Punishment genie

"LLW Aladdin genie" by Jerry Daykin from Cambridge, United Kingdom - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LLW_Aladdin_genie.jpg#/media/File:LLW_Aladdin_genie.jpg

“LLW Aladdin genie” by Jerry Daykin from Cambridge, United Kingdom – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

There’s this idea in society that the punishment should fit the crime. It’s at least as old as Dante’s inferno, though I would guess that it goes back much further than that. This idea frequently shows up in parenting. It feels to me like parents are generally expected to come up with suitable punishments for the things that their kids do. Suitable meaning that the punishement has some relationship to the thing they did wrong. Supposedly this type of punishment helps kids in some way? I can’t remember ever reading anything on the subject, but I feel like it’s the sort of wisdom that lots of people just believe.

I think it works to a point. If a child isn’t playing nice with the other kids, then they get a time out so they can’t play for a bit. Or if a child refuses to pick up their toys, then the gunny sack comes and takes their toys away.

Here’s the problem. What do you do when your child behaves badly in a weird or unexpected way? For example, sometimes my kids get out a bunch of food and mix it all together (when I’ve told them not to do that many times), wasting a lot of food and making a big mess? What’s the punishment that fits the crime for that? I can’t deny them food for an extended period of time. I can’t make them pay for the waste with their own money because they don’t have any. I can’t make them cook dinner for the family for the next few days because they’re too young. So I make them clean up and then I put them in time out. What does that have to do with making a mess and wasting food? Nothing. But it’s easier, simpler, and more immediate.

Trying to come up with creative punishments that fit the crimes makes me feel a little like one of those jerk-face genies who grant wishes but always in stupid ways. Like you say “I wish money would always come to me” and you spend the rest of your life being pelted with small change. It like you have to ask yourself “how can I twist what they have done to make the punishment something related but really unpleasant?”

Another example. My kids turned on the hose (strike one) left it running and wandered off (strike two) and had the end sticking into the garage (strike three). I luckily got there and turned it off before there was much damage done, but there are definitely things in the garage that shouldn’t be sitting in water. So what’s the punishment for that? This is complicated by the fact that they were trying to clean the car to surprise me. Good intentions have to count for something, right?

So the solution that I, as the sadistic punishment genie, have come up with is that they have to clean up the whole family room (which is quite a mess). I’m typing this as they’re (more or less) working on that. The rationale is that they did something destructive to the house, so they now have to do something constructive to the house. Thus the cosmic scale will be balanced. I have no idea if this is a good punishment or not, but at least we’ll get a clean family room out of the deal. So there’s always that. Take the small victories where you can get them I guess. If anyone else has a better way of handling these things, I’d love to hear it. In the meantime I’ll just head back to my lamp.

A short conversation at bedtime

Allison familyphotos 0614 065

R: Why is it called a dresser?

Me: I don’t know.

R: If it is called a dresser, it should have dresses. *starts laughing*

Me. Yup.

R: And if it has shirts it should be a shirter, and if it has pants it should be a panter, and if it has socks it should be a socker…

Me: *changing diaper* Mm-hmm.

R: …and if it has shoes it should be a shoer, and if it has sweaters it should be a sweaterer, and if it has swimsuits it should be a swimsuiter…

Children are nothing if not creative.

Minor Rant About Scripture Mastery

On a whim I started having the kids memorize a scripture. I think it happened because we were trying to do a faster version of bedtime one night, which sometimes involves reciting a scripture rather than reading. The kids seemed to like it, so we started saying it every night to practice. Most of my best parenting ideas have their origin in laziness.

The scripture that we’ve been working on is John 3:16. At this point they’ve actually got it down pretty well, so we’re working on verse seventeen too. I picked the verse because it was the first one I thought of. On further reflection, though,  I think it’s a very appropriate verse for first one that the kids learn. It encompasses the central idea of Christian belief. If you only know one scripture, that’s not a bad choice.

Since this little habit has been going well for us, I’ve decided to continue it and have been looking for a nice list of scriptures which I could use to get good ideas for memorizing. Naturally, having participated in the seminary program, I thought of the scripture mastery verses. I looked them up, all ready to cross off our first one.

Unfortunately, John 3:16 is not a scripture mastery verse.

I’m sure there are reasons that this verse was omitted, but I found it extra strange because there is another verse in John 3 that did make the cut:

John 3:5 – Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

It’s a fine scripture, but it seems like it was included because it’s a scripture in the Bible that can be understood as saying that baptism is necessary. Not even everyone will read it that way (quick story, on my mission I brought up this scripture with a guy and he viewed it as meaning that your actual birth was being born of water, and your acceptance of Jesus was being born of the Spirit. Based solely on the text, that’s not an unreasonable interpretation.) Here’s the thing, there are much clearer scriptures about the necessity of baptism. How about this one:

2 Nephi 31:17 – Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

This one is not a scripture mastery (though to be fair, nineteen and twenty, which talk about enduring to the end, are). It’s obviously a lot more clear than the one in John.

If that’s a little long for you though, here’s another:

Doctrine and Covenants 33:11 – Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.

Short, to the point, and almost unmistakable in what it is saying.

It seems like the only reason to include John 3:5 is so that missionaries know a scripture in the bible that more or less says the same thing, so they have something to point at when dealing with other Christians.

This might be (probably is) me projecting my own issues onto everyone else, but I feel like I would have been a much better missionary and person if I had thought a little more about John 3:16-17 (like the part about not being sent to condemn the world, for instance) and a little less about John 3:5 and convincing people that their understanding of the Bible was flawed. If you can convince them to read the Book of Mormon and gain a testimony of it (admittedly that’s a really, really big if), then it doesn’t matter where the scripture that you’re using comes from.

In the grand scheme of things, the inclusion or exclusion of specific verses in the scripture mastery list is not really a big deal, but this seems like a microcosm for a problem I see in the way that we sometimes approach members of other religions. We’re too quick to look for doctrinal difference, and too slow to look for shared ground.

Well, as for me and my kids, we’re going to stick with John 3:16-17 for a while. Don’t hold your breath for John 3:5 to come up.

Update on L and her reading

I’ve written here and here about trying to teach L to read. We’ve been on again off again with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, but we picked it up again about a month ago and have been really consistent since. I think things are clicking. I’ve included a little recording of her sounding out the story from the end of lessons 31 (or maybe it was 32) in the book. Here is the text:

A man sat in the sand. A little ant can see the man. The ant is mad.

I’m super excited about this whole thing. She’s doing great with reading, and now that she’s got a feel for how the lessons go, we can get them done quickly and easily. I’m betting that she’ll be able to read a short book to herself in the next month or two. (It will be even better when she can read a short book to her brother).

At this point I am solidly in favor of the book. I think it’s been helpful and effective at teaching L to read. The major things I’ve seen are that you can’t push your kid into something before they’re ready. Consistency is important, but sometimes there is virtue in quitting something and coming back later. Also, the book is very scripted, which is useful initially, but once your kid knows what to do with an exercise, just get out of the way and let them do it.

P.S. You might notice that I use L’s full name in the recording, while I don’t on the blog. In truth I’m not that concerned with privacy/stalkers/whatever. I actually just use L and R for the kids as a courtesy for when they get older. At some point, someone will google them, and I’d hate for the top results to be pictures and stories of them from their Dad’s blog. That would look great for a future employer.

Update on Bonnie

george-michael gif

I feel you, George Michael.

It’s been a long, stressful day. Bonnie wasn’t feeling very good last night, so she was up a lot. That translated into oversleeping for her doctor’s appointment. It’s always nice to start the day out right.

More importantly, it’s looking like her current course of treatment just isn’t managing the symptoms the way that we would like. Bonnie has been falling down a lot and her balance is really impaired, so we’re going to be switching to something more aggressive. At this point, Bonnie’s condition makes her such an outlier that there’s not really a proscribed course of treatment, so it feels a little bit like both we and our doctor are shooting in the dark.

We’re going to try a really high dose of the medicine that she’s on, which will involve some pretty serious time in the hospital. So that’s not going to be fun for anyone.

We also had a visit to the physical therapist, who basically said that there’s not much that he can do to fix things (not really surprising), but he gave us some strengthening exercises for Bonnie to do.

When I write it all down, it doesn’t sound like that much, but I just feel totally mentally spent. It’s the cancer anxiety. You just sit around waiting constantly for something to go wrong. It’s like your brain is stretched out too thin, or you’ve got this constant feeling of falling but you never hit the ground. Then when you get more bad news you just don’t have the energy to process it because of all the energy you spend keeping it together on a normal day.

That’s probably enough whining from me. I still have a great little family, and I’m sitting here watching a little show with L and R while I type this, so the day is not all bad. Even when things go poorly, it’s always nice to get a chance to sit around with the kids at the end of the day. But if you see my lying on the floor, you’ll know why.

“‘Give,’ Said the Little Stream” and chores

“‘Give,’ Said the Little Stream” is one of my favorite primary songs. In the back of my mind I have this thought that my mom doesn’t like it, but I don’t remember why. Regardless, I love the simple way that it teaches important principles, in particular the idea that you should make your surroundings better.

I’ve been thinking about it because it connects to a conversation I had with Bonnie a few days ago about chores. Philosophically I’m having some issues with chores the way I usually see them implemented. Frequently people give their child a responsibility which they have to take care of at a specified time (i.e. clean the kitchen on Saturdays).

Here’s my issue: I worry that it might encourage a sense that once you’ve done your chores then you’re done with helping out around the house. Or more broadly, once you take care of yourself then your job is done. I can remember lots of times as a kid when one sibling or another was still working on their Saturday job while the others were already done. There was never any inclination (at least on my part) to help that person out with their job. I’m admittedly not the most compassionate person, but even my siblings who are nicer than me (all of them) didn’t usually help that I can remember.

I’d rather that my kids develop a habit of always helping out with everything. If there are dirty dishes, then we all do them, since we’re all part of the family and we all try to contribute. When we’re cleaning the house, I rather that we all just clean until it’s done. Like in the song, I think the kids should adopt an attitude of “wherever I go the grass grows greener still.”

On the other hand, I also want them to learn to take care of their own responsibilities and not be a burden on others. I think traditional chores actually do a decent job of giving kids a sense of responsibility and a sense of taking care of a job. The two ideas compete with each other a little bit. Is it better to teach a kid about their independence or their interdependence? I’m leaning toward the latter, but most people I know seem to (most likely unconsciously) choose the former.

Bonnie suggested that instead of specific responsibilities we just have everyone work for a certain amount of time. I think that’s moving in the right direction, but I worry that it just substitutes one problem for another. Instead of feeling “done” when you finish your room, you’ll just feel “done” when the timer runs out.

Clearly I don’t have any right answers, but I’m really interested in developing this habit in my kids (and myself to be honest–I could probably walk into the house and step over a dead body and not notice or think twice if I didn’t put it there). How do you teach someone to just be aware of their surroundings and to act to improve them without being asked? That habit has a much broader application than just simple chores, and I’d really love for my kids to learn it. Any suggestions, O wise internet people?

Homeschooling Fail

megalodon

This is a picture from a trip to the aquarium that we took with my parents. My expression is stupid, it’s a little blurry, but L has an awesome expression on her face. Also, you’re welcome for the free publicity Stonehaven Dental.

Failure might be too strong of a word, but it’s at least a setback. A few weeks ago I mentioned how much I was enjoying reading lessons with L. It was going really well, but then she hit a wall with some of the concepts and decided that she didn’t want to do reading lessons anymore. I’m interpreting that as “let’s take a break from this for a while” rather than “let’s never do this again.”

I think there are some things I can learn from this bump in the road:

  • I can’t push too hard with L. She gets frustrated and tense, and just shuts down if she feels pressured.
  • Nobody is going to learn anything they don’t want to learn. We had several days where the lessons were just frustrating for both of us, and I don’t think anything sank in for her.
  • There has to be some motivating principle besides just carrot/stick (any suggestions on what that should be are welcome). She focuses way too much on the punishment/reward and not on the lessons. If she’s just doing it for reward (m&m’s in this case) then she doesn’t pay attention. If she’s worried about a punishment she stresses out and doesn’t perform well.

So we’re taking a little break from the reading lessons and just doing more reading of simple books (i.e. Dr. Seuss Books). It appears that the homeschooling will not be as easy as it first seemed, but I’m still feeling really good about it. This is actually a great example of why I’m excited about it. In traditional school, you’re basically locked into a subject until the unit or class is done. I know a ton of people who currently have or have had terrible anxiety about school. They get behind and don’t get the time to catch up because the class has already moved on.

With homeschooling, we can go fast if the kids want to go fast, slow if they want or need to go slow, and we can even take a break and come back to concepts that they missed the first time around. It reminds me of learning chemistry. The first time I took it (in high school), I was basically lost the whole time. The second time I took it (freshman year before my mission), I was still totally lost. But the third time I took it (after my mission) something clicked and it became one of my favorite subjects. I think the ability to account for that development process is one of homeschooling’s greatest strengths.

Sundays are Tired Days

IMG_20140921_181829386

This was the scene when we went to call people for dinner today.

Alternate Titles:

“Why my kids are still up at 9:20″

I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant…”

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” – Hemingway

“The creatures are regenerating.”

 

Fun at the Museum

IMG_20140908_163541256

This is the picture you get when you tell your kids to say “dinosaurs!”

We’ve taken our little family to a couple of museums lately. The first one was actually a backup plan. Since it was a sunny, beautiful day, we decided to go to the park. Of course, by the time we shaved the yak and were ready to get out the door it had started raining. Time for a visit to the BYU Earth Science museum.

IMG_20140908_163638950

I was always scared to put my head in that thing as a kid. My kids take after me.

Photo Strip

Photo booths are totally fun, and totally overpriced.

There are tons of fossils in Utah. Because of that, even a small museum can have some really cool stuff. Bonnie and I have been to the museum of natural history in New York and it’s one of the only museums out East that I’ve seen with a good fossil collection. The BYU museum, on the other hand, lacks the massive budget and resources of a New York museum, but it still has some great fossils, and was the perfect size for the two kids. There are tons of things to look at and touch, so it’s really fun.

The other museum that we went to last week was the Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point. We have a family pass that lets us get into a bunch of children’s museums all over the country, so we didn’t have to pay when we went. It’s basically a huge activity center. We didn’t see the whole thing, but we spend a lot of time in a room with a bunch of science demonstrations on movement and mechanics (or something like that). It was super cool.

We also had a great time in the section with a lot of wind and water things. There’s even this huge area where kids (and adults) can build structures that can spray water, or direct the flow different ways. You don’t even have to worry about getting the floor all wet. It’s really well done that way. Anyway, we all had a great time taking a few field trips, especially since we were able to go during non-peak hours. Hooray for having cool stuff (almost) completely to ourselves!

So, does anyone else know any really fun and free museums or activities in the Orem/Provo area (or thereabouts)? We’re always looking for fun stuff that we can take the kids to.

image

R is really good at smiling naturally.

If You Build It, They Will Come

IMG_20140822_142236085_HDR

Here’s the front view, where you can see the slide and the rock wall.

Since I don’t have school or work right at this moment, I’m (usually) happy when I get some sort of project. Bonnie’s Mom bought a huge swing set for the kids, and I got to put it together (along with Sterling, Clark, and Christian – Steven was a slacker). The directions said that it would take 4-6 hours, but after finishing it up earlier this week, I think it may have been a typo. 46 hours would be more accurate. It’s also possible that I’m just really slow and not as handy as I’d like to think.

IMG_20140822_142256238_HDR

Here’s the little picnic area underneath the main structure.

Sterling and I worked on it all morning and part of the afternoon Saturday. Then he wasn’t feeling well so I did it myself for a while. Then Christian and Clark helped out for a while in the evening. Even with all of that work, it didn’t get finished until I went out for a few more hours on Monday.

IMG_20140822_142324012

Here is the back corner with the rope ladder to nowhere. Seriously, you can’t get into the top by climbing the ladder.

It was a pain to put together, but it’s an impressive structure. L and R can go out and play in the backyard with minimal supervision now, which is a huge blessing, and it’s just fun to look outside and see something that I assembled. Who needs to go to the park anymore, right?