Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Devious Child

by Hero Jenkins

When our kids were young our battles were over simple stuff, like the merits of eating vegetables and the importance of nap time. As they grew older the battles became more complex, covering serious issues like: why they can’t hang out at Billy’s house. I already told you about Billy, he’s the kid that gets into so much trouble that he gets blamed for everything… even the stuff he didn’t do.

I am from the "old school" a product of the era when parents believed in spanking, but in this new, enlightened age, spanking was not an option. 

 So when it comes to discipline, what are the options?

I have some experience in public speaking, which means I can talk for a long, long, looooong time. Instead of being spanked my kids would sit through marathon lectures. They were young and sitting still drove them nuts. You see a spanking only had to be endured for a few moments and then it was over. As it turned out, if they had been given a choice, they would have opted for a spanking. I know this because they told me so... more than once. They would put their little heads in their little hands and groan: “Oh my god dad, why don’t you just beat us like the other parents and get it over with?” I knew I was on the right track.

Alas this tactic lost its effectiveness when they got older.

My boys were extremely devious and just as they were entering middle school, they became a real challenge and I was forced to get creative. Here’s an example: We divided up the chores and everyone had a job. My sons were responsible for cutting the lawn once a week. I noticed that the lawnmower seemed to breakdown whenever it was time for them to cut the grass. They swore that they didn’t do it, but the repairman confirmed that someone had been pouring water into the gas tank. I couldn't afford a new lawnmower every week, so I had to come up with something else.

My solution?

I informed my children that I was hiring a gardener. They didn’t attempt to hide their glee… they jumped for joy. Thereafter, once a month, the gardener came like clockwork and everyone was happy until they learned where the money to pay the gardener would come from.

I had a habit of setting money aside each month to buy Christmas presents, birthday gifts and random treats like pizza or outings to McDonalds. Therefore, paying the gardener meant that they would have less of one of these things and they got to decide which. Their joy turned to despair as they agonized over the tough choices.

Nevertheless, they learned a lesson, and I learned a new tactic.

My biggest battle, however, was looming just over the horizon and it would test my new method to the limit. And it would come at the hands of my greatest challenge, my middle child. My wife has always said that if our middle child had been our first child we would have only had one child. However, god obviously wanted us to have more than one so in his infinite wisdom he saved the strong willed child for later.

Our first-born had been a breeze and we marveled at our own magnificence. We smugly looked down our noses at other parents as they struggled to deal with their problem children. We were not having any problems, so obviously we were awesome parents and they were not. We couldn’t wait to have another. Little did we know, everything would change. Suddenly we were the ones having problems. Everything became a battle... what was once simple became a struggle.

I will now share with you something that took me years to understand. Our children came from us, so the solution as to how to deal with them lay with us. What I am saying is that our children’s behavior to some extent was genetic, so we had to remember what a younger version of either of us was like at his age. I had to think back to when I was a kid, what would have worked. If, after deep and honest reflection you come up with nothing, then you should look elsewhere in the family tree. It is entirely possible that your child will behave like one of your siblings or your spouse’s sibling, still, there is no denying it, their behavior came from somewhere in your family trees.

As it turned out, my son was somewhat of a hybrid of one of my brothers and one of my wife’s brothers and just like that we knew exactly what to do. That's it for now. In future blogs I will tell you how we dealt with issues like homemade flame throwers in the garage and other stories that will curl your hair... so stay tuned. 

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  1. Your idea of hiring the gardener was brilliant. You taught your kids their actions have consequence. I know what you mean about difficult middle children. I have four kids and they're all very different. They've all had difficult stages, but they all came at different times. While my oldest daughter was perfect and well-behaved through what was supposed to be the terrible twos, my youngest daughter definitely reminded me how the terrible twos got that name. My oldest daughter was a terror at twelve (devious, impulsive, rude) while the youngest daughter has been a dream of a preteen and teen. My youngest son has been a breeze for twelve years, but rather than congratulate myself for my stellar parenting, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Kids will always surprise you, but not always in a bad way.

    1. Hahaha, now now... try to remain glass half full. I had a sister, who at the time was childless, exclaim: "Why don't you just tell them what to do and they will do it." It was not until she had kids that she realized that child raising is a series of negotiations, threats, victories and setbacks all wrapped around the most rewarding experiences you will ever have.

      My kids are grown now and they read my blog too. They complain that I only blog about the difficult times. You are right when you say that it is not always bad. They had forgotten most of this stuff, and while they cringe, their wives love it.

      In my posts I was trying to point out creative ways to deal with difficult times, but think I will sprinkle in some of the good stuff too.