Call me Crazy, but there are rules in my house. Rules, regulations, and strict guidelines that I expect others (a.k.a children) to follow in detail. No, I don’t run my home like a boot-camp (although I sometimes put the idea into consideration) but there are basic rules that I have put in place in order to save everyone’s (a.k.a my own) sanity.
Now these rules have not always been in place, in fact, with my first child I made a number of mistakes in the discipline department. Being just the two of us for most of his life, he basically had free roam of the household (excluding anything that could cause him bodily harm) He was always a loving, affectionate boy, who stuck to me like glue, but as he has grown (though still stuck to my side throughout most of the day) I have noticed the impact that this ‘lack of structure’ approach has had on his life.
I can thank my BF for opening my eyes to the parenting mistakes I have made with my son over the last 7 years. Discipline is a constant battle in our household, as we both have very different parenting styles. (and he has an attention for detail that I just do not hold) Allowing my son free roam without any set routine, rules, or basic structure has led to a 7 year-old who has no problem solving abilities what-so-ever!!! Instead of thinking for himself, it is easier for my son to wait for me to tell him what to do, and of course I do so on a regular basis. Why?? because it is easier for me as well. It is a bad habit that is slowly being broken around here. I have just began noticing how much I actually do for my son since the birth of my daughter last year. When someone questions what C is doing I often answer for him, (this has led to countless argument between my BF and I because it causes my son to under-mind what he is saying, and lowers the level of respect my son has for my BF.. and THAT is a problem) I get his breakfast, (even though the kid is more than capable of pouring a bowel of cereal himself without a mess of any kind) I make, and pack, his school lunch daily, (which is for the most part another one of those things he could do on his own) and I constantly do other little things for him that he is more than able to complete on his own…. I do these things subconsciously, without any thought to what I am doing, but I want to stop because it truly has produced a LAZY little boy who has no idea how to think, or act, by his own devices.
So, I came up with some rules, and much to my sons dismay, these rules are expected to be followed… They are posted clearly in sight beside his bed and throughout other areas of the house in order to remind him daily (so that I don’t verbally have to, although I still have to remind him to actually read the list in the first place) and also to help remind me that positive discipline, and effective parenting begins with consistency. These rules consist of such items as;
- Get dressed before you leave your bedroom – I set out clothes the night before because, left to his own devices, my son would most definitely get beat up for his mismatched clothing choices, or opt to wear army camouflage every single day!
- Make your bed. – Although this one needs perfecting, because the lumps and bumps drive me nuts and I usually end up going in and fixing it when he leaves the room anyway, it still teaches him that there are basic responsibilities, and routines, he has to complete daily.
- Tidy your room – He does well with this rule, and thankfully I don’t have one of those kids that tries to hide everything under his bed, but I swear to GOD my son has the potential to become a hoarder in the future. The amount of strange little items I find collected among his toys is absurd, why does anyone need a thousand pieces of shredded paper?? He needs to work on his organizational skills, but he is improving rapidly in the cleaning department.
- Eat breakfast – Pretty straight forward. Yes, I pour the cereal for him, more out of habit than need, but he is expected to sit straight, eat with proper manners and clean up the table and his dishes when he is finished.
- Pack your lunch – I will make the lunch, just to ensure that it consists of something healthy, and does not contain only chocolate and potato chips, but he is to pack it up and put it in his bag. If he forgets it… well then I guess he will be really hungry after school!!
- Brush teeth – It seems that no matter how many places I write this rule it is just a forgettable act! If he actually does do it than it is a battle for him to do it right!!! I can’t win with this one and it drives me CRAZY! Having suffered with bad teeth my whole life I try to drill this rule into his head, but he just doesn’t seem to get it, or just doesn’t care, that it is the most important rule listed.
- Get ready for school – This means your bag is packed, your homework is done, and you are dressed and at the door. Period!
Along with these listed rules are the times they should be completed (e.g. 7:30 wake up, 8:00 eat breakfast) We have a list for morning routines, and evening routines. We also have a sign that lists proper table manners, the proper way to brush your teeth (complete with a 2 minute timer) and set places for toys, books, and art items…. We have lists of weekly chores, with a reward system, and daily chores, all constructed with appropriate sized boxes for checking off when they have been completed. There is structure, organization, and routine. (Things that do not come to me naturally, but since being incorporated are slowly making a difference…. Very slowly!!!)
I do not want to be a drill sergeant, in fact, I have a difficult time being strict, and often feel mean. I am also realistic, I do not expect perfection, and I know that these rules will not change his behavior over-night, but I do know that with structure, routine, affection, and discipline children are more likely to grow into responsible adults. I am careful to show praise for a job well done, and punish bad behavior appropriately, I am clear about both my expectations and the consequences if they are not met. I keep all chores age appropriate, and I ensure that my child is not feeling overwhelmed. It may sound harsh to you but children truly require discipline in order to grow and learn what is, and is not, acceptable, in order to become healthy, happy adults, and our routine works for us!
I wish more people took the time to create structure and routine in their children’s lives, I know that I personally wish I had done it years earlier, it would have saved me a ton of stress and many arguments, and it would have made my son a more well-rounded person, but I have taken the steps to improve my parenting now, and better late than never. Almost any bad behavior can be corrected it just takes time and effort on the part of the parents to make the change a reality. I am not an expert, in fact I am far from it, but I am witnessing change first hand and it is a wonderful feeling!
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