Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The "I'm Sorry, but" Jar.

     This last Sunday I sat at my in-law's Thanksgiving celebration with absolutely no idea for a blog.  My kids were all present, and I was reminded that, if you have a bad memory like me, it pays to have your kids repeat back your stories to you.  This blog idea came from my daughter Molly and I had forgotten about it completely until she reminded me.  

     I think we used an old pickle jar.  You see, when our daughter Molly was 11 or 12, she had developed a bad habit of "apologizing" for bad behaviors, but always conditionally.  She followed every single "I'm Sorry" with the word "but".  She couldn't just admit that her actions were wrong without conditionally trying to blame the bad behavior on something or someone else. Now admitting we were wrong was something that both my wife and I have struggled with, at one time or another, ourselves, so we recognized that it was a bad behavior that was best nipped in the bud, so we came up with the idea of the "I'm sorry jar".  It was a brilliant stroke of parenting, or so we thought, until we presented the idea to the aforementioned offender.

    That's the problem with 11 or 12 year-olds, they have no appreciation for great parenting, they don't have the perspective yet.  We presented the idea one day after school.  We had decided to wait until she actually said the phrase and then tell her our plan to help cure this bad habit.  It was simple and based off the "Swear Jar" concept, which I had used myself a few years earlier to help me to curb a bad habit of mine.  Each time we heard her use the phrase, she would have to put money into the jar.  I don't recall if it was a quarter or a dollar, but each and every time, that money was due. The first payment came instantaneously.  In trying to explain why she was using the phrase she immediately went to her old stand-by, in order to blame this behavior on someone other than herself.  "I'm sorry but", she started. "I only say that because......"  It proved our point immediately. Ka-ching!  She wasn't on board with the plan, but in this house, parenting isn't negotiated.  At the point that my kids have more years experience of being a parent, then I do, then I'll ask their opinion, until then, this system seems to work.  The jar took it's place on top of the fridge in the kitchen, where it could be seen and accessed pretty quickly.

Not as relevant, but what can I say, I like Batman.
     The first week using the jar, was filled with tears, raw emotion, and foot stomping.  Molly didn't do too well that week either.  The jar started at a pace that would surely allow enough money for the family to take a vacation.... in Paris..... at the Ritz......flying first class......(you get the picture).  Every time we heard the phrase uttered, we'd stop her in her tracks and make her pay the fee.  Immediately.  That's one thing I have learned about parenting and that is to put the punishment as close to the crime as possible, so that your kids better connect the dots that something they did was egregious and that it had consequences.  Another parent coined the phrase to "Never spank your kid while you are Angry".  That sounds really good in theory, but in practice?  I'm supposed to wait until I'm no longer upset or mad that they were bad and then spank them?  I'm no psychologist, but tell me how the relationship with your kids gets better when they are always watching for you to jump out and spank them at random times?  AHA ! "Remember last week when you did that thing...."  That doesn't really work.  But I digress, the jar was filling up fast ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching. 
Molly and her friend Danielle
     Week two we went from the denial to the negotiation phase.   Molly actually stopped herself from saying "but" and started using "however" instead.  A quick trip to the Thesaurus looking up synonyms for "but" stopped this trend.  We took the liberty of eliminating "nevertheless", "although" and "yet" while we were there.  What it proved to us was, she was indeed capable of stopping herself, it was just going to take a little more time...and money (hers, not ours).  It probably took less than a month total to be able to declare Molly "cured" of this habit.  The spacing between slip ups became longer and longer and the pickle jar went into early retirement.  I'm pretty sure we refunded the money to her as a reward for curbing the bad behavior, that sounds like us anyway, we are carrot and stick type parents.  The fact that Molly remembered this so clearly and we did not, probably adds a little credence to this method, and I wonder if, even today, she can say the word "but" after the words "I'm sorry", without glancing over her shoulder.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, you don't have to invent how to be a parent, it's already been done correctly many times before, and help comes from the most unlikely places sometimes, even from old pickle jars. 



1 comment:

cdyarger said...

Love this blog, and I so remember this one! I think Dan was always reluctant to even say "I'm sorry" after that, lol! It worked though!