Consequences or Solutions?

by sarah on November 16, 2010

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My latest parenting struggle concerns my son. He is nine, and is an absolute joy to be around! He is funny, intelligent, kind, and courteous. He’s the kid I can count on to do what I ask him to do, the first time I ask it. He doesn’t complain about his chores, he adores his little sister, and he does very well in school.

My son loves to read, and often reads in bed. As such, we allow him to self-regulate his bedtime. That is, he doesn’t have a specific lights out, as his sister does. He’s allowed to read in bed as long as he wants, and then be responsible to turn out his own light and go to sleep whenever he wants, provided he can get up in the morning.

This has never been a problem; the kid is always the first one awake!

However, my struggle regards the fact that he’s been falling asleep in his glasses.

He’s had his glasses for over a year, and he definitely appreciates the improved eyesight he has when he wears them! Without them, the poor kid can’t even see the board while sitting in the front row.

The first time he fell asleep in his glasses, we talked to him the next day about how you shouldn’t fall asleep in your glasses; they can bend and they can break.

However, it kept happening.

So I told him that he may continue to read in bed, but his glasses need to be off his face and put away; his vision is not so horrible that he needs his glasses to read a book.

And still he slept in his glasses.

So I talked to him about just what can happen if he sleeps in his glasses all night; he can roll over on them, or put his face on his pillow in a funny way that can cause them to break. I stressed that he really needs to take off his glasses before he goes to bed.

“If your glasses break, you won’t have your glasses to wear!”

He seemed to understand. He agreed to take them off.

And then a day or two later he had begun sleeping in them again.

I got myself into the habit of popping my head in his room after I turned out his sister’s light, to remind him to take off his glasses.

It rarely worked.

My husband and I were at a loss; we had no idea what to do! We’d tried talking with him. We’d tried reasoning. We’d explained over and over that if his glasses break because he sleeps with them, then he’ll have broken glasses!

What should we do?

The natural consequence here is that if his glasses break, he will just be out of luck until insurance renews and he can get new ones. This is something that neither my husband nor I were willing to do, since if he can’t see, school and activities will be unbearable and impossible for him.

So we were down to logical consequences. One evening after I had once again remove our son’s glasses after he had again fallen asleep wearing them, we were frustrated and at the end of our ropes. After I went back into the living room, my husband and I each came up with an idea. My husband’s idea was that his free-reign in the evenings is eliminated. He’ll get a specific lights out time where he puts his book away, takes off his glasses, and turns out his light.

My idea was to charge him $5 every time he falls asleep with his glasses on. My thinking was that if his glasses break and he needs new ones, any money we collected from him would be used to buy the new glasses.

Were these good ideas? Bad ideas? At the time didn’t know; we were just very frustrated. All we knew something had to be done; we weren’t thinking entirely clearly.

I talked it over with our son the next morning:

“You and I have discussed about why you need to take your glasses off when you go to sleep, but it keeps happening, so something needs to change.” I then told him Daddy’s idea, my idea, and gave him the option to choose whichever one of those he liked better. Additionally, I gave him the option to come up with an entirely different idea of his own. The only condition was that I needed to know of his decision by that evening.

He came up with his own idea: “I will take off my glasses at 7:10 in the evening!”

I readily agreed: “Alright! Let’s do it!”

What really struck me about this arrangement is that my husband and I had been focused on consequences; that is, what will happen when something goes wrong. We took a pessimistic approach; we assumed something would go wrong, and so we wanted our son to see the importance of not doing the wrong thing. My son alone was focused on the solution! He was singularly focused on doing the RIGHT thing! Wouldn’t we all be better if we focused on solutions instead of consequences? What if everyone said, “Let’s fix this”, instead of warning us about what will go wrong.

In hindsight, I do wholly regret not including my son in the brainstorming session in the first place. Not only has he already participated in family brainstorming sessions, it was a grave disservice to him to leave him out of this one. I hope I won’t be guilty of leaving him out again.

In spite of me, though, he came up with his own solution!

How have you handled vexing parenting problems? What advice would you give to someone who currently had one?

Photo credit: Jerry

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sarah (35 Posts)

Sarah has been involved with API since 2002. She is the mother of two school-aged kids.


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