Friday, October 17, 2008

Kids & Rights Vs. Privileges

Normally, my #1 job is being a stay-at-home-mom. In the last two months, however, I have taken on several contract jobs that have demanded a lot of prep time and quite a few days working away from home. In the midst of this I was hit full-throttle with food preservation season; for me, August-September are usually the biggest freezing/canning months. I've put up:

* dozens of boxes of frozen corn
* 90 lbs of blueberries (my parents picked half of this for us since we were on vacation at the height of blueberry season--THANK YOU!!!!!)
* dozens of bags of frozen green beans
* frozen broccoli
*frozen zucchini
* 21 qts salsa
*36 pts tomato sauce
* 8 1/2 qts dill beans
* 12 qts grape juice
* 24 qts tomatoes

Needless to say, I'm pretty wiped out.

During the last two months, I've become a bit frustrated by the amount of time (on top of my other jobs) that I've needed to spend "reminding" my children to do their jobs. It seemed that if I didn't nudge them, the dog didn't get walked. Or bathed. (Am I the only one that notices when the dog starts to smell DOGGY??) Regular jobs (like cleaning bathrooms or vacuuming), would get done...usually...but only to minimal standards. People would "forget" about sweeping stoops or watering plants or taking out the compost. I was sick and tired of listening to my own naggy voice.

And then my friend helped me to remember something that I knew, but in my busyness and frustration I'd forgotten...

I was reminding them, but I was not allowing them to experience the consequences of their forgetfulness. DUH MOMENT!!! No wonder it wasn't working. No one cared. All the reminding in the world was getting me nowhere. All the responsibility lay with me and none lay where it belonged...with THEM.

This reminded me of a very wise email a friend and mom of eight kids wrote. She talked about "rights" vs. "privileges." In our family, children have rights: food, clothing, shelter, safety, love, etc... Pretty much everything else is a privilege. The traditional movie/popcorn night is a privilege. Staying up past bedtime is a privilege. Going out to eat is a privilege. You get the picture...

So I sat my children down and explained to them that I was very tired of reminding them. That nagging was not my job and I didn't plan to do that anymore. I printed new job charts for them and they (not me!) recorded what their daily/weekly responsibilities are. I explained that in order to participate in weekend fun that every item had to be accounted for at the end of the week. One child asked, "If it's movie night and you start the movie, can we go do the job we forgot and then come watch?" No, I explained. You cannot make up missing a day of walking the dog. The dog needs that daily exercises. If you miss jobs--jobs that help to keep this family flowing--then you are welcome to spend movie night considering how you might budget your time better the following week. Fun time is a privilege, not a right.

And the best thing about allowing them to experience consequences of their behavior now? They are still kids. Consequences aren't big. In a few years, as adults, the stakes are going to get a lot higher. I'd much rather have them learn to be responsible by missing a few movie nights than by missing a few house payments.

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