Thursday, April 23, 2009

On Contract

Kids, it seems, however much they like to think they are in control, really want structure that you provide.  I had always heard this, and knew it was true of much younger children, but until recently, didn't realize it works for teens as well.  My daughter, although a good kid and very quiet, was becoming more and more belligerent and quarrelsome about the things I wanted her to do.  These things weren't unreasonable, like cleaning her room (not to perfection, of course), going to church, exercising, and getting out socially (she would rather sit in her room and read over all other activities).  It had gotten to the point where we were struggling to get her to do ANY thing that she didn't want to do....anything that wasn't laying around reading.  Over the course of a few weeks, it got bad and then went from bad to worse.  I knew we had to put a stop to it, but was clueless as to how.  

After one particularly bad episode, I decided that she was allowed to "rule her own world" way too much and was thus put into a tailspin when we asked her to do something (anything).  So, after much thought, I decided that she needed some structure and help with this.  I told her that she was NOT to lock her door except when dressing (we really intended to take the lock off, but didn't).  She also was NOT allowed to spend more than two hours in her room alone a day.  

You see, previously, she was going up to her room, locking her door, and not coming down at all except to eat supper and that at times was a struggle.  We couldn't tell her goodnight or tuck her in unless she so chose.  Often, when we would knock, she would say, "Not now, I am busy."  How infuriating that was for us.  Of course, we could make her open up (or unlock it with our secret parent keys) and then we would talk to her about her behavior, but she went right back to it.   So, we made this contract and told her if she violated it, she would begin to lose her stuff in her room - her books, her "toys", her art supplies, etc.  I wrote up a contract and had her sign it.  

The thing is, it worked like a charm!!  She has not fought us on the church thing even one time since then, she has been enjoying me going up to lay down with her at night and tuck her in, she follows the rule about not locking most of the time and when I find it locked for no apparent reason, she gladly remembers our rule and lets us in.  Not only that, in the last week, she has cleaned up her room very nicely (previously it was a health concern it was so bad), and yesterday, she decided she needed to go practice basketball and asked me to come help her practice (exercise)!!  This has been the hardest thing for me to tackle.  I know my kids need more physical activity, but with homework and extra reading, it has been hard to get them to do it.  And add onto that the fact that they are not athletic so they don't have a sport they enjoy.  
Anyway, she is so much happier, I am a part of her life now, and she is not spending all that time alone.  She still finds plenty of time to read and do art, but often she involves us more in her projects.  She also tells me about her day while I am laying down next to her.  I play with her hair and try not to fall asleep.  Things aren't perfect, but they are so much better that it is like it is not even the same child.  

Bottom line, I believe that kids and even teens, can NOT be allowed to rule their own lives.  They needs us.  And, of course we need them.  In my mind, one reason we, as Christians have kids is to be involved in their lives so much that discipleship takes place.  And without the time together, we can't disciple them.   I feel that at 13 (and newly that), she still needs guidance.  She will not make the best decisions if left totally on her own.  I am hoping that this deepens our relationship.  I am hoping for a rich, deep relationship when she is going through the more difficult years to come.   And one day, when she does achieve independence, I am hoping for a rich deep relationship that grows stronger from sharing our lives together.  I am hoping for the best!!


Rachel said...

I'm glad you found a solution. I agree that kids need structure, even when they rebel against it.

Valerie said...

You are such a great mom, as I have said a million and two times. I know we are all not perfect, but being the great parent and having consistent bounderies and discipline is a must and I am glad you are one of the few parents who agrees and enacts this need. GO YOU!