Thursday, December 19, 2013

Raising Princesses and Princes

This gorgeous image is courtesy of Joyce Ormeo (photography) and Danielle Waterman (design)

Our 4-yr-old is a product of Disney. She earnestly will tell you she plans to be a princess when she grows up, and she can tell you minute details about each and every Disney princess. The balancing act for us is to help her understand that she is created to be more than a Disney princess; she is a princess of God. And while Disney princesses may get served, God's princesses are here to serve others. 

So how do we raise princesses and princes who live in obedience to God and selflessness to those around them? My first thought is we need to cure "affluenza."

Recently, a teenaged boy stole beer from a convenience store and decided to drive while drunk. He eventually caused an accident that left 4 people dead. He admitted his guilt but his defense argued he shouldn't be sent to jail because his behavior was the result of affluenza - an indulgent family life devoid of discipline or expectations. Or, in our common vernacular, he was a spoiled brat.

So how do we prevent our children from being like the boy who thinks he is above rules and shows little regard for others? I think it comes down to having clear expectations with bountiful praise for obedience and clear punishment for defiance.

We recently implemented a behavior chart that lists 3 simple rules for Addie:
1. Love mommy and daddy by helping
2. Honor mommy and daddy by obeying
3. Love sisters and brother by being gentle

We created the rules with Addie's input, explained what each rule meant and brainstormed with her ways that she would live out the rules. We then put into place a system of rewards involving stickers that she could trade in for various prizes. We love this chart for several reasons: 
* Addie gets to see instant satisfaction when she helps us or shows love
* Addie has the option of exchanging her stickers for a simple reward or saving her stickers for a more elaborate prize, which teaches her delayed gratification and the benefits of saving vs. spending.
* The chart keeps us accountable for praising Addie when she is obedient

Some days are better than others. One day she earned 4 stickers before lunch. Another day she lost 2 stickers due to a string of tantrums. But in the past week I've seen her show more contrition when she disobeys, and have noticed her making obvious efforts to play nicer with her siblings and to volunteer her help.

I believe we are seeing a princess in the making.

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