by Ginger Plowman

Editor’s note:  This week Ginger Plowman has been a guest on our daily radio program, FamilyLife Today, and has been speaking about “Disciplining With Love.”  We asked Ginger to write a couple of guest posts for FamilyLife MomBlog, and it has been our pleasure to introduce you to her and Preparing the Way Ministries.

One of the cons to home schooling is the issue of no accountability to be “at school” on time. You see, Mom isn’t quite as intimidating as a principal. There is no teacher to interrupt by walking into class 20 minutes late, and there is no sense of embarrassment induced by 20 sets of eyes staring you down. Detention hall? What’s that?

This school year started out no differently, with me announcing the wake-up time the night before, the kids agreeing to the wake-up time the night before, and the whole plan going to pot the next morning. The first week of school involved me walking past their bedroom doors every morning in ten minute intervals with statements like, “You need to get up!” (I turn on the coffee pot.) “Why are you not up?” (I check email.) “Are you still not up?” (I pour a cup of coffee.) I thought I told you to get up!” (I return a phone call.) The next thing I know, I am totally frustrated. Standing in the hall, draped in my over-sized white terrycloth robe, one hand on my hip and the other gripping my coffee mug, I blurt, “What is the matter with you people? It is TEN O’CLOCK in the morning!”

I don’t understand. I spent the first five years of their lives trying to keep them in bed, now I can’t get them out of it. I do understand that at 12 and 15, they have the whole hormonal change thing going on, but do they really need that much sleep? Finally, after much contemplating, I realized I am doing them no favors by allowing them to be irresponsible and … well … I don’t want to say “lazy” as I really do think tweens and teens need extra sleep. However, they also need to be accountable and responsible. They need to learn to wisely govern their own time, rather than becoming dependent on me to do it for them.

The solution began with a trip to Walmart. I allowed both kids to pick out their own alarm clocks. We made the purchases (I even threw in a couple of packs of gum for good measure), and made our way home. Making sure they knew how to set their alarms properly, I announced, “From now on, you may decide what time you get up in the mornings.” They looked as though they were going to faint. Then, as the realization that they had not misunderstood sunk in, excited grins spread across two adorable faces. I continued, “Yes, you guys are old enough to get up on your own, without me nagging you. Therefore, I will no longer tell you to get out of bed.” It was like Christmas morning in the Plowman home.

I allowed them to celebrate my greatness for a few minutes, soaking in all the hugs and kisses. “With your new freedom, there also comes a few responsibilities,” I added. “Oh! Anything, Mom!” they agreed. “I expect both of you to be showered, have your rooms clean, devotionals done, breakfast eaten, and in the school room working on your assignments by 9:00 A.M.” My aim used to be 8:30, so the extra thirty minutes seemed more than fair to them. They could get up whenever they wanted, as long as they were responsible to fulfill the requirements.

What would happen if they slept too long and didn’t meet my requirements? That was easy. We are a Netflix family. After dinner each night, we often watch a show. Each morning, the choice is theirs. If they choose to be responsible in the morning, they get to enjoy the freedom to watch a show at night. If they choose to not be responsible in the morning, they lose the freedom to watch a show at night.

I had been hindering my children from learning to be responsible with their time by taking on that responsibility for them. They had become dependent on me managing their time for them. Now, they are learning to govern their own actions and take responsibility for their own time. The results? Mornings around the Plowman home have become much more peaceful!