They are also close enough in age to either be each other's staunchest supporters (it is not uncommon for one to join the other in time out so the offender won't be alone) or to be each other's worst enemies. Of course, we want to do more than just curb their behavior. We want to shape their character, and more specifically, we want to guide them to follow Jesus more and more closely as they get older, and to understand his grace, allowing that to mold their actions and their hearts.
What we have been doing so far to nurture all that is to share the Bible with them, to talk about Jesus and the gospel when we rise up, and when we lie down, or drive in the car, or do our lessons (yes, my modern application of Dt. 11:19). I tell them all the time how much God loves them and what Jesus did for them and how the Holy Spirit will give them the power to make right choices that honor God.
And when our kids step out of line, I put them in time out. Or I threaten to. Or I yell. Or I use that scary low voice that I perfected as a teacher that is supposed to be worse than yelling. Or I ignore it because I don't have the energy to fight that particular battle on this particular day. My response varies with where I am, what else is going on, and how much energy I have at that moment.
I've read lots of good parenting books, from Have a New Kid by Friday to Give them Grace to Shepherding a Child's Heart. I've gotten some training about Love and Logic and I both watched AND read Supernanny (and every time my kids misbehave I imagine what Jo would say!). We have tried the Melissa and Doug Magnetic Responsibilities Chart and a chore system called "I Did It" only to have them fizzle after a few days. I know how important it is to be consistent, and I try to be consistent, but I'm not. Of course, I know that would help, but it is just hard, especially when you are an easily-distracted mom like me.
Enter my friend Caroline Allen. She and her husband have created a system called Character Badges, in part because (like me) nothing that was already out there was working for her either.
What Character Badges is
How it's working for us
Day 1: Our daughter is super excited. She envisions earning enough coins for a trip to Baskin Robbins and a manicure. She says "Yes, Ma'am" and "Yes, sir" all day long.
Day 2: Daughter is still on her best behavior. Chores are done with cheerfulness and diligence (two of the character traits that are rewarded). She gets more positive marks than negative ones, and accepts the consequences for her bad choices without a fuss.
Day 3: We battle bad behavior all day long and rack up the negative points and consequences. I lose it at one particular moment in the day and holler at her, tired of the bickering between her and her brother. She gets one point at the end of the day for cheerfulness (from the morning, because I wanted to encourage her in some way) and one for not chewing on her hair all day. Period.
Day 4: A challenging day because we spend a lot of it with other people or running errands. One in particular is near the end of the day in a store where they are required to just be quiet and wait. But...she does. She reads, quietly, and tries to get her brother to behave, too. When we get home, I give her a big hug and tell her how much I appreciated her behavior on our errands, and let her see me give her check marks for helpfulness, obedience and respectfulness.
So it is not a silver bullet that changes behavior overnight. But do you want to know the biggest change in behavior I am seeing? Mine. In both the good days and the bad ones, I am being more consistent. I am recognizing good choices and character growth more than in the past, and I am clamping down on bad behaviors that I might have ignored before because I was tired of sending the kids to time out again, and have it not make any difference. That change in myself alone makes me happy about using Character Badges.
Bottom line - yes, I recommend this. We are still using the "I Did It" chore system, since Character Badges is not designed to be a chore completion chart, and I am still using the principles that I have learned from some of the other books I mentioned. But Character Badges has helped me pull all of that together in a way that keeps me on track and, in return, is helping me to train our children as well.
Want more information about Character Badges? Check out their website here or contact me with any questions!