Dear Lucy: I have been trying to get my grandchildren to come in from school, do their homework, eat dinner and go to bed on time and get up on time for the next day. I have tried everything I know and they still half do their homework, snack on junk, act crazy when it's time to go to bed and don't want to get up in the morning. They are seven and 9 years old and I have had custody of them for just 6 months. I have tried threats, punishments, giving them treats and rewards. Nothing seems to work. I don't want to be too hard on them because they have already had a tough life before coming to me. I am a widow and I don't really mind having them in my home. But maybe I'm just too old for this. Any ideas?
– Old Lady
Dear "Old Lady": You are not alone in your journey.
Have you talked to school officials? Do you have time to go to the school and observe them in their classrooms? My point is that you really want to be sure that what's going on at home with you isn't showing up in some other way at school. If they are still struggling to make adjustments, it's happening at school also.
While teachers have a lot of students to care for during the day, teachers are more responsive to the parent or guardian who partners with them in helping their children. Your grandchildren may still be young enough to not be mortified and embarrassed by your showing up on a regular basis to their classes. Clearly, you could use some help and support!
"Hard" is a relative term. If you think you don't want to be 'hard' on them, you can bet they know it. As an older parent, you are simply tired sometimes and giving in is easier than fighting. Still, you are the grown person and you do have lots of power. It sounds like you love these kids dearly and they know this too. You love them so much that you took the time to write a letter seeking help.
Sometimes we try to add when we need to subtract. Look around at what you may be doing to make it easy for them to be disobedient.
What if they came home and there were no snacks to eat? What if the TV remote and power was not available during homework time? What if whining was never rewarded?
Check with the teachers to see if your grandchildren understand the homework and are able to do the same work at school. Maybe they are not being challenged or maybe they are ashamed that they can't do the work at home or at school. If they need help, ask for a tutor.
Could it be that most of the children in their school are on the free breakfast program? Maybe your food doesn't seem as desirable as the free food at school. Children are strange little beings. Growing up, I wanted to live in the projects like my friends, eat like, and dress like them. Fortunately, my Daddy understood this and would bring food to the school on occasion for the teachers. After they got through bragging about my Daddy's cooking and begging for more, I developed a real appreciation for home-cooked food.
But there were some things he wouldn't give in to. My mother had to cook a serious breakfast and we had to eat it before going to school! Your children may need to be helped into enjoying real food.
My mother had this idea that out-thinking us was fun and she was really quite good at it! Give yourself credit, "Old Lady!" You have lots of years of thinking and doing that these kids don't. They simply cannot out-think you. Make them think you have eyes in the back of your head. I thought my mother did up until I was a teenager. She did this by remembering her own childhood and putting herself in my place, predicting what I was thinking and doing pretty much all of the time. She was not above fixing the lights so they wouldn't turn on after a certain time. She was not above setting silly traps and punishments for not going to bed. For fun, she would jump into bed with us in the morning and put ice down our chest, if we didn't get up after her second call!
While life is much different than it was when we were children and people say that children are different today, I refuse to accept that. They are still children and they beg for discipline, boundaries and lots of thoughtful loving. You have it on your heart to give it to them. Trust your own intellect. Also know that God has not given you anything to do that He has not sent all the help you need for it. EXPECT to be successful in this huge challenge and by God's grace you will be.
(For help with the feelings that get in the way of prayer and peace of mind, get Lucy's new book, "BE NOT ANXIOUS." Order it directly from her at 901-907-0260 or go to her web site www.heartworks4u.com.)