Poll most any parent, and I think you’d hear similar conclusion: being a mother or father is the hardest job they’ve ever attempted.
It’s not really a "job", though, is it? It’s a daunting 18-year relationship with children under your roof that continues for the rest of your life even once they leave home. There is no other career that demands greater responsibility, ingenuity, tenacity, creativity, flexibility, adaptability…or forgiveness or grace or love.
We get one chance to get it right, and if we allow ourselves to dwell on that thought very long, we might just curl up in the fetal position, sucking our collective thumbs, questioning every decision we make while praying for the best.
I was challenged as a parent this weekend, at times feeling like a failure, but then ending on a note of hope.
I don’t expect perfection from our children, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have high standards for their behavior; at 10, 13 and 15, they know right from wrong. When there is blatant transgression, consequences are imposed.
Over the weekend, my son lied to me…looking me squarely in the eye, HE LIED TO ME…REPEATEDLY.
It was such a foolish action; so obvious was the lie, yet so emphatic his denial. I couldn’t believe it really, he was "caught" without me even trying to catch him! And, on top of it, it was over something ridiculous–I had asked him to help his brother fold a small load of laundry that finished drying just as I was walking out the door. When I returned home, his brother’s laundry was gone; remaining were a few items of his, folded the way his brother folds (yes, a mom knows the difference). Some things were still in a pile. I questioned him, and his "thou doth protest too much" response was telling: "OH YES I DID HELP FOLD IT!!!!!!"
Well, I was SO ANGRY, I had to walk away. I wanted to hurt him, seriously hurt him. He’s long past the age of spankings, so that was never a consideration. All I could think was if he’s lying about this, what else is he lying about?
I talked to my husband about what consequence to mete out; he wasn’t as upset as me, but he supported my concern. Our "go-to" punishment is to restrict electronics. At his age, that hurts worse than any spanking could, anyway. For some reason, that didn’t sit well with me…I suppose I wanted him to feel my full wrath and fury, and the "same ol’, same ol’" just didn’t fit.
So…I thought about it. Then thought some more. I didn’t pray for wisdom, but it found its way to me through the voice of a child.
My daughter…oooooh, how wise she can be at 15!
I told her about the exchange between me and her brother. She knows me well enough to know just how angry and disheartened I was, and in the way only siblings can thrill to the other getting busted for what they KNOW they do often but rarely get caught, she was a bit too eager to help me figure out punishment. For her, the suggestions came in rapid fire succession–"don’t take away X-Box, that’s what he’d expect, he always loses the phone or computer when he’s in trouble, MAKE THE PUNISHMENT FIT THE CRIME…", and with that, she came up with a BRILLIANT idea:
Make him fold laundry for a week.
She’s a teen, she KNOWS what "hurts" her kind, and she was showing NO mercy for her brother. In spite of sensing her maniacal glee and smug satisfaction, I glimpsed a stroke of genius in her rationale.
Now, with temper cooled and appropriate consequence in mind, I had "the talk" with Thomas. The encouraging thing about him, is he is a remorseful kid; he swims in guilt when he knows he’s disappointed us, and he when he saw both rage and pain-from-betrayal in my eyes, it pierced his conscience. When I asked him why in the world he’d lie about something so easy to detect, he agreed how thick-headed he had been…and he apologized to me–sincerely–and didn’t bat an eye when I told him how he’d be spending time over the next week.
There are five people in our family; between school uniforms, sports uniforms, and whatever we’re wearing for the day, there’s a lot of laundry to wash. Oh, how I usually bemoan that fact; oh, how maniacally gleeful I was this week for that same fact.
The beautiful moment in all this? He wanted to comply, suffer his consequences. It was his way of fully restoring our relationship, the broken trust. Although he knew he was forgiven, that the anger had passed, he was eager to "prove" something (to me? himself??). Monday morning, I had loads running in both the washer and the dryer; when I came downstairs to remind him that folding was his job, he had already finished the first load.
That’s when I realized it’s just fine to be a mean old mother…after all, sometimes that’s what a "M.O.M." has to be.
You can’t NOT punish him, and I understand about the anger. Luckily most of us can walk away and think. That’s a classic punishment, even more so because his sister thought of it for him! I think mine would be upset he had to do something his sister thought of, but we’re a ways from that, as he’s 6!
Isn’t that the way it seems to work? We just don’t learn the easy way, do we? Your son sounds very much like my 14 year old – he’ll commit the crime, but he’s very sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and becomes quite repentant afterwards. But I also know that it’s in those moments that he’s learning and growing. Sometimes I just wish it didn’t have to be difficult, though.
You are a great M.O.M.! This reminded me so much of my little brother, who has lied about similar stupid stuff before, but the part about being quickly convicted by the Holy Spirit and being genuinely remorseful and quick to want to make amends sounds just like him, too. Unfortunately, this past summer we had to deal with lies much more serious than unfolded laundry…I’m grateful that even as a grown man now that conviction and repentance still works with him.
And this punishment you and your daughter came up with for your son wouldn’t have worked on me… I LOVE folding laundry!! Really! Lots and lots of laundry. 😉
Great post…it spoke to my heart!! You are doing a great job!
I’ve always believed that “punishment” should focus on emphasizing the behavior you WANT instead of being hazed over by the “have not, can not” seething self-pity. Real life won’t remove the X-box – and I’m not sure I’d have him fold everyone’s clothes. Surely taking care of his own laundry would be an appropriate skill to acquire and the consequences could be self-incriminating. LOL
High Five to you and yours!
What an awesome idea. Wish I had an older daughter to enlighten me on how to punish my boys! LOL
Seriously, I need to remember that method. We usually take the electronics away too. The other day we let DS chose his own punishment rather than lose Wii. He chose vacuuming the entire house! Yes, I liked that one!!! Then younger DS had to pick his own consequence (not really punishment) for his forgetting a book at school and my driving him back up to get it- he helped me wash dishes for several nights and set the table.
There was nothing “mean” about that. You have demonstrated a clear example of biblical discipline (minus the rod!). Your initial response, the cool down, the discussions, all show how you brought him one step closer to understanding the relationship between us and God. Currently I can only apply such techniques with my students but know the day(s) are coming when we’ll experience this with Lily. Thank you for sharing this. Great writing!
I did dwell on the overwhelming responsibility of it all when my kids where small and I did end up in a corner sucking my thumb a lot! Things went so much smoother once I relaxed. 🙂
I have consulted the siblings more than once on punishments or even the child who did the wrong and they usually come up with harsher punishments than I would have. 🙂
I will remember this for the future. The punishment should fit the crime.
However – oh man, that means I have to let go of my “nit-picky” ways I fold laundry. No way could my children fold as well as me.
Great job and thank you for sharing this with all of us who want to curl up in the corner.
You are right about it never ending but there comes a point, long past where you are now, when you have to let them experience the world’s consequences. Keep your corner ready.
This struck a chord with me in so many ways. Our oldest is about to turn 11 and we have experienced the same thing with her – over something just as mundane — feeding the dogs. They went three days without food because she lied about getting it done. (they live outside in our fenced in yard)I was angry and felt so betrayed – and complicating matters more was the fact that I couldn’t allow her to suffer the same punishment our poor dogs did! Instead, she was required to spend one hour a day per dog (there were two) for a week brushing and grooming them, clipping their toenails and playing with them. She was extremely remorseful about the whole thing, which oddly enough, made me feel better. Guess I’ll join you as a M.O.M. 🙂
Oh…. how disheartening. I feel your pain. :~(
M.O.M… mean old Mom. I’ll remember that!
I love the way your story ended.
Thomas is a BOY, and certain boys push the limits more than others. So exhausting for Moms, though. Praise God for Dads. I couldn’t imagine trying to raise boys as a single mother.
You go Robin! (((Hugs)))
I know I was already here but THANK YOU! You always leave me such great words of encouragement!
The “one chance” factor is my biggest fear about having kids.
You handled that amazingly well!
I’m CRYING while reading this!!! You handled it so well. What a wonderful suggestion from your daughter – why can’t WE think of these simple solutions? Probably because we’re dealing with the hurt and anger over being lied to. Something tells me that I’m not far away from dealing with this same situation…and I’m jotting down notes like crazy!
When I started reading, I could have sworn you were going to tell us he threw a wild party while you were out of town or something 😀
I don’t have any kids of my own, but I love how you handled this. It actually made me think of my office manager and how she handles punishment for her 3 boys. She says she always assigns household tasks and extra chores, etc. as punishment, as opposed to taking away “electronics” because then not only are they being punished, but the house is being cleaned (or whatever the task may be)…I think it’s genius! 😉
Good for you, you M.O.M.! 🙂
Oh, but doesn’t this sound so familiar. Yeah. Mamahood ain’t for wimps, girl. You must be a good one ’cause that boy was remorseful and took his consequence like a man. (May he be a better man after folding all those tidy whities for a week.)
robin–personally, I think you’re being way too hard on…..yourself!
Crack that whip.
Well, friend – I confess I have not checked on your blog in a long time, but thought of you today and so tracked this down – only to read about my precious cowbuddy being punished…… Love you! (and math……)
I always like it when the punishment fits the crime. Make a disgusting mess in the bathroom? Your chore for the week, babe. Speak rudely to Mom? Write 10 ways to be nice to me. (My eldest hates writing lines… Heh.)
Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt too (M.O.D.)
So has Mrs. Inheritor (M.O.M.)
way to go, robin! you did great.
YIKES! SO SORRY I HAVEN’T RESPONDED YET, BUT I’VE BEEN OUT ALL DAY…
AND I’M TIED UP IN THE MORNING, SO GIVE ME TIL LUNCHTIME TO SHARE MY THOUGHTS BASED ON YOURS!
Thanks so much for chiming in on this one…y’all are fabulous!
I haven’t taken time to read all your wonderful looking comments yet but I think that is a most wonderful story you have shared with us. It’s great when something works like it is meant to. Brilliant idea of your daughter too. 😀
18 years? Keep dreaming sweety. Its more like 30 these days. And the punishment was too soft. I would have made him wash, hang out (yes no clothes dryer) bring in fold and put away. Lying is not nice.
Lisa, his sister really isn’t vindictive, but she was glad he got caught; I think even he agreed it was a “good” (yuck) idea for punishment.
Dianne, I’M still learning (even the hard way at times), but maybe something different like this will make an impression. I can tell ya this…he’s been folding the laundry since Monday and the novelty has worn off.
Fresh Girl, first…yeah, as we get older, “bad decisions” take on a different look, and the consequences can have larger implication…so sorry your family is still seeing this, but I’m glad your brother’s response is still laced w/repentance.
And you LOVE FOLDING LAUNDRY??? You blog name should be CRAZY GIRL!! 😉
Alison, we’re all in the same boat, kinda sorta…
Kim, if you can be creative enough to come up with something “appropriate”, I agree, it’s so much more effective.
Beth, Hmmmm, we could have immaculate houses if we play our cards right ;).
Robert, first you have toddlers who step on your toes…then you have tweens & teens who step on your heart. Figuring out what alters their behavior on the outside while affecting their hearts on the inside is an ongoing learning process for parents….
Lisa, maybe that’s guilt talking!
Karmyn, yeah, you have to give up “perfection”….
Sandy, we talk about “consequences for your decisions” a lot around my house…I hope that’s one of the things that rings in their ears when they’re out of the house.
Karen, you made me wonder, would it have been “cruel and unusal” to make her go 24 hours with only water? I’ve never done anything that harsh, but I wonder if it would make an unforgettable impression. Still, you’re tying the punishment to the offended was a great idea.
E-mom, T is one of those kids whose motto is “better to seek forgiveness than ask permission”…this won’t be the last time I’m challenged as a mom :/.
Lisa, your comment just did the same for me :).
Heather, you’ll be great, when and if…I know these things :).
Susan, if that ever happens, I WILL be shriveled up in a corner sucking my thumb :/.
Karina, you work for a smart boss!
Thanks, Jen, Robin, Cheeky & Janet!
Carol, …or boxer briefs…;)
Min, can you send me one of yours?
AMY!!!!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE??? 😀
Tracey, mine would HATE writing lines…crud, I think I “imposed” that once but didn’t follow through….shoot :/. Great idea, though.
Inheritor, lol—>MeanOl’Dad ;).
Junebug, thanks for your kind words :).
Karisma, you must have one of Min’s whips, already!
Robin, you really inspire me-that you got so angry and were able to walk away and then talk to him about it when you were cooled off-do you realize how amazing you really are??
hey – just telling us about it on the internet seems like severe punishment.
How does he do folding the personal stuff??
I’ve had this up, meaning to read it, but I needed to get my head on right. If that’s possible. LOL
I love your daughter. Tell her she’s helping me with my son, too. Zane has been treating his best friend, Sarah, horribly and we’ve been really struggling on ways to deal with this. If the punishment needs to fit the crime, then maybe we need to show Zane what it’s like to be Sarah?
Great story…encouraging to those of us with older kids…and younger, too. We used to call it “natural consequences.” If a little kid threw a huge hissy fit because she didn’t want to take a bath, well, the consequence was that she *had* to take the bath. That’s a silly example, I guess, but even little kids benefit from that reminder.
Interesting timing in my life: One of my daughters just lied to me. Just yesterday. Straight. To. My. Face. Just like you described, and, like your son, even though it was obvious that she hadn’t done what she said she did.
She got a natural consequence, but I’m not going to tell the whole story here. It was directly in line with the thing she lied about. I feel affirmed, having read your idea. Thanks for writing it up!
This is a great one and it is nice when the punishment fits the crime and they learn from it. Have a great day!
Great post. A little over a week ago, I let my son decide what punishment would be fair for something, and he was harder on himself than I would have been, and since he chose his punishment, he stuck to it. I think what you did – seeking the advice of another teenager, was right on the money!