Consequences or Solutions?

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. Lot of companies do recommend insuring your student property so that big losses are not incurred in unlikely events or accidents.

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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

Author: sarah

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

3 thoughts on “Consequences or Solutions?”

  1. Thank you for sharing this story. In a way, it should be obvious — don’t we seek solutions to the problems we face in most areas of our lives? And yet it might never have occurred to me to think about discipline in this way.

  2. Great story Sarah.
    Your son is definitely a special and smart child.
    In business we always talk about focusing on solutions not on problems, but often don’t apply that to our everyday life.
    I think attachment parented children are more likely to think the right way, because they don’t act for fear of punishment but because they understand, they think things over, they are respected not threatened …

  3. What a cutie. You’ve perfectly described here the consequences of focusing on what you don’t want (falling asleep in glasses) and getting more of it! I’m now trying to teach my 8 and 6 year-old girls how to manage playtime with their 2-year-old sister. When I hear them telling her (loudly) to NOT do something, I come in and ask for them to find something that she can do and to show her how. It’s a nice reminder for me to focus on what I do want.

    I’m glad this is working out. As I was reading this, I was thinking that perhaps you could put the glasses case in the bathroom so that he has a logical sequence: brush teeth, remove glasses, put in case. Or something similar. He probably does not realize he is wearing them. I often step into the shower with my glasses on without realizing it. I just don’t feel them on my face now because they are a natural part of me.
    Great post!

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