn’t a support group, or a time clock to tell me what to do next. Just the Word of God and His Spirit.

Slowly over the next 6 years, the Lord has added more tasks to my agenda growing my responsibility in small increments.

And now I’m not afraid to get up in the morning. I refuse the temptation to hide when fear and failure breathe heavy on my neck.

I cling to the reality that when I know responsibility then I know rewards. I can see not only by looking back, but by setting my mind to look forward that my efforts, my discipline, and my work bring me closer to the goals that I have set for myself.

The more rewards I enjoy the more fully alive I become. And I believe this is how it’s meant to be for all of us.

So for today and for this week, I am setting my mind on the work in front of me.

What work do you do? What rewards do you enjoy?