Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Reading as Discipline?

Rocketboy and Rocketgirl are quite the normal teens. They're really good kids, but they sometimes have trouble...following directions. As a result, both are currently grounded. Since Chuck and I get sick of giving the same old lectures, we try to choose our punishments carefully for maximum effect. For example, one of our most brilliant strategies is a snack of 1/2 a teaspoon of Wasabe paste for lying. This technique has dramatically cut down on the lying in our house or honed their skills to the point that we can't tell the difference anymore.

With this most recent grounding, I decided to be innovative in my "punishment" for Rocketgirl. Reading is a love we both share, and quite honestly, she hasn't been reading anything but books for school here lately. I also suspect that some of the kids' collective boneheadedness as of late is related to a sense of disconnectedness in our house. Ever since the family passing we had several weeks ago, everything just seems a bit askew. Voila! I decided that Rocketgirl's "punishment" would be to read five books of MY choosing before she's ungrounded. She has some measure of control over her own fate in how fast she completes the books, and it's a way to connect us a bit more over discussion of the books.

What did I choose for her?

  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver because I thought she would like it, I want to know how it is before I read it, and it's about love. That has teenage girl written all over it.
  • I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore because we'll probably go see the movie as a family when we have the time and some extra cash.
  • Sailing Alone Around the Room (poems) by Billy Collins because she recently asked for a poetry book, these are accessible and deal with the everyday, and there are quite a few about writing and reading.
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd because in some small way it reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird which she read and loved this past summer.
  • The Secret Lifes of People in Love by Simon Van Booy because she loves writing almost as much as reading, she specializes in short stories, and I know these will tug at her heart strings.
I have to say, I did question this unorthodox approach to "punishment" at first. Would it work? Would she "get" it? Would it really do us all any good?

It's only been a few days, but so far, things are great. She's finished Sailing Alone Around the Room, she's halfway through Delirium, and she's well on her way to finishing the rest. Sunday she came bounding down the stairs with Delirium open in her hands and said, "Andi! I'm in love with this book!" She then asked if she could add ANOTHER BOOK to her required pile--a review copy of a slim little volume called SkateFate by Juan Felipe Herrera (which she's already finished).

In short, it wasn't a traditional punishment, but a sneaky, step-mom way of slowing her down, getting her involved in something positive, that we can talk about, and that will structure her time a little more. I have to give myself a pat on the back this time. I think I'll do the same thing to Rocketboy the next time he needs straightening up. We'll see if it sticks! :)

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