The Economy of Sweatpants
Many moons ago, when I was the mother of young children, I grew increasingly frustrated at the daily battle of figuring out what consequences to dole out to correct undesirable behavior. I tried many things. Time out, no TV, taking toys away, manual labor, yelling, crying, guilt tripping.
None seemed to be working with one of the aforementioned children in particular. She was a tough nut to crack. She was a repeat offender and I needed to figure out something that would work to get her to modify her behavior before I lost my ever loving mind.
She wasn’t the kind of kid that was outright naughty, but she just did things repeatedly that drove me crazy. She would “forget” to do things, she would “forget” to not do things. I remember someone telling me to use natural consequences as a form of discipline. I thought that sounded great, but I found out pretty fast that I am not good as figuring out what the natural consequence is for certain offenses. Apparently natural consequences aren’t my strong point- maybe me and this child are more similar than I realized??
One day while I was doing some housework and random mom stuff, I paused to watch tv. It happened to be on the Dr. Phil show. Hey, he was talking about how to deal wth difficult kids and how to change unwanted behavior, so I was intrigued. He explained that the key to changing behavior was to understand the persons “economy”. Basically, and I am paraphrasing since this was years ago, economy is what’s important to you; whatever you place high value on. Let me give an example. You have a child that is a total bookworm. They read ALL the time. They read so much, that they forget to finish homework assignments, they forget to take out the trash, they forget what time it is and don’t get ready for bed when they’re supposed to. If the desire is to make the child more mindful of responsibilities (finish homework, take out the trash) and be aware of time (getting ready for bed), then you restrict or take away the high value item. In this case, it would be books! Weird, I know. It seems so wrong. I would say, in all my infinite wisdom (you know, since I’m not a psychologist, or sociologist, or counselor or professional or anything) that the books should be withheld until the desired behaviors are performed, then the books are the reward. So the kid does their homework, chores, etc and then they get the books. I also have heard of parents having a toy chest with a lock on it, and if toys don’t get put away or taken care of, they get locked in the toy box and have to earned back. I never did that one, but like I said, I’m no expert.
I observed the child of mine to see what her economy was. Took away tv time, she didn’t really care. I took away toys and stuffed animals, got some resistance, but she didn’t really care. And then it hit me one morning as she was dawdling getting ready for school.
She loved to wear sweatpants. Like LOVED sweatpants.
She had a collection of them. Pink, purple, grey, dark green, navy, black. The black ones had a hem at the bottom, not elastic, so she referred to those as “the dressy ones”. Ok then. I did the unthinkable, and took her sweatpants away. I honestly don’t even remember what she did or didn’t do to deserve that, but I just remember telling her she couldn’t wear sweatpants for a week.
She was shocked and horrified.
I got her attention, which told me I hit the nail on the head. Her behavior changed as she pulled on jeans each day, remembering that her behavior was the result of her sweatpants being confiscated. I don’t believe in empty threats, so if she was starting to act up again I would firmly remind her of the day her sweatpants were taken away and she would shape right up.
My kids are high school and college aged now, and we still talk and laugh about “the sweatpants”. We’re in the age of cell phones, Youtube and chrome books now so the economy has shifted a bit. She loves to wear hooded sweatshirts though, so there’s still the possibility of using the old sweatpants philosophy on her if she gets sassy.
Ah, for the love of sweatpants.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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