During my live broadcasts on Facebook LIVE, I often reveal that Brian and I were foster parents for 7 years and adopted four children during that time in our life. I don’t often go into detail about those years, however, I do get quite a few questions posed to me directly via messenger.
One of the more common questions I get from parents is about discipline.
“My son won’t eat what I cook.”
“My daughter will not clean her room.”
“My child is extremely picky.”
I understand the frustration. We love our children so much that we want them to be happy. Making our children happy can become a never-ending quest for a holy grail that eludes us no matter how fast we run or how much money we throw at the “problem.”
Why can’t I find the perfect dinner?
Why can’t I find the perfect game?
Why can’t I find the perfect store that has clothing to fit their perfect personal style?
I have the answer.
I should mention that during our fostering years, we were regulated to attend monthly parenting classes. These classes were hours long, backed up by required reading and sometimes a movie assignment.
As time rolled along, those boring courses began to cement power and strength behind the parenting practices we implemented in our home. As we learned more, we walked a little bit straighter, planted our feet a little more firm and smiled, laughed and enjoyed our children a bit more each day.
The dreaded word ‘Discipline’ became a positive word. Discipline became something that was affirming for our children; A family practice that provided self-confidence and intelligence within our children rather than entitlement and greed.
The Answer is “THE LIST“
The List came about when our children were whining about not having this and not being able to do that.
Yadda yadda… round and round we go. Where the whining will stop, nobody knows!
They were in a perpetual state of entitlement and I was plain fed up with it. During that phase of life, as fate would have it, I was reading Parenting Someone Else’s Child: The Foster Parents’ How-To Manual.
This book fulfilled one of my parenting class credits for the month, but more than that, it changed our parenting in a positive way, because within this book was The List!
Whaa AAA AAA! The heavens opened, angels sang and the fog lifted from these tired eyes. I immediately made a lesson to hold with my children. Brian backed this plan 100% and our road to content, thankful children blossomed.
As I read the list I realized that not only were my children over privileged, I too had become accustomed to overindulgence. I typed up a list of our own, taught a class to our children and the list became a permanent fixture in our home. It goes like this…
PRIVACY WHILE DRESSING, GOING POTTY AND BATHING
A SAFE AND HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT
COLOR AND DECOR OF BEDROOM
BRAND, STYLE COLOR OF CLOTHES
WHAT, WHEN AND WHERE YOU EAT
SEEING DOCTOR ALONE
BRACES OR CONTACTS
PRIVACY WHILE DOING ANYTHING OTHER THAN DRESSING OR BATHING
A PLACE TO BRING FRIENDS
YARD TO PLAY IN
USE OF BIKES
RIDING AROUND BLOCK
AIR CONDITIONING OR FAN
TIME WITH ANY INDIVIDUAL
CHOICES (CHANNELS, COLORS, FOODS, CLOTHES)
KIND OF MUSIC
Shocking? Does it make you think? Yep, me too!
Some of the privileges took me by surprise. I assumed that time with family members was a right but truly that is a privilege, as people do not HAVE to spend time with us whenever we want them to. Of course, parents should not neglect their children, however, time on demand is not a right.
I was amazed at all the things I gave to our children without them having to do chores or participate in our family in any real way. On top of that, they often whined about GETTING THAT thing because they WANTED that other thing.
I was such a permissive, coddling, sucker. If I could go back in time I would have a thing or two to say to myself.
but I digress…
During the lesson, my children were shocked to learn that some kids do not have a backyard because some live in apartments. When I told them that Brian and I could turn the backyard into a hot tub, hammock swinging oasis for ourselves their attitudes changed mighty fast about mowing the lawn and picking up toys.
We talked about the fact that some children do not ever go to a movie theater or ride in a plane or boat. Their eyes were actually watering as I showed them pictures of children in other countries and in our country standing by their homes.
I told them about me; Growing up in a trailer for much of my life and that I never even realized I was poor because I had wonderful, loving parents. I explained that it’s not a bad people who are poor.
Vinze: “You didn’t have a real house!?”
Me: “The trailer was my house.”
Vinze: “That’s not a house!”
I had to crack up. He looked at me like I was from Mars. I had food on the table, clothes on my back, family, friends a few toys and lots of time to ride my bicycle around our little neighborhood block. What’s not to love?
That was a class worth having and the list on our refrigerator is a daily reminder of how much we all have. It did work wonders with their attitude and the way they think about other children; Although, the change benefited my stress level more than I thought it would.
I no longer feel bad if they don’t like the food I cook. They eat it or they are welcome to make themselves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. PB& J is always available. It’s a go-to meal if they won’t eat the family meal.
And I MEAN won’t. Because the food is available. If they don’t eat it, that’s on them.
I realize now that when they don’t like or want something that I do not have to “fix” that.
They can fix that.
Don’t want this dinner? You know where the alternative is. Go make it.
You’re bored and don’t like this game system anymore? Totally valid choice. Feel free to play in your room.
Don’t like the toys you have in your room? That’s a valid choice. You can be bored. Boredom IS An Option! And It Is FINE! Happiness can only be found within themselves.
We ALL plain and simply have enough.