Monday, August 05, 2013

When reward and punishment has failed

From the time they are babies, children are inadvertently taught about hygiene. We give them daily baths, wash their hands and faces when they are dirty, and help them pick up their clothes. We, as mothers, are so accustomed to doing it, it becomes second nature. We don't hold our children accountable for doing such tasks.

Even though they eventually learn to bathe themselves, what needs to be washed and scrubbed, do they know when to do it?

My child is almost nine, and even though I feel I have taught him responsibility; it seems like my efforts did nothing but cause friction and hostility between us.

In the past, we have worked on a token system, a list of items I have set for him to accomplish daily, and a reward and punishment system. Then it occurred to me, does he really know what he has to do before bed or is it something I have always told him to do?
During a transitional period, as adults, we write lists. New to a fitness routine? Workouts are written out to ensure accuracy. Trying out a new recipe? You're likely going to buy the ingredients and follow the preparation and cooking instructions.

So then why am I holding my child accountable for responsibilities I have laid out for him?
Children are taught simple skills like brushing their teeth, bathing, and picking up after themselves to learn valuable life skills that they will take with them throughout their whole life. As the mother of a boy, my job is to also make him 'husband-worthy'. As if my job isn't hard enough.

It occurred to me that perhaps I should allow him to make his own list. He may know how to shower, how long to brush his teeth, and where to put the dirty clothes, but does he know that these tasks is a daily occurrence? AND, that he should be doing them without being asked.
When you've come to the end of a road, when reward and punishment no longer works, you're willing to try ANYTHING.

I can't force him to take a hygiene routine and run with it, especially if I have laid it out for him. What I can do is sit him down, with pen and paper, and ask him what HE THINKS he has to do every evening. Then have him write it down.
On the opposite spectrum, children want to know that they are not alone. There is nothing wrong with writing down your own daily tasks, showing children that YOU too have things you have to do daily. This ensures that they are not singled out, and that it is NOT a punishment.

Have you tried this with your children, was it successful? I want to know.

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