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2015-12-31 03:30:36
Every now and then we need a parenting win.

The internet is full of parenting fails. Being a parent is hard work, so I guess it makes us feel better as imperfect parents to laugh at those who are struggling as much as we are. Every now and then it's good to get a parenting win. A few years ago, I had a great parenting win.

For Christmas we wanted to give our kids a cheap tablet to play with. Mostly so they would leave mom and dad's alone. On Black Friday we found a great deal on a generic Android tablet. It fit exactly what we wanted. The kids could play a few games and watch YouTube and it was less than $100 so for 3 little kids it was perfect. 

They were so excised Christmas morning when they opened the 'family tablet'. We downloaded a few of their favorite games; Temple Run, Fruit Ninja and of course Angry Birds. We had to set a timer so the amount of time on the tablet was fair and we made them do something other than be in front of a screen when it wasn't their turn. Everything seemed to be going great. They got a gift that we didn't need to return or exchange and they were having a ton of fun.

Our 4 year old was struggling with getting frustrated and not knowing how to deal with it. When things didn't work the way it should in his little mind he couldn't handle it. Of course to a 4 year old it isn't his issue, it an issue with whatever he is playing with. The phrase, 'it won't let me....' was common with him. 'The Legos won't let me build the car.' Often followed by a crash. You probably see where this is going.

Three days after Christmas break was over and the 2 older kids had gone back to school. The 4 year old was playing on the tablet.  He was in heaven.  No timer to tell him when he had to stop playing, and no older siblings complaining their turn was shorter. It was all his and he was loving it.

I was at work in my office down stairs and I heard him upstairs starting to get up set. I finish the email i was working on and walk out of the office. Just as I did, I hear, 'this won't let me play it.' It was like the old Bat Man shows. Crash, Bang, Crack as the 10 day old 'Family tablet' went flying down the stairs. Ok, that part could fit in the 'parenting fail' category. What happened after is where the parenting win comes in.

I was so angry. I grabbed the tablet from the bottom of the stairs and flew up the stairs. Here is my 4 year old in tears, partly because he was frustrated and mad, and partly because he knew what he had done and was in big trouble. I wanted to yell at him so bad, but I bit my tongue. I handed him the broken tablet and ask what are you going to do about this. In the way only a 4 year old thinks he said, 'I'll fix it.' It was the right answer because in my anger it gave me a little smile. I asked him how he was going to fix it and he told me he would use tape and moms glue gun. Apparently that is how things get fix around my house. I told him I didn't think that would fix it and he would probably have to buy a new one. I told him he would have to show his brother and sister what he had done and tell them he would buy a new one for them. He started to cry again as he walked down the stairs to his room.

I was in the kitchen trying to see if there was any chance it could survive. About 10 minutes later he comes into the kitchen and dumps his 'money jar' on the table. With tears in his eyes he asks if this is enough. I tell him a new tablet would cost more than $100 and we started to count his money to see how much he had. $13. Most of it change and a $5 bill he got for his birthday. So badly I wanted to tell him it was enough, but what would I teach him if I did? I told him he would have to earn more money to buy a new one. We took all his money and put it in a jar on my dresser.

A few hours later his brother came home. He took the tablet to him as he walked in the door. We had rehearsed what he was going to say so he would be prepared. 'I'm sorry, I broke the tablet. I got mad and threw it down the stairs. I'll work hard and buy a new one soon.' His brother was mad but shrugged it off and went to get something to eat.

It was when the sister got home that things got ugly. He repeated the same thing, but she didn't shrug it off. She was irate. She grabbed the tablet to see what was wrong, shock it and started to scream at him. I practicly had to pull her away. I think that was the point when what he had really down sank it. Not only had he broke something that wasn't his (he had done that before) but this time he broke something other people cared about too.

I had called mom and let her know what had happened and told her about my plan so she would be on board. When she got home he again told her what happened and said he would earn enough to buy a new one.

The next day we went to his grandparents house. As we walked in the door he asked if there was anything he could do to earn money. They were a little puzzled so he had to explain it again. His grandmother was not very pleased with me. 'That isn't fair to a 4 year old,' she said. She insisted on just buying a new one because according to her, it wasn't fair to him or the other 2 kids that now don't get to play with their Christmas gift. I refused and told her if she wanted to help she could give him a chore and pay him a little for doing it.

I left him their and went to work. When I picked him up and went home he went in my room and put 2 quarters next to the jar. I asked him what he did for grandma and he said he got a quarter for dusting some shelves and one for helping take out the garbage. 

I didn't know how long he could go, nor how much I would make him earn. But I was very surprised at how dedicated he was. It became common at home and at grandmas to ask what he could do. He still had to do his normal chores without pay, but extra things earned him a little money. Every time he would get some he would put it in the same place on my dresser. We started talking to him about the different coins, what they are called and how much they are worth. We also talked to him about 'the lords money' and how mom and dad give 10% of what we earn to our church. We asked him if he thought he should do that as well now that he was earning his own money. We explained that it was up to him, but that he would be blessed if he did. The next Sunday he asked us if we would help him know how much to take to church. 

I'm not going to say it was only because he decided to pay a tithing, but during that next week our chickens started laying a couple extra eggs each day. It was still winter,but it was starting to warm up and the timing was perfect. We have 5 chickens and through the winter we were getting 1 or 2 eggs a day. Enough that our family ate them all. During that week we got 2 or 3 each day then 3 or 4. By about the 2nd week we were getting 4 eggs each day pretty consistently. That is normal for the summer, but it was February. 

During the summer he and his sister would sell eggs to some of our neighbors. We are lucky to live in an area where I can trust a 4 and 7 year old to walk around the neighborhood knocking on doors and know they'll be safe. I think their spill goes something likey this. 'Our chickens have been laying more fresh eggs than our family can eat. Would you like to buy a dozen for only $3.00?' How can anyone turn that down? Their regulars where very surprised to see them so early in the year, and were excited for fresh eggs. A buck and a half is a lot of money to a 4 year old, but without fail it would go on my dresser and Sunday he would ask how much he need to take to church.

As the weather warmed up he would look for jobs he could do outside. Helping clean up the sticks from the apple trees pruning paid the best (I hate that job). Helping plant the garden and cleaning the chicken coop also paid well. Remember, he was only 4, so much of it was pay for effort. 

As the end of the school year approached we decided it was time for him to be rewarded for all his effort. I counted up his money and told him it looked like he had earned enough to buy a new tablet. He had earned just over $60 plus the original $13. Not bad for a 4 year old over about 5 months. 

We found one on Walmart.com  that was close to the one he broke. Of course it wasn't a Black Friday deal, but still not bad. A couple mornings later he and I went to pick it up. He was so excited that he told 3 people at Walmart about how hard he had worked to earn the money to buy it and how he had broke the other one. 

When we got home I put the same 3 games on it that we had before and told him he could play it until his siblings got home from school. He sat right next to the door waiting for them to get home from school. He was so excited to show it to them. Now we are back on the timer trying to keep it fair for everyone.  It was much nicer outside, so it was a little easier to get them away from it.

So what did I learn? I learned that even a 4 year old can learn the value of hard work and money. That when you there is consequences to actions even a 4 year old can change their behavior. I'm not going to say he is perfect, but he thinks a little before he throws something out of frustration. I have noticed a couple times that he will look at what's in his hand to see what it is before it gets chucked. (Makes me smile.)

Yes parenting is hard and we all have those parenting fails when we hope nobody is near by with a camera. But I think we also have many parenting wins. They just aren't as entertaining. 


---- Update -----

Now he is 6. Still works hard selling eggs and doing house and yard work. He is saving his money to buy a bike. He still gets frustrated when things don't work the way his mind thinks they should, but his temper is so much better. When he does get mad and throws something, we remind him of the tablet and the throwing stops for a while.

I Love my kids


---Story shared with permission ---


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