First let me say that I am a rule follower, a list builder and a big fan of structure. I am constantly reminded in my own life that if I have a goal without a plan, I rarely follow it. When I say I am going to start working out, if I don't make a calendar with what I am going to do each day I typically find excuses not to go. If I want to start eating healthier, but don't put any rules into place, a cheat or two finds me slipping back into my old bad eating habits. I think that the idea of structure and rules especially holds true for children and families.
I am as guilty as it gets about not sticking to my plans when it comes to our family. I have experimented with rule lists, chore lists, what is a right vs. a privilege and so on. It always works for a week or so and when things are going well that is when I start to slack. Inevitably when I do not consistently enforce the new system, we slip right back into our chaotic, selfish existence.
The other day, we were having a great day at the beach. The boys were swimming, playing in the waves and all having fun together. I was relaxing and thinking, wow - this is great! Of course, my first mistake was to let my guard down and think the bliss would continue all day. They are of course kids, who exhibit little control when it comes to their emotions. I won't go into details but let me just say I had one crying kid, laying face down in the sand and one angry kid for being punished not only for said incident but also for talking back. Eventually the situation worked itself out and our happy day in the waves continued. This one episode alone was not enough to make me take action, but it was, at they say, the straw that broke the camel's back.
It made me take notice of something I had known for a while - my family was out of control. And it was mostly the adults' fault, yes - me and my husband. I cannot blame the kids, they are kids. They are by definition, young and impressionable and in need of our guidance in life to grow up to become generous, kind and productive adults. They are old enough to know right from wrong, but won't be able for like 10 years to put those facts into action. As I drove to work the following day, I outlined in my head the 4 things I wanted to teach my children: Respect, Responsibility, Independence and Consequences.
In the middle of trying to get all my work done, I started researching how to instill those four fundamentals into my kids' lives. I came across this site, http://www.yourfamilyconstitution.com/wp-content/uploads/sneak-preview_your-family-constitution.pdf where author and father Scott Gale discussed his Black Sunday and the realization that something had to change for things to get better. First let me say that if you have a family, you need to read this excerpt. Unless you lead a model existence (and good for you if you do), you will be able to identify with his story. I read it myself and said, OMG - this is us! I made my husband read it too and we both agreed to try the tactics that Scott had suggested, a family constitution.
So begins our family experiment. I truly believe that there is a better way for our family to live. I am tired of yelling without anything changing and I know my kids are too. But not only that, I am afraid that I am not giving them the skills they need to grow up to be successful adults. I am currently working on our family constitution, will consult with my husband and then hold a family meeting when we can get everyone together (which probably won't be until Monday night after football practice). I am happy to share our experiences as we go through the process. Maybe this will inspire your family to try it, maybe it will make you feel like your family already has it going pretty good, or maybe it will just make you laugh. But either way, I hope you enjoy our journey.