Sunday, September 1, 2013

My Problem with Programs

The end of Summer vacation is right around the corner and happily, the days of counting down the hours until the first day of school are behind me. My boys are independent and fun to be around (most of the time) and I enjoy doing things with them. There is less fighting and more cooperation; less whining and more thank-you-moms.

And with the oldest six months from 16 and less inclined to find his younger brothers and his parents interesting, I dare say our days of willingly hanging out as a family are coming to an end. I knew the window would be small and feel like I've made the most of our time. No regrets there.

With the commencement of any big life shift, there is a tendency to make sweeping changes to "make life better." To be more efficient, healthier, smarter, better prepared, etc. And so it is, with great trepidation, that I attempt household reform for the school year.

Just a word about my track record with household reform: For the most part, I've been a failure.

Any chore program, homework program, screen restriction program, life improvement program or dinner menu program I've tried to implement has worked for precisely two weeks before falling apart. Two weeks. Not "approximately" two weeks. Exactly two weeks.

I think I know what it is about those 14 days that ultimately spell doom for everything I try. We start off strong, committed and excited. The kids are motivated by whatever harebrained reward scheme I've come up with that will suddenly Change Everything. But after about 7 days, the rewards seem to lose their motivational power.

It then falls to me to be the motivator--the one to keep the Program alive. And I do. But it's exhausting. I'm a mom, not a police officer. I can't keep track of every little thing that is, or is not done by three boys. I have a life. Does the mediocre kitchen clean up job "count," or do I monitor the re-doing of the job to my standards? I nag, kids whine. Everyone is miserable. Why are we doing this?

I'm done.

Fourteen days.

I'm no idiot. I can spot the trend. I would be insane to try and implement another program that will Change Everything.

So here's the new Start of School program that will Change Everything:

Old Method
No television, video games, computer games, handheld games during the week. Period. If it has a screen, it is off limits. (Exceptions: family movie night or game night that might include playing Wii, occasional stay-late at friends house). Saturday is a "knock yourself out" day. Do as much screen as you want between the hours of 9am and 8pm.

Problems with Old Method
1. 15 year old who thinks rules don't apply to him and plays Minecraft and Spiral Knights constantly when he is home, under the guise of "working on my writing skills."
2. Saturday hours of screen time have extended during the summer to something more like 7am to 11pm.
3. The Mom Idea that kids will not want to stay inside on a sunny day was wrong.
4. Fighting over computer time has reached epically annoying proportions.
5. Opportunities for fun Saturday outings are rejected because "I don't want to waste my screen time."
6. The disturbing "watching TV and playing the computer at the same time" trend.

New Method Proposal
No screen during the week and you must earn your time for Saturday. Time can be earned by doing homework directly after school. Extra time earned for reading. (One minute study/homework/reading equals one minute screen). Time will be earned for doing chores in a timely manner and taken away for not doing them in a timely manner.

I can't think of any other ways to earn time right now, but I don't want to make it too complicated (see "track record" above).

Probable New Method Pitfalls
1. Me having to keep track of earned time during the week.
2. Me having to monitor the kids on Saturday to see that they don't exceed their earned time.

So, there it is. I'm throwing my hat back in the Program ring.

Can I buckle down and make it work this time? Will I give up at the first sign of the endless nag/whine cycle? Or will I be a disciplinarian, lovingly but firmly guiding my children to learn and implement the skills of self-mastery they will need to be the successful, community-contributing super-stars I hope them to be?

p.s. track record!


I-Shüan Warr said...

We were thinking pretty much the same thing as your New Method! I don't think it's too hard to keep track of the time when it's all done at once. We set the timer for 30 minutes and when it goes off we can all hear it and the electronics go off.

Good luck!

Courtney J. said...

We're the same way over here...instead of New Year's Resolutions, it's Beginning of School Resolutions, and they almost never work! Maybe this year that'll all change... :)

Karina said...

I am sitting here smiling because we have similar boys! Ha ha! Good luck with the system. Keep us posted on how it works!!