A little bit of motivation and a whole lot of nagging seems to be my conversation with my teenagers these days. Imagine little ole’ me standing at 5’7, looking up to the four of them standing at 6’4 shouting, “If I have to tell y’all one more time to take the trash out!” “If I come up here one more time and see these rooms looking like this!” “Y’all are too big and too old for me to have to wake you up on time!”
My boys do a lot of things right, but geez, for being teenagers, it seems like some of this stuff I’m yelling about shouldn’t even be an issue anymore. I shouldn’t have to remind them to take out the trash, wash the dishes, clean their rooms, or wash their clothes. I mean they’ve been doing this routinely since they were 8 years old.
It’s like my boys have hit a maturity dip. We were consistently moving up, then BANG, rock bottom. I’ve heard other parents suggest that because kids nowadays are overwhelmed by school, sports, or this and that, that’s it’s okay for them to be lazy, or not be held accountable for doing their chores or managing their time. Well, I don’t think like that. Yes, my kids are really busy and involved in a bunch of activities, but that’s no excuse for them not to be responsible.
I’ve tried motivating with incentives, that didn’t work. I nagged with threats of taking their cellphones away or being grounded, but that was short-lived. In both cases, they were perfect children for about two weeks, but then back to square one. I’ve really thought long and hard about this, and I feel like I’ve done my part. Just a few weeks ago this was our conversation:
I explained: “If you wake up on time, you wouldn’t miss the bus!”
Reinforced the consequences: “If you miss the bus, I’m not dropping you off. You will walk!”
Confirmed they understood: “What did I say?” They shrug and repeat, “If I wake up late and miss the bus, I gotta walk to school.”
Repeated myself again because sometimes I wonder if they’re brain dead: “Ok, so you understand that if you wake up late and miss the bus, you will walk to school.”
Confirmed they understood me again: They reluctantly reply, “Yes ma’am.”
So, what happened three days after I had the above conversation? One of them wakes up late and misses the bus! The old me would have given in. My boys know that I am the queen of empty threats. All they’d have to do is blink those weepy, puppy dog eyes at me, and the worst I would do is yell at them while dropping them off at school.
But that day, the new me was revealed! I looked at my handsome son with those serious puppy dog eyes, and said, “Guess you better start walking!” His jaw dropped! “What?! But Mom, it’s like 3 miles from here! Please Mom, I’ll get up on time!” I just kept doing what I needed to do, then leaned over, kissed his cheek, and said, “Have a good day!”
After I dropped my daughter off at school, I drove down the main street, and saw my son at the stoplight, holding his backpack and huge duffel sports bag. Every inch of me wanted to pull over and tell him to get inside. But when the light turned green, I blew the horn, let down the window and yelled, “You better hurry up or you’re gonna be late!” and drove off! I did text him about 5 minutes later, telling him to be safe, and to text me when he got to school.
He was a good thirty minutes late, but he learned that day. My other boys were in shock that I actually made him walk. It’s yet to be determined if they’ll continue to wake up on time (so far so good), but at least they know if they don’t, they’ll be walking to school! Experience is a good teacher.
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” Luke 16:10 (NLT)