Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Community Service

Right after the New Year began I left the house for a few hours with my sister to visit her friend, an old college roommate. We had a nice time and upon our return we had dinner with Chris and the kids and began preparing to get the kids in bed. Part of the bedtime routine involves ME walking around and picking up stray toys, discarded socks, blankets used for forts, etc while the kids are brushing teeth and changing into PJs. It was at this time that I noticed a HOLE in the wall. It was almost a perfect 3 " circle, about a foot from the ground.

I hollered to Chris, "Do you know how this HUGE HOLE got in this wall?" (This is not a normal occurance in our house.) He tells me Savannah put it there, and I should ask her about it.

Well, of late Savannah has been on somewhat of an emotional roller-coaster with those emotions running really close to the I could imagine what might have happened. I questioned her and she said that Dad and Gunnar were playing a computer game and wouldn't let her in the office, so she started kicking the wall because she was mad she was missing the end of the game. I then asked her the question I ALWAYS ask, "HOW DID THAT WORK FOR YOU?" Her answer, "Not very well.." Later Chris filled in the blanks and said she was throwing a raging tantrum that could compete with ANY 2 year old, complete with wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I was completely in shock, and took the "I can't believe you would damage our house, I'm so disappointed in you" tack. This alone is the worst punishment for Savannah, because she is a pleaser...but she needed something more. I wanted to think about it and told her she would have a punishment to pay for the crime/damage to the house, but I hadn't figured out what it would be yet, and we'd talk about it more the next day. (Also terrifying to her, imagining all the things it COULD be.)

As we were saying our family prayer a thought popped into my head. Better than banning her from playdates with friends that week (which is really more of a punsihment for ME) how about some way that she can serve her time, and help others?? Hmmmm.

Community service in it's truest sense. She was sentenced to 5 days of serving her brother by reading to him for 30 minutes each day from any book HE wanted. She did not have a say, she could not complain, she just had to do her time. It turned out great, in fact she was happy to do it the first couple of days, then she required more coersion. And Gunnar and I reaped the benefits...usually I am the one reading to him. If Savannah ever does, she always chooses the book, and he's not a huge Hannah Montana fan so he doesn't enjoy her book choices as much. Go figure.

I think this is a worthy form of punishment, modeled after our Nation's justice system to boot. Hey, it could be worse, she's not picking up trash from the highway or breaking rocks!


  1. Your a great Mom. Watch out for all those girl emotions. I think the punishments that are harder on me than them, stink. Somehow I dish those out way too much. I think I need a lesson from you.

  2. I am SO enforcing community service next time I have a punishment worthy offense around here!!!! You have been one busy mama - your kid rooms look *FAB*

  3. That is such a great idea. And I commend you for not forcing yourself to come up with a punishment right away. That's great. I'm always thinking I need to decide on it immediately. Time outs are the old standby but sometimes they create more problems than they solve. I also love the question, "How did that work for you." It's great that you make your kids analyze their behavior. I need to give that a try.

  4. That really works here, too. My oldest physically offended his brother. I told him that because of that offense, he would be doing his brother's dish chores for the entire week, in addition to his own dish chores (aka load AND unload every evening).

    I learned this from our mom -- when you damage someone (or in this case, something), you get to do something for them for a WEEK -- something that mom chooses.

    It really works. Behavior improves and well as increasing respect in relationships. Good going, Nat!

  5. My kids "physically offend" each other way too regularly. My other favorite mantra is, "WHEN is it OK to hit?" The answer is always "Never, BUT....he hit me first, or s/he was egging me on...." TO which I repeat, "When is it OK to hit? ...Here's a hint, the answer is ONE word and doesn't have a BUT in it."

  6. Isn't it funny how the mantras have such a place in halting the banter/complaining/blaming?

    We also regularly tell the kids that if Mom or Dad hit someone because we were mad or because they hit us first, we would be arrested for assult and put in jail. It's not allowed for adults, so it's not allowed for kids. Make good habits and it'll keep you safe.

    I also think it's funny how we still have those discussion over and over and over again with the kids. Keep repeating till they get it right.....eventually they will.

  7. You so deserve the Mother of the Year! I plan on borrowing that.