So I finally, finally got around to finishing up my latest Pinterest project-which I have been working on for an embarrassingly long time. I had been working on a behavior chart for months. Yes, months, I kid you not. It was the laminating that really slowed me down-I mean, who has time to laminate? Usually, I don’t go to an establishment of business unless I have more than one thing to do there…so I had to wait until I had a certified letter to send in addition to the laminating before I went in to Mailboxes-otherwise it’s just not worth it with all 3 kids in tow. (At least I think it was Mailboxes, my memory is a scary place these days.)
So where was I? Oh yes, the Pinterest project. I finally got the darn thing laminated, and the kids were EXCITED. They’re kind of little nerds like their momma in that way. I explained to them how it works, trying to keep it fairly simple, because they are 2 and 4 (the baby had to sit this one out, obviously).
Let me just tell you, those first couple of days were scary. T, my oldest, is a little bit of a people pleaser. That aspect of her personality went into over-drive. At one point she told me, “Mom, if you need anything done, just tell me, and I will do it.” And she was serious. She cleaned the living room, dusted the furniture…I had to restrain myself from asking for a back massage.
That’s all fine and good, but she was beyond distraught if her clothes pin ever moved down. Oh, she would cry and howl. (She’s always hated breaking the rules-and time outs nearly destroy her.) And it bothered me a bit. Don’t get me wrong. I like that she likes to follow the rules, and obviously I LOVE my daughter. But should the approval of others matter SO much to her? I mean, I wanted her to obey, but I DIDN’T want her to turn her into a little people-pleasing robot. (And again, she’s four-so maybe I should just soak this all in before she turns into a teenager and that will most likely change!)
Plus it all seemed a little hollow. My husband and I try to teach our kids to obey, and to watch out for each other because it’s the right thing to do. Because people matter. Because ultimately, when we love and take care of His people, we honor God. I wanted my kids to listen, and to do the right thing..but I also wanted them to do it for the right reasons-not just to get some reward! (Whenever they end the night on top of the chart, they get to put a few pom balls in their glasses, and when they are full they get a “date” night of their choosing with mom or dad.)
Then there’s my middle child, V. Time outs have never fazed that child. Not much does. She’s a good kid, don’t get me wrong, but she marches to her own rhythm. So a clothes pin moving up and down on a laminated piece of paper wasn’t super motivating to her. Plus, 2 year olds are into the here and now. A reward that may or may not happen in the future…also not motivating to them.
OK, and another thing…when a kid is having a rough day, do they really need to see it? When you’re at the bottom of the chart, it’s almost depressing, because you have SO FAR to travel to get to the top, and one mess-up sends you right back down again. Where’s the grace in that? We also practice forgiveness in this house, and the behavior chart is just not very forgiving. It remembers-and that doesn’t line up with what we are teaching them, or what the Bible says, for that matter. When you are forgiven, it’s like whatever you did was washed away. It doesn’t mean there’s no consequence-there often is. It just means it doesn’t keep hanging over your head like something you can’t escape.
In Hebrews 8:12 it says that “For I [God] will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” That’s pretty clear, and that’s not the only place in the Bible where it says God forgets your sin when you hand it over to Him in true repentance. Check out Isaiah 43:25, Jeremiah 31:34, Jeremiah 50:20, Micah 7:18…and I could go on. God repeats it over and over again in the Bible, because he wants us to know that it is TRUE.
So after all of this inner-turmoil over the behavior charts, you might think that I would have just thrown it away. But a part of me wasn’t quite ready to give up, not yet. So we stuck with it for a few more days…and surprisingly (to me, anyway), it got much better. My children seemed to begin to like having a physical marker they could refer to and see if their behavior was okay or needing improvement. They liked having something to work towards. A goal, if you will. And bestill my heart, they started to encourage each other. (Which is something we have been working on a lot, as well.) Instead of T running to me to tell me that V was misbehaving, again, she encouraged her to act the right way so she could get a pom ball at the end of the night. And I believe that it was the encouragement of her sister that allowed her to do what no pom ball ever could-she stopped what she was doing, and she changed it so that it was an acceptable behavior.
Moral of the story: I might not dislike the behavior chart as much as I originally thought. In fact, it might be kind-of okay. HOWEVER (and here is my huge disclaimer), it is not a cure-all, and it cannot be used by itself. I am still a huge fan of TEACHING kids the right way to act and modeling good behaviors at home. Punishments, like time-outs, have always been secondary to teaching kids the right way to act in our home. Don’t get me wrong, I am not claiming to be some super-parent. Please. Far from it. I mess up (badly), just like my kids mess up from time to time. There is a lot of grace involved, from all parties living in this house. I am not afraid to apologize to my children, or to tell them, “You know what, Mommy was wrong, and I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” I don’t want them to think I’m perfect, because they would find out soon enough on their own how untrue that is.
Besides, I want a family that is REAL with one another. That means there are problems, and we deal with them. We don’t pretend like those problems don’t exist. We deal with each other, even when it’s painful. Because that’s how you grow.