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.

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.

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.

Exciting Developments in Homeschooling

Picture taken by Morgan Leigh at Linda's wedding. It has nothing to do with the post, but my kids look awesome. See more of her work at http://www.morganleighphotography.net/

Picture taken by Morgan Leigh at Linda’s wedding. It has nothing to do with the post, but my kids look awesome. See more of her work at http://www.morganleighphotography.net/

Bonnie and I have been planning on homeschooling our kids for a while. We’re not sure exactly how it’s all going to look, but Bonnie has been wanting to teach L to read for a while. She found an awesome book called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and we’ve started working our way through it.

We finished lesson 9 this morning, and L sounded out the words “mat” and “sat.” After getting the words right, she ran through the house screaming, “I can read! I can read! I can read two whole words!” It was a great experience for everyone. I’m sure home schooling isn’t all sunshine and roses, but if I can get more moments like that with my kids, I think it will be totally worth it.

This could easily be a Thankful Thursday post, since I missed it yesterday. It’s one in spirit at least. Anyway, I’m excited to keep going in the book with L. I’ll keep you all updated as we get further through it.

 

Bonus Cute Kid Story: I made pizza with the kids for lunch today, and as I was rolling the crust out, L said, “What are you doing?”

“I’m rolling the crust out.”

“Are you rolling it out thin like a good wife.”

“What?”

“Like a good wife, are you rolling it thin?”

“Uhhhhh…sure.”

“Okay.”

I’m still not sure if she was saying that a good wife would roll thin pizza crusts or that a good wife would be really thin…

I think L needs sensitivity training…

IMG_1251Whenever I hear the phrase “sensitivity training,” I think of an old ad campaign for Reebok. Do any of you remember “Terry Tate, office linebacker?” He would run around tackling people for doing annoying things at the office. In one episode he gets in trouble for what he says to a guy and has to go to a ridiculous sensitivity training.

If our family were run like a business, L would spend her life talking to HR. Being a four-year-old, she doesn’t really have a filter on what she says, so in the last few months there have been a slew of awkward and insensitive questions and comments.

With me, she tends to stick to unkind comments about my weight:

“Dad’s fat, Mom’s thin, I’m little.”

“Dad, don’t eat all of those or you’ll get really fat.”

I’m not even fat or anything. I have maybe a little paunch, but I’m not fat. Of course, my weight isn’t the only part of my appearance which falls under her merciless gaze:

“Don’t put that on! You’ll break it because your head is way too big!”

…Thanks for dredging up my childhood insecurities honey.

Bonnie is not immune to this. In her case L usually leaves her appearance alone, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

“Dad, you’re smart right?” “Sure.” “But Mom’s not smart though, right?”

“Here Mom,” *hands her a stick* “It’s a present for you before you die.”

Anyone have a good response to that? Because I don’t know what etiquette demands for the “here’s a little something for you until you die” kind of present.

Friends and neighbors aren’t immune to the questions and observations either. We had a couple over for dinner who didn’t have any children. I don’t know if it’s by choice or not, but I prefer not to ask. L, on the other hand, piped up almost immediately with “do you have a baby in your tummy?”

Even strangers are often impaled by the queries of my child. When we were out on a walk, we were passed by a Native American guy with long hair. L piped up, “Is that a boy or a girl?”

“It’s a boy, L.”

“But why does he have long hair like a princess?”

Why indeed.