Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Disciplining Without Negative Emotion

The day after John and I started seeing each other, one of his comments was, "You wear your emotions on your sleeve, don't you." I don't know what I had said to make him feel that way, but he was right. I'm not good at being fake. If I'm upset, most people know it, even if I try very hard to hide it. When I'm around people, I'm usually happy, though, because I like almost everyone I know, so I don't have to try to be fake.

When I say people, I don't mean my kids. Don't get me wrong. I love them, and I love being with them, most of the time, but sometimes they enrage me, and it's very hard for me to control my emotions. I've always been a yeller, and it's something I've tried to overcome for many, many years. Granted, I'm not as bad as I used to be, but I still have a long way to go.

From the many parenting books I have read, I've learned that disciplining without emotion is a great way to control the flood of feelings that can emerge when dealing with frustrating behavior. I've blogged about some of my methods before, like HERE, and today I'd like to share what I've recently been doing that is working out really, really well for me.

So my kids have three main responsibilities in the mornings before school. First, they have to get up on time for scripture study at 6:45. Second, they must get ready for school in time, having prepared and donned their clothing, brushed their hair and teeth, and said their morning prayers, and they must clean their parts of the kitchen. The dreaded kitchen parts.... that's when things gets tough.

Our kitchen is huge, nearly 600 square feet...


(shown here when Baby Hippo would sleep in his pack 'n' play in the kitchen as a newborn)

...and when one person tries to clean it, it can take nearly an hour. Thus, I have divided it up into four quadrants, for which each child over eight is responsible. This is all great in theory, but when it actually comes to getting it done in the mornings, that's another story.

So here's my method when the kids leave for school having left their part undone, thus leaving it for me.

1. I don't remind them about their parts. If I do, they usually say "I KNOW" in a tone of how-dare-you-even-dream-I-wouldn't-finish-my-part-before-school. I try to avoid hearing this tone at all costs, and not nagging is a great way to accomplish this goal.

2. When they leave, I do their parts for them. "No", you say! "This is rewarding them!" I say, just keep reading. Before doing their parts for them, I get out my handy-dandy notebook, and assign two consequence chores to the offending party. If you're not sure what consequence chores are, go HERE for an in-depth description, but in short, a consequence chore is any chore that takes 10 to 20 minutes to complete. Consequence chores can be assigned for any infraction, not just lapses of housework responsibilities. Thus, although I have to spend my time doing their chores, they will have to pay me back double when they come home. Totally worth it. I love to spend the time while I do their chores concocting the perfect consequence chores for when they return home. Whuahahahaha!

If, like my son, they spend over four hours at football practice every day, I don't ask them to make up these chores after school, but they accumulate over the week, waiting patiently in the notebook for them when the weekend comes.

3. I do not tell them that they have consequence chores verbally. They know that their chore list awaits them on the notebook each day after school, and if they have earned consequence chores, I will have written these on the list for them, along with the reason they were added. Thus, I avoid the arguing that would inevitably occur if I assigned their chore verbally. The only reaction I deal with is mouth-dropping or hand-throwing or spinning angrily away from the notebook on their way to their room, as they read their assignments.

Here's what an afternoon chore list, with consequence chores, might look like.....(mine is always hand-written, but is typed here for my convenience)

K, R, L, and C: kids' initials
All: Assignment is for everyone
CC: Consequence Chore

K Living Room
R Green Room
L Bedroom Hallway
C Guest Hallway
All: Bedrooms
All: Bathrooms
All: Laundry
K CC (For not doing kitchen part) Sweep and mop storage room floor
K CC (For not doing kitchen part) Clean dog poo for ten minutes
R CC (For not doing kitchen part) Clean right stove top
L CC (For not doing kitchen part) Clean left stove top
L CC (For calling your sister a name) Baby Hippo, 20 minutes
C CC (For back-talking) Vacuum basement stairwell

As you can see, the after school chores only consist of one family chore per child, and if they keep up on their rooms, bathrooms and laundry, they don't have to spend much time on their personal chores each day either. And that is a BIG if. It's the consequence chores that really get to them, and help them to remember that if they perform all of their responsibilities each morning, they can spend time enjoying the after school hours rather than being their mother's slave.

Honestly, this policy has helped me make leaps and bounds of progress in teaching responsibility without displaying negative emotions. What do you think? Would it work for you? Let's talk in the comments section.

Thanks for listening. :)

Addendum: As the 11-year-old boy was reading over my shoulders while massaging them to earn money, he said, "Mom, why are you trying to make the lives of other kids miserable?"


Melinda said...

I have learned something from your post! Great ideas!

Mom2my10 @ 11th Heaven said...

Thanks, Melinda! This works especially great for teenagers. It would be perfect for you! ;)

Nat said...

Jen, I too am a yeller, and I hate it. I was very nice and had phenomenal self control until I had kids. And I only have 3! I love your idea. And I'm super impressed that you regularly maintain a blog while raising a large family.

Mom2my10 @ 11th Heaven said...

Thanks, Nat! It's great to get a new commentator! :)

PC said...

Oh dear, I'm not only a yeller but also a nagger and a very short temper mom..this post really help. do share more about how to keep mom 'cool down'. Thanks for sharing!

Becky said...

Taking away the "mom" factor, really does work. We had success with setting timers for different things. It was the buzzer that was the signal, not mom. It works great for written instructions as well!

Anonymous said...

You, as always, are completely awesome, real and definitely my-kinda-mama. GREAT post. This would definitely work in my family. In fact, I dreamed up something similar awhile ago, but never did put it into practice. I could use a good tool for helping my kids, who are decent workers, to get their chores done without nagging. I think it would be perfect for my 17yodd, who is reading over my shoulder, who struggles with keeping her bathroom clean!!

Frances said...

I have always loved your posts and this one too! I love that the kids get mad at the notebook and there's no face to face argument. I worry though. My mom was a single parent and worked while I kept up the house. It was like a punishment because I couldn't do anything if my chore list wasn't done and it usually took so long to do that I never got to go out anyway (she was a little OCD). Now I am a married woman about to have a baby and I really struggle with housework. Most people don't seem to have as much trouble keeping things tidy and I don't know how they do it. Somehow I want to teach my kids differently, that chores are not "to keep them in line" but just part of life.

Mom2my10 @ 11th Heaven said...

Frances, I totally see what you are saying. I've had the same concerns myself. However, my kids have so many opportunities to learn that work is just part of life, especially living in such a large family. They are certainly also learning that work can sometimes be consequence of their actions. I guess this method of disciplining without emotion would work with any consequence that the parent chose to administer, whether it be extra chores, bedroom time, writing a report, or removal of privileges. I guess I love giving work as consequences so much because it's so productive and benefits the whole family!

Juan Alvaradejo said...

Thanks for sharing! I think this is really helpful but I have a question, how do you deal with the younger ones? Do you have a different system or you just don't include them?

Mom2my10 @ 11th Heaven said...

Profe, the young ones get lots and lots of time outs! That's all I've thought of so far, plus a lot of positive encouragement when they do something right, even bribery!

Olga said...

I also have questions on how to get the younger kids to do work. I have a 5 year old, and she does have jobs, but sometimes she whines so bad at me about them, I start to yell back at her. Sometimes she is really great and excited to do jobs. Let me know what ideas you may have.