Parenting Healthy kids: Congratulations on Being Grounded!

The kids are home from school today. It’s not a snow day so we don’t have to deal with e-learning and the ongoing relationship issues between servers and network that won’t communicate. Yey!-ish. It’s a scheduled holiday in honor of Martin Luther King (who I am certain would agree that parenting healthy kids requires school work.) They should be writing essays on personal responsibility, not celebrating freedom by going to the movies with friends after they sleep late).

The last few winters have been snowstorms of challenge with Mother Nature favoring Take Your Four Kids to Work Day over bus rides to school. I work from home (except when they are home) and I am exhausted from the constant interruptions that limit my productivity.

But I learned from being a teacher that when children frustrate me, (most likely) I am doing something wrong. Tired of everyone asking to use the bathroom? Stop writing hall passes. Tired of late homework? Stop accepting it. Kids are actually pretty resilient and will adjust to boundaries unless they appear optional. When given an inch, they’ll run a mile. Everytime, 100 percent of the time. (Unless it’s required in gym class.)

Parenting healthy kids calls for setting limits. This is difficult as kids are a kaleidoscope of complications. Schedules, school work, emotional malfunctions and the drama-of-the-day are never-ending. It’s hard enough to manage myself much less four other people who think they are the center of my universe. Um, no. That would be me. But as all moms know, it can be easier to just do it yourself than draw straws, discuss fairness, negotiate rewards and run follow-up quality inspections.

 

But when you hear yourself whining more than laughing, it’s time to take control of the hostage situation. I just saw their first semester grades. Despite the fact that I am often buried under piles of school papers, eco-friendly policies have mandated that report cards will  not be printed and sent home. Consequently, report cards are missed. Verbal inquires assure that grades are “fine.”

Gone are the days when a D could easily be mistaken for a B with the right color pen and white-out conveniently erased the unnecessary comment from that nasty teacher. Modern parents have the luxury of PowerSchool, MyBigCampus, CompassLearning and daily email reminders to check updated scores. (Why don’t they just send the damn grade cards home?)We are expected to provide proper learning environments and limit time they spend in front of digital devices. (Except for aforementioned required on-line work.)

OMG. Do I work here?(Survey says: YES!) Every night is filled with four kids and missing flash drives, incompatible software, “Error 404! Page not found” and “Oops, the server is down. Try again later!” Add in the tween-teen dramas of who’s turn it is to shut the front door. It’s no wonder Mad Men and Moms feel too stressed to make a healthy family meal and enjoy some old-fashioned conversation.

#whokilledLeaveittoBeaver?

In my quest for parenting healthy kids, I’ve instituted a B’s or better policy.  Privileges like video games, sleepovers and shopping are earned. I do this in hopes that my kids will be motivated to succeed without my constant oversight. But I must admit that I when I get overwhelmed, it’s easy to trade the zero-tolerance policy for a more convenient Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The “give a fucks” in my mental notebook are limited. I can’t remember my password to check the grades (I keep forgetting it which means I have to change it). It’s not until I’m handed a paper with the dreaded “please sign and return” instructions that I’m forced to admit that simply encouraging them to do their homework isn’t enough.

PS:  Forgery is a lost art.

When I called the school to ask why report cards are the only papers they don’t send home, I got bored with the official policy statement. I reset my password (again) and looked for myself. All I can say is Shit’s About to Get Real. For them.  I developed an Parenting Healthy Kids action plan. If I want them to be responsible, the burden must be placed on them–where it belongs. Now, it’s their responsibility to show me their grades. If they “forget,” they are grounded for a week, even it it’s all As. Additionally, I’ve instituted self-improvement exercises to enhance their experience. Congratulations on Being Grounded now comes with a 10 point minimum. There is no option to reduce their week “vacation” from digital privileges if their grades aren’t B’s or better. Extra efforts only improve the chances they will get them back when they become eligible to reapply.

I am the mom-in-charge, not my kids benefit coordinator. Allowing them to get away with not doing their homework doesn’t teach them “I love you no matter what.” Rather it sends the message, “That’s ok. I didn’t think you could do it anyway.” Parenting healthy kids includes accountability. Not entitlement.

The kids took one look at Congratulations on Being Grounded and Earn Allowance Money and agreed to play along. I felt brilliant for about one day. Then I realized the instead of a shit-free cat box, I have in-depth-ish science projects to grade. I was hoping they’d grab the low-hanging fruit and just clean up the damn kitchen without being asked. My little darlings are not so easily persuaded. My youngest researched “how do we see color” for 3 points, penned a letter to her cousin for 2 points and spent the rest of the evening writing songs at 2-points a pop. Beyond that, she just had a birthday so she’ll probably pass on the Earn Your Daily Dollar options and just shop in her closet.

The hostage negotiations will continue, right after my unscheduled nap.

Allowance Money must be Earned.