So you may have read the post by Jackie Masek at LJSkool about disciplining children via the rubber band method. And just to head off any misunderstanding here if you haven’t read it: We’re not talking about snapping little kids’ wrists with rubber bands when they misbehave. Instead it’s all about encouraging good behavior by recognizing good behavior, and moms moving a rubber band from one wrist to the other in acknowledgment of a child’s good deed, kind word, or act of obedience.
I loved the idea when I read it, though initially I did take some issue with the semantics involved. Did praising good behavior really qualify as a form of discipline? I’m afraid for a few moments I was still living in the dark ages of discipline = punishment for bad behavior rather than recognizing discipline as what it really is; any sort of training intended to mold character or alter behavior.
Taking notice of a child’s qualities and virtues and offering a few words of praise can do much to mold and alter them and their behavior, but it can do just as much to alter ours! We have this terrible tendency as moms to focus on our children’s faults and failures — the things that still need to be fixed in their character and attitude — rather than looking for the good in each of them and extending to them the kind of grace we want God and others to extend to us.
Which got me to thinking: I needed to use this whole rubber band idea in a totally different way. Personally, I felt like the discipline needed to start with ME first.
You see, I would love to try to convince you that I am always a patient mother, always thinking clearly in my dealings with the kids and reacting to them in a controlled and reasonable and sensible manner. I mean, I’m a homeschooling mom! And everybody knows homeschooling moms are blessed with this supernatural gift of patience, right?
Yeah, except that we’re not. Or at least I’m not! And a lot of days I feel like a pretty rotten mom.
Because as much as I love my children and as thankful as I am for each of them, sometimes, particularly when I’m tired or busy or especially preoccupied, I can get awfully grouchy with my kids.
If I take the time to be aware of my moods, I can usually feel it building. It’s not like I go into some kind of mental fog and suddenly I’m standing at the end of a mom-eruption wondering how on earth I ever got there. I know when I’m tired and I know when I’m grouchy and yet I allow myself to fall prey to my emotions and I snap at a child or, worse, start yelling, sometimes over an issue that is of valid concern, but just as often over something that is not.
Listen, I’m not of the camp that believes merely being angry with your children is a sin. I’ve read a few articles by well-meaning moms who left the rest of us feeling like we have sinned against our children just in being angry at them, when anger is actually very normal and natural. Even Jesus got angry — really angry at the money changers in the temple — and yet the Bible insists He never sinned. Sometimes we will get angry at our children — like when they blatantly disobey or when they willfully do something that could harm themselves or someone else — but managing that anger and never allowing it to control us, not even for a few seconds, moms, requires some careful discipline of ourselves.
Which brings me to the rubber bands I’m wearing on my wrist today. I have three of them and they are there, not for my children’s discipline, but FOR MY OWN.
I get three chances during the day and that’s it. Any time I slip up and snap at one of my children or, heaven help me, I find myself yelling at one of them, I move a band from my left wrist to my right. And I’m not talking about raising my voice to get their attention or being stern, both of which are completely appropriate and necessary at times. But there is always a distinct difference between that and being downright grouchy with one of my kids and I always, always know when I’ve crossed that line. There is a right way and a wrong way to handle all the crazy issues that can arise with my children in the course of every day. And these rubber bands, these simple little reminders, are acting as silent warning signals for me.
To slow down. To take a breath. To remain calm. To handle the situation my kids just dropped in my lap in a controlled and reasonable manner, rather than acting on emotion and the impulse of the moment.
And stopping to think that way, all because of three silly rubber bands on my wrist, is helping me so much. I haven’t mastered this yet, mind you, but I’m progressing. I’ve even kept all three bands on my left wrist all day a few times! Thank God for small successes. And you know what’s amazing to me? When I’m calm and in full control of my emotions, even when I’m angry, my children seem to have so much more respect for the things I have to say.
Obviously some days are harder than others, but I’m learning. Thanks to prayer and three rubber bands, I think I’m seeing my own character molded and my behavior altered for the better.
It’s called self-discipline. And I needed more of it as a mom, both to help me be more Christlike, (because my children deserve Christlike treatment from me the same as anyone else,) and to help me be a more effective parent. And I’m so glad something as simple as rubber bands could help me start making steps in the right direction.