By Deborah Pace Rowley
Tiff blogged last summer about her summer routine. You can read her great suggestions here. My children are older and I have struggled the last few summers knowing what to do. I have tried different charts and summer reward systems without success.
I realized that I couldn't control every hour of my teenage and young adult children's summer schedule but I was still unhappy with the amount of screen time and lazy behavior that I saw in our home. In May I heard a parenting message on the radio. The commentator was talking about Accountability vs. Control. Control is not part of God's plan but accountability is. We need a good friend or parent to "hold our feet to the fire" so to speak and hold us accountable for the choices that we make.
This resonated with me and a few weeks later, we had a family council where we talked about the principles of accountability vs. control. I told my children that I wasn't going to try to control their behavior this summer, but each week we would meet and they would set goals. Then I would be there to encourage them in their personal goals and hold them accountable for completing them. I posted all of our goals on a cabinet door in our kitchen.
The first week a few goals were set, but I didn't see much progress and no one seemed to be accomplishing them. I didn't nag or say too much. On Thursday at dinner, I mentioned everyone's goals but that was about it.
On Sunday we talked about how we had done and set new goals. The 2nd week passed by with the same result. I knew that I needed to be patient because it takes a while to get everyone to buy in to a program like this so I held my tongue and let everyone lay on the couch for another week.
The 3rd Sunday we happened to have our nephew Ky visiting. My children encouraged Ky to set some goals too. I responded, "But I am not Ky's mom. What am I going to do if Ky doesn't accomplish his goals?" My children wisely noted, "But you don't do anything to us when we don't accomplish our goals!" So THEY decided that they needed a consequence. They chose to pay me $1 for every goal that they didn't accomplish.
I was excited and anxiously watched for the progress the next week. I earned $10 that next Sunday. Maybe this wasn't going to be so bad after all. Even if they still laid on the couch, I could earn some pocket money in the process! But slowly, a little bit at a time, things began to change.
This past week one of my daughters and my son bought a Rosetta Stone language program together and on their own initiative they have decided to learn Spanish. My son has started taking piano lessons from his older sister. One daughter has decided not to eat sweets this summer and is running every day. Another daughter has decided that she is going to stay off the Internet and use her time for more productive things.
I have been amazed at the goals that they have set on their own and the things that they are accomplishing because they want to, not because Mom is making them. So far, I am thrilled with how our accountability vs. control experiment is going and I wanted to share it with you. If you have older children try this idea, maybe it will work for you!