I love to watch my children succeed. They get excited. Their eyes get all bright. They smile. I can be a sucker for a smile. So, it's really tempting to let things slide in order to see them succeed. Except that when I do that, they really don't succeed at all. Okay, follow me here: If I give them a challenge, and then change the rules so that they win, they haven't really won anything.
For example, this evening Dominic really wanted to encourage the girls to clean up the playroom without Reagan who'd done so much to help during the day that he was given the evening off from his chores. So, he told them that if they got it all cleaned up in 45 minutes (which was totally doable) he'd give them each six tickets, which is a real treat. That's some serious Nintendo Wii time with six tickets.
They didn't do it. Piper got frustrated with Bridget and went to bed. Bridget wanted to sit around. They didn't get the playroom cleaned up before bedtime. Dominic wanted to keep them up until they finished, but I could totally see what would happen. There would be whining, there would be tears, and we'd attempt to fix it by offering them something for finishing. It would be bad. Because we offered them a choice, and wouldn't be respecting the choice they made. So I decided to do something else.
Since they didn't finish their chores, they lost a ticket. They know that's how it works. They were sad, but they didn't argue about it. And then they went to bed. Bridget came back to tell me she was upset that she hadn't gotten the extra tickets she'd hoped for. I told her that earning those tickets was a choice, and she made the choice not to earn them, and I was going to respect that choice. She went to bed sad.
Part of me wanted to go after her and make it all better. But I didn't. We love rewarding them and encouraging them. But sometimes they learn more from failure than they do from success. I think the disappointment of not earning her tickets may do more to encourage her to work hard than anything trying to appease her.
It is ridiculously hard to watch my children fail. But at the same time, I think I'm doing the right thing both by allowing them to make choices and respecting them when I don't like the choice they've made. I think it will be so much better to allow them to fail in a safe space, with little things like this. Then maybe they'll believe me and trust me when they're older and the stakes are higher. At least I hope so.