Speaking of children…
Probably yours are always well-behaved. Probably yours never squabble over dinner, or while doing chores, or (my personal favorite) in the backseat of the van on the way to church? Probably you just say “Love one another, dears” and they drop their quarrels?
I thought so.
But mine are human, and riding in the van is at times my own personal torment. We’re in a space the size of a closet and no one can move without bumping someone, speak without rattling ear drums, or step out for a moment’s peace. We have five opinions about music choices (“I want the OLD Kings’ Singers!”), game selections (“I am SICK of I-Spy!”), volume levels (“Guys, I can’t hear myself think!”), temperature controls (“I’m so hot I’m gonna die. Can you open the window?” “No sweetie, it’s blizzarding so hard I can’t even see the road…”), and a myriad of other domestic matters.
Irritations grate harder, words and actions get out of control, and parents are immobilized by seatbelts. Consequences are postponed and therefore not much to worry about, apparently; and if anyone is in a bad mood or predisposed to pick on a sibling, there is no escape.
I have a little piece of magic to tell you about.
A stoplight system on the sun visor.
All you need is garage sale stickers and a paper clip. The clip starts off to the side, and is moved by the parent as needed. Green light is a warning—please stop what you’re doing. Yellow light is a warning and a moderate consequence when we get home—they know what it is. Red light is a warning and a stiff consequence—yup, they know that one too. We have a stoplight for the 4-year-old and another for the 7-year-old, and sometimes a verbal one for the rest of us. All colors are reset when we exit the van.
I can’t tell you what a relief this has been. It’s concrete and visual: a powerful motivation. No hounding: just moving a paper clip. No forgetting to enforce: the tale is right there.
To those who will think this system hopelessly lenient: no, I do not always warn my kids three times before letting the hammer drop. And to those who think it impossibly strict: no, I don’t believe in letting children act as they please without a reckoning. But we could all use an extra dose of grace, especially in the van, and including Mommy… I’m still learning.
What do you think? Anyone up for a road trip?