Thursday, April 28, 2011
Ten days ago I discovered that someone knocked my laptop onto the floor, cracking the cover and breaking part of the joint between the keyboard and the screen. I know it was one of my two youngest, but so far neither has 'fessed up. Less than 24 hours later, Little Guy and Snuggler decided to use the family camera. In the process of determining who would use it first they dropped it and broke the lens.
I was not a happy mama. When the worst of my storm passed, I knew two things:
1. My two youngest needed to learn the value of things (and that would take time), and
2. We did not have a camera.
I looked online, and discovered it would cost $268 to restore the household to camera-owning status. So I explained to my children that they were going to work off the cost, at the pay rate of one dollar per chore.
That's 134 chores per child.
Yeah.When the mean mommy awards are handed out, I'm gonna be a contender.
Or maybe not. At heart, this isn't about punishment. It's about indulgence. You see, someone once told me that indulgence is defined as 'whatever is more than your child's character can take." Indulgence isn't a matter of how-much-is-too-much in absolute terms, but how much is too much before a child slips into selfishness, bad habits, and poor behavior.
Some kids retain a spirit of gratitude when they're showered with gifts. Mine are pretty good at that. Some kids can own many things and take good care of all of them. This is where mine are weak. And the truth is that it's my fault.
My two youngest are poor stewards of their (and our) belongings because of my work habits and requirements. In the flurry of work/homeschool/shlep-to-activities I haven't stayed on top of the pick-it-up-and-put-it-away routine, which is step one in taking care of your belongings. If I can 'pay' for a block of work time by letting my younger ones make a mess, I've been willing to strike that deal.
But the laptop/camera incident made it clear that I'm not the only one who pays for this. My kids will pay, too, if they're allowed to grow up with a sense that it's someone else's job to absorb the cost of their carelessness. So I am scaling back their (our) freedom to the point where their enjoyment of playing with something equals the amount of effort they are willing and able to put in to make that play possible.
Trust me, getting my two youngest to do 134 chores each is a penance for all of us. It takes a ton of energy to muster my reluctant troops to do the additional chores they are now required to do each day. It takes a thought-through plan of effective consequences, and a heart of steel to deflect the numerous please and arguments. But I'm steeling myself.
So far they're on #14 each.
Wish me luck.