Logan asked me if I was ready to go to our new church and told me that I looked nice. Then he asked if I was going to wear those rubber bands on my wrist. These people did not know us or our story. I could tell he was a wee bit embarrassed by them. I looked at my wrist and thought about the rough years of his childhood. How I had to grow up as much as I had to teach him how to be an adult. If it wasn’t for this “rubber band method” and learning how to discipline a child who knows how things would have ended up! They were as much a part of me as they were of his childhood.
That’s when I looked directly into his eyes, took his hand and said, “These rubber bands are what made me a better mother and you the wonderful son and grown man that you are today.”
“How long has it been since you started wearing those things, Mom? Like, forever?” he asked.
I was suddenly taken back to a cold winter afternoon when he and I sat in the office of one of the best Child Psychologists in Columbus, Ohio. I needed to know what exactly was wrong with my 5 year old son.
It didn’t take the doctor very long to diagnosis Logan with ADHD. My mind was still spinning and grasping on to these new words.
What did any of this have to do with how he was behaving?!
How to discipline a child is so controversial these days.
I tried to explain myself to the doctor. When I was growing up it was “Do this, do it now, or get a spanking!”
He told that this works for kids with a brain that normally processes information. That doesn’t work so well with a kid who has a Ferrari brain and bicycle brakes. There were things to explore and get into! Who has time to stop so there are so many sights and sounds and ideas floating around?
Imagine my shock when the good doctor then asked, “How often do you reward him?”
Um, was he not listening to my woes of how to discipline a child these days?
Reward? What reward? This kid is a terror! He has broken a dishes, and glasses, and mementos, written on just about every single wall in the house, and I find everything in his room because it was shiny and he picked it up.
Do you ever catch him doing something good?
I can still hear the doctor asking me that question. It seemed like the world came to slow halt. All the sounds from the street outside ceased. The only thing I could hear was the blood rushing through my body to my brain.
Was my child good?
Was he worthy of love?
Did I appreciate him?
YES, YES, and absolutely YES!
The realization that I was parenting exactly like my parents quickly sunk in. All of my time as Mom was being spent as a harsh task master. I was more concerned about my child obeying me and my rules that I was less concerned about what that might be doing to his psyche. It never bothered me to consider that my expectations were too great or attainable.
Did I ever catch my son doing anything good?
Did he ever do anything good?
“Look, Mommy! I built a LEGO tower, just for you.”
Oh, kid, you have impeccable timing.
The Rubber Band Method of Child Discipline
The good doctor took out a few rubber bands from the top of his desk and placed them in my hand.
I am giving you homework this month. These are the tools I want you to use.
I had to place three rubber bands on my right wrist in the morning. The goal was to have them all moved over to my left wrist before I got into bed.
The only way I could move one from the right to the left was to catch Logan doing something good.
No matter how small.
For any amount of time, even for a second.
We need to appreciate our children. We need to show them that we are glad just for them being in the room with us. We need to remember they are learning. Do we teach them how to love or do we teach them how to stop trying because no matter what it will be wrong?
Ah, there’s the rub.
We are always teaching them something, whether we mean to, whether we are aware of it.
Three is not a large number. If you are counting pennies you can’t buy anything at the store.
Three times takes less than 5 minutes a day. This is just enough to make it not overwhelming and quite do-able.
Some days it would be dinner time and I still had rubber bands on my right hand. Time was running out. Those were the days, after dinner, when I would sit in the rocking chair, grab his favoritest book (the one that he had to have read again and again in a row), and ask if he wanted to come listen to me read to him.
He never turned me down.
We would snuggle, I would read, and we would reconnect.
I appreciate that you sat still for me to read to you.
The best part would be when he would say, “I love you for reading to me, Mom.”
Amazingly enough the words for the other two rubber bands would come out of my mouth. There was something about sitting still while holding this child, his warm little body snuggled up close, that would melt my heart and drop the scales from my eyes.
Whether you use Post-It Notes, pom poms in a jar, or three rubber bands, being thankful is a method of child discipline. You are teaching to not just behave but to behave well.
Catch them doing something good. How to discipline your child isn’t just about correcting misbehavior.
It is also to teach how to behave well. In fact, if it wasn’t those for those silly old rubber bands and my trying so very hard to catch Logan doing something good I never would have noticed how much traditional schooling was not working for him.
But that’s another story for another day.