One of the perks I enjoy as a parent is being able to dole out interesting punishments when my kids stray from the straight and narrow.
Usually, our children are aces when it comes to knowing what’s expected of them, but every now and then they get this crazy notion that they can outsmart us. I love seeing their best laid plans unravel before my very eyes. Even when I know I’ve got ’em, I enjoy watching as they feverishly dig themselves a deeper and deeper hole with the shovel of deceit.
Well, our 15-year old son tried to pull a fast one on us today. And, as expected, he failed miserably.
He knows that his grades determine how much computer, XBox, and television time he gets. It’s a simple reward system…get good grades and you can wield all the nerdy little power swords and kill all the zombies you want. He also knows that poor performance in school means less geek time.
The school he attends sends home progress reports every so often so that we can spot-check our kids and gauge how long we can expect to support them after graduation. The students then have to return signed progress reports within 7 days of receiving them or they get publicly flogged in the courtyard (this ramification may not be entirely accurate).
This past weekend, our son had fun-filled days planned, and he enjoyed them wholeheartedly. This morning, on his way to school, he pulls out a crinkled wad of progress reports in mid-drive and says, “Oh, yeah, you have to sign these so I can turn them in. They’re due today.”
If you’re a parent, you already spot his ploy. If you don’t, God help you.
This little cretin’s plan was to use heavy traffic and a tight schedule to his advantage. He thought that Heather would opt to sign his progress reports, sight unseen, just to avoid a backlog of cars. Little did he know that she cares more about his education than roadway etiquette.
My wife perused his reports and saw all A’s on the beginning pages. Then, on the last page, the most crinkled of them all, test scores of 70 and 72 lurked in Geometry. Flanking these abysmal scores were quiz grades of 50 and 55.
When asked why he waited until just minutes before the progress reports were due before bringing them to her attention, he gave the classic teenage response, “I forgot.”
I know it’s obvious, but this little wiz conveniently “forgot” so that his weekend plans wouldn’t be ruined, and so that he could score as much XBox time as possible before the imminent and inescapable backlash.
Along with misdeeds come punishments, and while my kids know we’ll never resort to anything physical, they usually don’t like my creativity when it comes to sentencing. He wasn’t being punished for “forgetting”, he was being punished for the bad grades. I’m all for video games and entertainment but when it encroaches on school performance, he knows we’ll have him cut back.
Ultimately, I decided to take away his XBox for two weeks. It is, after all, a teenage boy’s raison d’être…ranked right up there with food and Clearisil in importance (both of which are a distant second).
Rather than just tell him that he lost his XBox so that he can spend more time on his math studies, I decided to make my point without even saying a word.
Considering he only pays attention to things that are connected to an XBox controller, it was a no-brainer move, and I had fun with this one all night long.
“What’s the problem? Now you you’re plugged into Geometry.”
“Let’s play math!”
“Where’s the power button?”
“Let’s duel! You be Rhombus and I’ll be Polygon.”
“How many hit points does an isosceles triangle have?”
It. Was. Awesome.
As a parent, you know you hit the punishment mother lode when you hear a genuine agonizing groan from your child. Pat yourself on the back if you manage to get them to collapse to the floor in an exasperated heap. And buy yourself something special if they continue to whine about how unfair you are. Eliciting all of these reactions in one full swoop is the parenting equivalent of baseball’s triple play.
Well, chalk another one up for our team.
In the end, his test scores improved to the high 80’s and his retest was an A-. After two weeks, his xBox was returned, he was happier for it, and his school performance was vastly improved.
Win, win, win.