With five very unique children and all of their unique issues, we are often forced to think outside the box (hey, can anyone think outside the box and come up with a new phrase for that because it's tired now) when it comes to disciplining them when they act up. There have been people who wince when we share stories and there are those who applaud our creativity. So at the risk of severe judgement and readers peering down their noses at us, I'm going to occasionally share some of these ideas here.
I must add that the idea of writing about this sort of thing was actually my husband's. He said we could write a book and I suggested maybe we only had enough creative ones for a blog post. I wish I could remember more from over the years, but for now, I'll try to keep things to our more current responses to behavioral issues.
Please keep in mind that this is not meant as an instructional or how-to post. We, in no way, consider ourselves experts in the parenting department, even though our children give us lots of practice in parenting them. It is merely a write-up on something we tried (at least once), with our children, and found some relative success. For some of you, these stories may entertain as well -- but I'm not banking on that.
I've mentioned our three sons, ages 11, 9 and 6. Boys are so much different than girls and raising them has been such an adventure for me who was one of three girls. I always thought my boy cousins were such an anomaly and so rowdy and uncontainable. They often drove me crazy (sorry, cousins, if you read my blog)! And this from a self-professed tomboy like I was growing up. But really, I just could not understand why they were the way they were.
In the past year or so, our boys -- even though they're homeschooled and somewhat protected from what I read or remember goes on in public schools -- have been testing the waters with foul-mouthed language. It started with basic name-calling and has moved up to the worst swear words I know about. We have tried many remedies for this problem and as they grow in awareness of the world, their vocabulary just expands anyway.
So more recently, when the trash-talking got to an all-time high, I decided to take away anything above a G-rating for our middle (and most mouthy) son, Z. He lost all PG and above for a week, then with each new infraction, we add a day.
Z is currently on a perpetual 15-day ban from anything above G, so I'm not sure if this is working or not, with the exception of our being certain he is not learning new language from movies, television and computer games. He complains that he can't do or watch PG things, but ultimately, he doesn't hate it so much that he's jumping to change his behavior -- yet. Eventually, I believe he'll grow tired of his G-rated options and start to exhibit more self-control.
For H, though, who is 11, only being allowed rated-G is excruciating for him. So far, he's never had more than a week of it and he quickly gets his mouth under control because he can't imagine life without slightly more mature themes. He's well beyond Nick Jr. and Winnie the Pooh mentally and emotionally, so this is a horrible punishment in his opinion.
For O, who primarily only cares about G-rated things at this point (age 6), and who has yet to earn any real computer time anyway, continues to be as mouthy as ever. He almost flaunts curse words to his older brothers who are doing better trying not to say what they are thinking when he calls them all the worst things. So in his case, we've reverted to a more old fashioned method of swishing some vinegar around his mouth (to "clean" it out) when he goes too far. Not sure how many kids enjoy the taste of white vinegar ... but certainly, O does not.
Many might wonder why we don't ban television and computer altogether from the kids when they misbehave. On occasion, we do. But in this case, we are trying to make a point of the fact that we cannot keep them from the world, which occasionally (and often) teaches the wrong things, but that as parents, we can filter some of what they see and hear while they are still children. This, especially for our oldest son, is more painful than taking television away totally. He still can watch, but feels the pressure of our control in place of his own self-control that he should have exhibited. If we took television and computer away totally, we feel that he'd fill his time with something else entirely and our efforts to guide him would go unnoticed.
This is still a consequence in the experimentation phase, so I offer no proof of its success. I have seen a decrease in foul language in the house, so I do sense that it's making a difference -- just not any kind of overnight success story.
And finally, regular readers will know that we did allow everyone to see Soul Surfer recently (which is rated PG). We all wanted to go and so we gave the boys a one-day break in their consequence (actually, not even a full day, just for that movie) for the benefit of family time -- which we feel is a pretty important value we'd like to teach them as well.