My son is a funny, sweet six-year-old boy. He does well in school, makes friends easily, and is (relatively) well-behaved. Not often do I get a chance to exercise the parenting skills I read about. Until last night. We went to church late so he was tired and acting impish on the way home (getting into his sister’s space, talking sassy). And then…he threw a wadded up gum wrapper at me while I was driving. The *funny* part is that I wasn’t surprised. I could hear him crinkling it up in the backseat and actually thought, he’s going to throw that. Call it mom intuition. Because if you know me, you know that I demand a lot from my kids when it comes to appropriate behavior and good manners. My kids rarely test those kind of boundaries.
So in anticipation of him doing this, I looked at my surroundings. Empty, dark road. Can’t make him walk home. (Kidding. Kind of.) But as soon as he threw it, I immediately pulled over. I turned around and gave him a few stern words about what just happened. He was stunned (as was everyone in the car) at my sudden stop and attention to what he did. I knew that he was tired, which was the reason behind his behavior. But if I didn’t call him on it now, what else would he think he could pull off when he was grouchy?
As I‘ve learned from Love and Logic, I didn’t give him an immediate consequence. In my most calm voice I told him I’d think about, I’d let him know as soon as I came up with it, and to try not to worry too much about it. He went straight to bed and wouldn’t give me kisses goodnight because he was mad at me.
But like they say, kids need, and like, boundaries.
I kissed him, tucked him in, and said I love you, just like every other night.
I gave it some thought and came up with a consequence that fit the “crime.” Today when he got out of school we had 20 minutes to wait for his sister. I told him that since it was not ok to throw trash in my car (let alone anything, and at me), I gave him a plastic bag and told him he would spend the time cleaning up all the gum wrappers, stray goldfish, extra pencils, etc, that he could find in the car (embarrassingly, this was a task). And then he would take the rag I brought and dust my dashboard, cup holders, etc. He would also shake out the carpets, just for good measure.
To my surprise, he simply said, ok. A couple of times I grabbed something for him and he would thank me for the help. He told me that this was a great consequence, way better than getting one of his cars taken away. He was happy that it was over so quickly (instead of having a toy taken away for days at a time). He said he was so happy, that I was the best mommy, and he wanted to give me a thousand kisses.
**Folks, did you hear that? I made him clean my car and I am the best mommy ever.**
If that’s not proof that kids need limits and boundaries, I don’t know what is. It was a small step in teaching cause and effect and learning respect. I feel like following through with these little infractions are going to be what minimizes the major ones.
On the way home I asked if he understood why he cleaned my car instead of getting a car taken away. He said, Yes, because I threw trash, and that was not ok.
Hmmm- right on. I might have added in, for good measure, that he probably won’t do it again or he might have to wash the outside of my car too. He giggled and said, Oh no, I’m not throwing stuff anymore!
One point for the mom today!