Parenting a Teen, Part 2: Structure, Discipline and Responsibility

Dear Friends,

If you read my last post, you probably think my mom life is pretty grim right about now. But actually, things are looking more positive than they have in a while! I’ve divvyed out punishment, and they’re both taking it and running with it. Even my 13-year-old, who usually complains about every teeny-tiny inconvenience, seems to be in higher spirits. I’m learning something from this – something that we hear often as parents – that kids love structure!

Everything I do is organized. I have a calendar at work for scheduling loans, plus an excel spreadsheet for tracking loans and modifications of loans. I use a notepad to list specific tasks, with a little check box to mark off each as I complete it. I have checklists for processing loans and checklists for processing modifications, and checklists for uploading and inputting loans on our system. At home I make lists of tasks and chores that need done, and I have a yearly calendar with specific jobs, like cleaning gutters, changing furnace filters, planting the garden, cleaning the tile grout, etc., that need done a couple of times per year. I even plan out my blog posts!

So naturally, the first step to enforcing restrictions and routine change, was to make a list! Not only make a list, but make it visually appealing, large, and in plain sight. I went to Target and bought a poster board, chalk markers, two small hanging chalk boards and a box of chalk. When I got home, I sat the boys down and told them the changes that were coming. I told them they were now going to have some type of chore every single day, based on whatever needed done around the house. I used the chalk markers to label the boards with each child’s name, then hung them in a blank space in our hallway:

Then I told them about the new rules and restrictions they are going to have to follow from now on. These are what I put on the poster board using the chalk markers, that we are calling the Responsibility Board:

After doing some research about appropriate amounts of screen time and video game time, I decided that they would be allowed one and a half hours of screen time each evening, and four hours each day on the weekends…with the caveat that only half of that time could be used for gaming; so no more than 45 minutes per evening or two hours per weekend day. I expected Hunter to have a meltdown about that, since previously I let him play just about as much as he wanted as long as his homework was done, he was getting good grades, and wasn’t getting into any trouble. He grumbled about it a little, but he also was surprisingly accepting of the new time limits.

To take up the extra time away from screens, I added a requirement for two hours of reading per week outside of what they do at school, but left it up to them how they want to divide that time. If they want to do the full two hours in one evening, great. If they want to do 30 minutes a night for four nights, great! So long as they get two hours per week. Then of course, they will have chores to fill in some more of that time, and chores have to be done before play.

To make Hunter work off and pay for his new bike wheel after wrecking his bike in a completely preventable accident, I made a post on Facebook advertising his availability to babysit! Again I expected him to pitch a fit, but he actually kind of laughed and said okay! He has a three-year-old half-sister, so he’s used to helping out with a young child. And this way he’s earning the money to pay for the bike repair all by himself. Logan was inspired by this and asked if he could have a job, too. So I made another post advertising his availability to do yard work. They both already have a couple of prospects!

While I was busy drawing up the responsibility board and making their chalkboards last night, they did something they haven’t done in the evenings in a good long while — they went outside to play with their nerf guns. They’re grounded from all things electronic right now (I took all power cords to devices, computers, Rokus and the cell phone they share, and changed the wifi password so Hunter can’t sneak online using his school computer when he gets home), so they were forced to entertain themselves the old-fashioned way: outside!

They got creative and decided to “make art” using a plastic bag filled with dust and their nerf guns. They set the bag up on a bucket and shot at, exploding it all over the concrete. Then they rode through it on their scooter, making curvy trails out from the center, and drew a symbol in the center. They were so proud of their masterpiece they wanted me to come outside and take a picture!

The three of us saw more of each other last night than we normally do on weeknights, the boys actually got along well, and they were visibly happy in spite of being grounded. Even tonight, being confined indoors due to storms, Logan is busy planning away for an outdoor survival trip, and Hunter is in the basement with the nerf guns. As far as parenting goes, I’ve gone from a major ball of stress, to optimistic. We might just come out an even stronger family unit!

Love,
Loren

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