The long arm of the law had finally reached them.
But they didn’t believe it.
Who could blame them? Too often, they’d been allowed to commit infractions without penalty. At times, my parental inconsistency was borderline criminal.
About a month ago, a new day dawned around here. Through a series of events and simply being sick and tired of doing things my own (ineffective) people pleasing way, God opened my eyes to the damage I was doing by seeking my children’s approval and comfort and doing things for them that they should be doing themselves.
So shortly after Thanksgiving, armed with new insight and resolve, I told my children:
Things are going to be different around here. You’re going to be assigned regular chores. I’ve been doing too much for you and I’m not doing you any favors in the long run. I’m going to quit nagging and reminding, too. You’ll make your own choices about your behavior, but then you’ll have to own the consequences. (See my Cracking the Chore Code and Morning Glory posts for more about my new approach.)
Molly: Um, not to be rude, Mom, but we’ve heard this before.
Micah: Yea, I hate to say it, but she’s kind of right, Mom.
Knowing that this time WAS different, I simply said: Just give it time. There’s a new sheriff in town.
They both thought this was very funny.
Until the sheriff started enforcing the “laws.” And then you could see the panic set in. Crap! She’s serious.
Yesterday, a month after my epiphany, both kids asked me to do something for them that they were too lazy to do themselves (this is happening less and less often, though.)
When I refused, each of them responded: Oh, yea, there’s a new sheriff in town.
But this time, the disbelief was gone. Along with a good deal of my stress.
Three parenting laws that I started obeying in late 2010 are helping me stay on track. With God's help there will be (minimal) law-breaking in 2011:
Law #1: Consistent Enforcement. This has always been a weak area for me as a parent. I tend to go in cycles. I’m great about keeping the kids on track with chores and behavior, but then get busy or burned out and let things get out of control.
I know it’s only been a month, but this time IS different. Instead of doing it on my own strength, I’m relying on God like never before. And I have a couple of people who I check in with to keep me accountable and encouraged in this area.
Law #2: No Nagging or Reminding. I don’t think anything chips away at a relationship more than nagging. I’m learning to just let my kids suffer the consequences. I say it once and give them a deadline. If it’s not done, there’s a price to pay. Period.
Law #3: No Tunnel Vision. I can get very caught up in the moment and want to give in to my children’s pleas or demands. But I’m doing a much better job of keeping the big picture in mind. I ask myself, “If I give in to this, am I moving them closer to being a responsible, caring adult?” This also helps me not break Law #1.
Whenever God opens me eyes to unhealthy patterns, it’s wonderful but difficult. Changes have to be made. I look back with grief and regret over the damage I’ve done.
One day recently when I was feeling rotten about the past, I read this in the Bible Study I’m doing: “God is always big enough to work inside of our mistakes. No matter what the size of the problem we have gotten ourselves into, His ability to rescue us is bigger still.” (from Living with Unmet Desires by Shawn Lantz)
Thanks to God’s grace, my mistakes don’t mean a life sentence – for me or my children.