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(A Screen Shot From my Computer)
Our family has been struggling recently with really crazy weekends. Bruce(6.5), Jenna(2.5), my husband and I all have so many interests, responsibilities, and pursuits that we approach our weekends with a list of expectations a mile long.
For my husband and me it means housework, yard work, grocery shopping, and time to relax?–what’s that??? For our kids, it means wanting adult attention 100% of the time. When it is just Bruce, Jenna and I alone at home, they both understand that at some point I’m going to make dinner and that they will be responsible for coming up with their own fun time. But when my husband is home…yikes! They won’t leave him alone for five minutes. My husband is such a wonderful, hands-on dad that it is hard for him to not let our children totally dominate him.
Often times Sunday night has rolled around and I have found myself telling my husband “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m really glad that tomorrow’s Monday and that things will get back to normal around here.” That’s usually when he tells me “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m really glad I’m going back to work!”
Obviously, something has to change. It’s not fair to either of us to be slaves to our children, our house, or our yard. So I tapped into the scheming part of me that was once a Psychology major, and came up with a behavior modification plan for our whole family. I call it Five Block Weekends. Here’s how it works:
The five blocks are: Friday afternoon, Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning, and Sunday afternoon. Every member in the family gets the opportunity to choose a Fun Time activity of their own choosing. Fun Time for a two year old might mean going to the park. Fun Time for a teenager might be a driving lesson. Fun Time for parents might be going to the tool store by yourself.
Mom and Dad get their own Fun Times outright. It is assumed that they have worked hard all week to help take care of the family and that they deserve their own three hour window of alone time. But kids have to earn their Fun Times by choosing to meet whatever expectations the parents lay out, two blocks in a row.
Right now the weekend expectations I have for my kids are that they will choose to be friendly, helpful, kind, pleasant and responsible. If one child has two great blocks in a row but the other doesn’t, then one sibling goes off to the beach for a picnic with Dad, while the other child sits at home and thinks. One child’s choice to be in a sour mood should not mean that the whole family’s weekend is ruined. I am giving my children control of their own outcomes. At the same time I’m being clear that they do not have control over other people’s time and opportunity to relax.
We have tried this plan one week so far and it’s worked out prettywell. Jenna got to go to Toys R Us to buy bubbles Saturday afternoon and to the frozen yogurt shop Sunday night. My husband went to REI Saturday morning, and I got to go grocery shopping by myself after church. That was awesome! Another unnamed family member made some different choices last weekend and has hopefully learned a lot. 🙂