School days. The first (traditionally scheduled) week is flying by and Moms and Dads everywhere are catching their breaths. Transition. While some of our young ones pop up from beneath bedsheets and leap into action at the first beep of the alarm, others require being dragged out of bed by a leg.
We're all in training once again - returning to the discipline of a set schedule. As a fellow mom-in-battle, my own family began a new regiment this summer. Marbles. My boys love them, they already speckle the carpeted landscape of the upstairs play area, and they make great objects for counting. I've decided to put them to good use.
This week, we're keeping parenting simple here at the Pearl. We're nipping "selective hearing" in the bud and honoring our children's decisions to follow instructions...the FIRST time that we ask!
Brush your teeth. Pack your bag. Comb your hair.
Sound too good to be true? Nope, it's completely doable! Practiced conditioning. Dare I say, we're developing godly, responsible habits! I've tested this one out with my own family just to be sure it really works.
"First Time Listening" Jars
1. Use what you have.
2. Plan for incentives that excite your kids and foster family connection.
3. View it as a newly adopted routine and take it slow.
Overview - What to Do:
As with any new routine or habit, getting the full benefit of the practice takes consistency and gentle reminding. Our goal as parents is to teach kids to become sensitive to our voices. That being said, here are some things to consider:
"This is a chance at first-time listening. Exciting! I'd like you to take your game and return it to the shelf please."
"I'll only ask you to do this one time. Please brush your teeth."
You'll undoubtedly have personal, family-related reasons that you'll feel urged to share with your children about listening. Trust. Safety. Loving them well. Guiding them to be strong, courageous adults who can make important decisions. That being said, here are some scriptural reasons that first-time listening and doing are important (full text included in the footnote):
Hebrews 12:6-11 - God disciplines everyone that He loves. We have parents who discipline us on earth. When we listen, we have peace for doing what is right. (paraphrased)
James 1:19-27 - Do what God’s teaching says; don’t just listen and do nothing. When you only sit and listen, you are fooling yourselves.
Those are just two examples, so have fun digging into scripture and make those marbles personal. Help the act of plunking a marble into a jar come alive by telling stories of David as he listened to God and stood up to Goliath, or the tale of how Esther confronted the king to save her people - despite be afraid of losing her own life! Explain how God rewarded their courage and obedience and enjoy spending story time together learning about responsibility.
Finally, Take Joy!
This is a picture of our refrigerator. You can see that our incentives aren't super-sophisticated. With dry-erase marker, we brainstormed our kids' favorite local activities and set marble values to them (numbers on the left).
Each activity is something that we can do as an entire family. I'd like to stress that, though food is listed (Pelicans snowballs and "Cherry M" ice cream), I don't suggest rewarding children with a lot of food. Activities are best - games, outings, and physical fun - because it brings us all together.
Our boys are five and seven years old, so your values should reflect your children's ages and preferences. Mine are capable, (as a kindergartener and 2nd grader) of "losing their marbles," just as easily as they are of earning them. When they're downright obstinate or they repeatedly blow off an instruction, out goes a marble or two from their jars. I give them one warning before taking the marble away so that they have time to make a better decision. If not, the consequence stands.
For this reason, our family's number values may seem low, but take longer to attain. For example, this past weekend, they each received a chance to go shopping at the Dollar Store ($3 budget). It took them almost two months to earn the 30 marbles required for that trip. At this point, they're old and mature enough to take a lengthier perspective of their goals. Each family and child is different.
An important note: It's discouraging for younger children to lose marbles, or for the reward to be delayed too long from the earning of the marble. If you're a parent of young children, decrease the amount of marbles they're required to earn for each incentive and don't take any marbles out of their jars until they're old enough to handle the delayed gratification.
Likewise, for those of you who have older children, feel free to delay the goal by requiring them to earn a higher number of marbles for each incentive. The point is to teach our kids obedience, perseverance, and goal-setting. It's important over time to move their focus from physical rewards to an eternal, God-perspective: Doing the right things in life to honor Him, to connect with our families and friends, and to serve others around us.
For the record, our hour in the Dollar Store (yes, they spent an hour debating on how to carefully spend $3) was a really great time. My husband and I so enjoyed hearing their hearts, their strategy for spending money, and getting to know more about the things that excite them.
I pray this simple activity will help you to do the same in your families!
Does this make me an official Pinterest Mom? The jury's still out!
With you and for you,
Hebrews 12:6-11 (the Message, poetic version):
In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?
My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.
God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.
M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Earns Crossfit participation trophies. Disaster cook. Enthusiastic wife. #Boymom. Clutches her faith, not her pearls.