The longer I’ve been signed up for this parenting gig, the more I realize just how hard you have to work to get the big rewards.
Don’t get me wrong. There are rewards. There are lots of small rewards every day. Like watching the twins run and jump on Adam when he gets home from work. Or today when Jack turned some music on and we had an impromptu dance party. Or the snuggles. Ah, the snuggles.
Some rewards come easy, but a lot of them take longer to orchestrate.
Today was one of those days with Ben. Ben has affectionately been labelled by a family member of mine as “the cutest little kid you ever wanted to strangle.”
He’s very strong-willed, and unfortunately this quality comes out at the worst times, not when he’s trying to achieve or learn on his own, but when it’s time to follow instructions or react normally in a group setting.
This afternoon Ben accidentally knocked over a lego bin. It was an accident, but at that moment I happen to reach my limit on lego clean up. I have spent day after day crawling around on my hands and knees picking up those pieces, only to find myself stepping painfully on more spilled pieces a few minutes later.
I asked him to clean it up before we went to the supermarket. Instead he ignored me like he normally does. After threatening to take away the donut I promised him at the supermarket he made a half hearted attempt, picking up two of what was probably 100 pieces on the floor. When he was younger I would let it go, but he’s 4 and 1/2 now. He can pick up legos!
In the end he lost his donut, and his dessert too if he didn’t clean them up when we got back.
He kicked and screamed and threw off his shoes in protest and we had to yank him out of the car to go grocery shopping but he took his punishment. We didn’t give in. We didn’t hide or flaunt the other donut eating kids in front of him either.
After the store we reminded him a few times to clean up. He did what he normally does when we ask things of him, completely ignore us and instead does exactly what he feels like doing. Adam wanted to keep nagging him but I told him we had already made our point and to stop driving it home. He is also old enough to remember simple instructions!
He ate a good dinner and asked if he could get his dessert back. It’s so hard to stick to your guns with your kids. You want them to like you so badly! And you want to make them happy all the time and not experience any hardships in life. I could have just given in and made him happy. And some days I do that. But today I saw the bigger picture.
I answered, “Yes, as soon as you clean up.”
In the end he finally went back and did a very good job cleaning up, counting the legos as he went (Adam’s idea.)
Afterwards he was so proud of himself! He ran around wanted to show everyone his newly cleaned floor. He felt a sense of accomplishment and pride in himself, an opportunity I would have denied him by giving him back dessert for a dinner eaten well.
And Adam and I had a long, hard won parental reward.