Recently, our oldest son has turned into a teenager. I can really see the difference in him lately as he beautifully matures into a very fine young man. I am so proud of him and he continues to amaze me. Just yesterday I thought of something he does that makes me laugh and it brings me to tears just thinking about him and WHO he has become. One of his "gifts" from us for his 13th birthday, was to remove him from the ChampLadder that we use as a family. He was thrilled beyond measure and I think I actually saw his chest rise up as he realized what a milestone this is for him.
Our 11 year old took it very well, but he will remain on the ladder until I see more maturity from him. He's not doing anything particularly unexpected as an 11 year old, he just needs to be more accountable. I can recall a memorable weekend where my youngest, Evan, challenged us as to whether or not we'd hold true to the "Ladder". At that moment, he was on step 10. So happy was he, but not for long. We were due for a talk on Saturday before he went to his sleepover at his friend’s birthday party. Here's what happened. He's been working really hard to get to step 10 from being down on step 5 and below for a couple of weeks. He hasn't been able to play X-box, play outside with his friends and last month had to decline 2 birthday parties. It shook his world. But we held him accountable (oh...there's that word again) for his actions. Each morning, he has a routine. He knows exactly what to do. And what time he needs to be done. The boy has a unique internal clock that beats to the tune of his own little world. What should take him 5 minutes translates to 20 minutes on his clock. It's very clear in this house that if you miss the time in the morning, that's a "thumbs down". And if you have one thumbs down in a day you do not move up a step on the ladder. You also don't get breakfast....I can see you Moms cringing out there. They only miss that once...then they are ON TIME! It really does work. Even for my food-loving-ceremonial-hamburger-eating kid, Evan. Oh he misses In-N-Out Burgers back in California.
So if Step 10 on our ChampLadder is where you want to be with full privileges, and Step 1 is the worst place to be, each day you get a chance to "move up the ladder" and you don't want to miss it. So, the talk we had was about what happened Friday. I was very busy getting things together for a friends Party here at my house. It was incredible to me that as much as I teach my children, and how I stay on top of the rules and how to "finish a job", nothing they did for me was completed. Absolutely nothing! I had to do everything over again and spend more time than I had. I was not able to do several important things that I needed to finish due to that. Now I realize that's what kids do. They’re learning still. They are “in training”. But it does need to be dealt with. I’ve heard expert after expert say that children should do what they are able to do. And these are all things they are “able” to do. Regarding my 11 year olds sleepover, yes he'll keep his commitment to go to this party, because commitment and keeping our word is what we teach our children. But he'll pay for his actions by going down the ladder several steps. And the reason he'll keep this particular party commitment is because the birthday boy invited only a few friends and it would have been an incredible let down if his good buddy, Evan, wasn't there. I'm actually going to change this rule, that should his behavior change, the birthday boy and his parents will know that things can change at the drop of a bad attitude or change in behavior.
So he went to the sleepover with the understanding that he'll pay for it by going down 5 steps. Five steps seem like a lot, but let's look at what he did. He knew he needed to be on Step 10 to go to the party. He knew I was busy and took advantage of it by not completing a single task. He didn't put any toys away that he played with. He didn't do his nighttime stuff on time and didn't brush his teeth, he complained when I called him out on some thing and made excuses all day, shall I go on? Of all of the time my husband and I put into teaching our children, these are the things that they should have gotten better at by now. And should he choose not to cooperate, well, Mom and Dad will not raise their voice. We will not appear shocked. We simply tell our child to move himself down the ladder. The ladder takes the place of all of the "Are you kidding me?", "You lied about brushing your teeth again?", "You forgot your homework AGAIN?" I thank God for the Ladder. It is full of so many teaching opportunities for the children.....it's a love-hate relationship with it according to the boys. One day they love it, the next day they hate it. Guess what step they are on when they hate it?
The boys have no idea, but we've just stepped our parenting up several notches by taking a really fantastic parenting class called "Love and Logic". Oh my goodness....it is like magic. It is the missing link that I've been looking for with our parenting. Watch out boys...don't mess with us now.....particularly on Wednesday nights after our class!