Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Kid Report

When my oldest were in middle school and my youngest were in grade school I started searching for a better way to stop the chaos.  I was tired of being a nag.  Tired of hearing the anger in my voice that seemed to be required to get the kids to obey the rules of our home.  That wasn’t me.  Or at least that wasn’t what I wanted to be.  I wanted to gently but firmly love.  But how could I be that way AND train my kids to keep their commitments?  I knew I had both responsibilities and somehow I had to fulfill them both.

After much prayer and sacrifice, my own training as a mother began to accelerate and Kid Report was born.

Kid Report is what I call the system I have found that frees me from turning into the wicked witch of the west while trying to fulfill both of the aforementioned responsibilities.  It also provides a way for my kids to obtain their endless desires without spoiling them.

Off and on through the years, I established different systems to regulate when I should give them what they wanted and when I shouldn’t.  The systems usually included chore charts with commitments and rewards.  Kid Report is pulling the best of all those systems together. 

Kid Report is a meeting.  I have it every weekday with the kids at a regularly scheduled time.  It takes 15 minutes max.  Each child has a notebook where they have their responsibilities written down.  They are in charge of organizing it.  They can either write their responsibilities anew everyday in a “things to do” list or they can create a chart for the week.  When the kids were younger they all started with lists.  After doing it several times, they converted to charts.
The "1s" indicate completed chores

Writing their commitments down demonstrates they are making the commitments.  It is also the first step in keeping them.

Daily Kid Report only serves as a reminder of what their commitments are.  It is not a time to grill them for not doing what they committed to do.  When I try to grill them I feel terrible.  It’s not that it isn’t true that they aren’t keeping their commitments.  It’s not that that doesn’t create a greater burden for me to bear.  It’s that this isn’t the way to promote commitment keeping.  I am forever working on this principle.

Instead I ask each child to report on his/her commitments.  I have a notebook too with each child’s chart.   The child and I both check off what he/she has done and I express my gratitude.  Positive reinforcement. 

In the weekly Family Meeting I ask the kids to write a list of their desires in their notebook.  Then they take turns telling me what those desires are so I can write them down in my notebook.

Through this process I have come to understand that most of their desires can be taken care of with a weekly or monthly allowance.

Allowance is not contingent upon their  commitment keeping FROM DAY TO DAY.  Trying to make it contingent about drove me crazy and made me feel like Scrooge (before he had a change of heart).  The reason is that they inevitably don’t keep their commitments as consistently as I’m keeping mine to them. That's the facts.

When I give them their allowance unconditionally up front I’m sending a clear message that I keep my commitments and I trust that they will keep theirs.  Innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around.

If OVER A MORE EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME they are not keeping their commitment even though I’ve continued to keep mine, I have a warning meeting.  I inform them that if they do not start to keep commitments better, then their allowance will be discontinued.

If I want to be even more merciful to a child, I will start giving her allowance based on the percentage of commitments she is keeping (thereby making it contingent).  But again, this can’t be Scrooge-like or it becomes very irritating to both parties.  I know all about this.  So if I’m giving my daughter $10/week, and she keeps 30% (3/10) of her commitments then I will give her a $3 allowance.  The goal is to transition back to an overall trust.

A word about Honesty.  Sometimes kids will report they have completed their commitments but they really haven’t.  This helps me know that they need to learn about honesty.  They haven’t quite grasped the benefits.  I add honesty to their list of responsibilities in Kid Report.  For a time I will check on jobs myself and when I see they are being honest in their reporting, they get a check-mark.

If I feel like they are rippin’ me off with their dishonesty, then I can’t keep myself balanced as an administrator of Kid Report.  I have to understand that I’m training them here.  It’s not so much about the temporary disorder of the house or the money.  It’s about organizing them so that in the long run they become individuals who can make, keep, and report on commitments with honesty and integrity.

For these kinds of issues and other good work-ethics, we have a separate daily meeting that I call FSS.  Family Scripture Study.  The scriptures teach why it is in their best interest to cultivate these characteristics.  I ask them to apply the stories we read to their own story.

The Sword of Truth
If I try to apply them to show them what a bad boy or bad girl they have been, then it’s like I am sticking a sword in their chest.  The sword of truth.  Not necessary.  Overkill.  If I do that, I teach them how to use the word of God to inflict damage upon those who wrong us.  Yet if they are continuously behaving like virulent viruses, then I may give them a poke or two.

Kid Report and FSS are not usually quick-fix techniques.  Patience is required.  Not one of my strong points.  It is a system that has long term benefits as its targeted objective.  It is the making of a man.  It is the making of a woman.

Disney's Mulan:  Donny Osmond:  "I'll make a Man Out of You"
At 18 years old, Chris, my second oldest, sent me the following: 

June 1, 2013

MOMMMY. I realize now more than ever that the preparation you put me through has helped immensely. I feel like I have a solid foundation to build upon. My wish is that I had followed the programs that you had set for us earlier and more closely. Feel free to tell Matthew and Laura that I said that. Hopefully that will motivate them to be more obedient or willing.”

We see that even though I have not administered Kid Report perfectly, someone has made up the difference and the kids are turning out pretty good (2 Nephi 25:23).  Also, I have thanked God on more than one occasion for my kids' resiliency.  All that has been required of me is that I do my best.  And when I fall short of that, get back up and try again.

My kids have been kids.  It’s not that they love Kid Report.  In fact, there is a general groan and sometimes outright rebellion when I say, “It’s time for Kid Report.”  That’s mostly my fault as I haven't been able to stop paying attention to the commitments they’re not keeping.  It is a leap of faith to pay attention to what they are doing right.  But the times I have consistently been good with doing that have been the times when I have felt confident in gentle but firm love for them.  And I think that’s when they grow.