The Bad Day Experiment

I was inspired by this pic I found over at kdelap.com today.

It was just the message I needed, and so I decided to share it over on FB …

It’s great isn’t it? Truth – plain and simple.

It hits home hard right now as I have friends going through some seriously challenging times.

Times that make the nastiest divorce or a kid’s broken arm look like a walk in the park.

Times that mean you have to figure out how you’re going to possibly say goodbye to your elementary-age children while facing your own mortality as bravely as you can – at the age of 38.

Times that mean you just buried your 31-year-old brother who was a victim of violent crime.

Times that mean you’re facing degenerative brain diseases much too young.

My heart breaks for them, and I am slapped – hard – in the face regarding the relative ease of my own life. Seems like we get these opportunities for perspective frequently if we’re just paying attention.

Divorce is no fun – but it’s not likely to kill me.
Dealing with difficult children is frustrating, but I know so many who can’t have children and would love to have a kid to fuss at.
Missing your mother who’s passed on is hard and sad, but so many never have the strong and wonderful relationship I had with my mom – or never had their mom present at all.

I need these reminders, daily, possibly even hourly. I am okay. My life is good.

I have to say though, I was (sorta) surprised by the response to the FB post.

Immediately, some of the kindest and most empathetic people I know chimed in – they agree – and they’re no surprise. They’re kind and thoughtful people – college educated and not, social and anti-social, friends from very different walks of life, and there’s no real commonality (other than MY amazing friendship of course!) other than a generally kind and empathetic heart.

What surprised me, and probably shouldn’t have, is that so many people I know, who are financially stable, healthy and, though not without problems, aren’t immediately facing their mortality or similar, have no comment. People who are actively posting that they need prayer and positive thoughts on a regular basis – just to get through an average day – people who spend so much time on FB that if I post a cute pic of a kitten or funny video of screaming goats, they’re on it in .042 milliseconds.

Nothing. Nada.

If I’m honest – to an extent it was bait. I saw several people, people whom I’ve stuck my neck out for in the past, people who always seem to run right back into the mess they ran out of, post “Pray for me!” type-things today.

And it struck a nerve.

Yes – we can all use and deserve a prayer or positive thought.

Yes – everyone has a different perspective and is in a different place.

Yes – some things are harder to see through to the other side of than others.

BUT – I feel like it’s our duty as human beings to take a step back out of our own mess long enough to see what’s going on in the rest of the world.

Yes – some things feel and seem like the end of the universe. But if you’re in the position to post on FB about it – you have something to be thankful for.

So – take it for what it’s worth – but the next time I’m feeling all ‘Woe is me’ – I’m going to try to turn that focus outwards – think of someone who needs those prayers more than I do. Think a positive and happy thought or say a prayer for that person.

And maybe my load will seem just a little bit lighter. Maybe it won’t. But at least it was off my mind for a minute or two if nothing else – and I’ve sent some good out into the universe for a fellow human.

It’s all transient.

Try to find some joy – and when you can’t find it in your own situation – give it to someone else – it always comes back.

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Because irises should bring us all joy. 🙂

** Bad Day Picture posted with the permission of Kristen Delap – Please visit her lovely corner of the web at kdelap.com. She has blog posts about writing and chickens and mommying – and is available for custom lettering and has prints for purchase!

Why I don’t reward for expected behavior.

I can hear many parents (and kids) out there growling at me right now. But bear with me.

When I say I don’t reward for expected behavior, I am NOT implying I don’t ever incentivize or reward my children.

I am not above mentioning the potential (begging) for a milkshake if they can get through the next hour without my having to explain on a conference call that I’m working with the kids in the background. I am certainly not above treating us all to donuts for breakfast because it’s the first day of spring break/summer/Tuesday – you get the idea.

However, it’s important to me that my kids to understand that life doesn’t consist of doing a task and getting a treat. Sometimes you do things because they’re kind or thoughtful – or darn it – they just need to be done. No one has ever given me a cookie for mopping the kitchen floor or taking out the trash. My reward is a nonsticky floor and not overflowing trash can. So……

I don’t reward for grades/similar.

I know this ruffles feathers for some. But I don’t. I have one kid who is a straight-A student, all the time. She does not receive money or treats or, well, anything for grades. It’s expected that school is her job and she’ll do her best. They do an honor roll breakfast at school, and that’s a gracious plenty. I also love that at their school, it’s not a parent-filled celebration. It’s a yummy breakfast for 30 minutes, and then off to class!

Do we grab a treat after she rockstars out her speech on living history day? Sure! She did something she was apprehensive about, and did it with gusto. THAT I’ll reward. But going to school every day and doing ‘her job’? Nope. Do your best. It’s expected.

My son doesn’t perform as well – he doesn’t get rewarded or punished, so long as I know he’s trying his best. He may never be the A-student that she is, but he does have to work his hardest and to the best of his ability. He gets the same attaboys for breaking through something that was a struggle as she does.

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An evening by the fire pit is a perfect “starting the weekend” reward – for all of us!

I don’t reward for good manners or good behavior.

Again, It’s expected. I’m not giving you a treat because you were on green all week or came home one day on blue (or whatever the heck color is better this school year.) As far as I’m concerned, that’s basically treating you for not being a pain in the teacher’s ass.

You don’t get a prize for holding the door for a stranger. A pat on the back and “That was kind – thank you for being kind to others!” You bet. Treats? Nope.

Now – when a kid finds themselves in a truly adult situation (like a funeral) and pulls out all the stops? Again, that might be cause for a slushie or pack of gum – a “your amazing self-control made a hard situation easier, and I’m grateful” reward.

I didn’t reward for potty training.

You heard me. No treats for potty usage. Both of mine potty trained over a weekend. I didn’t give them a choice. They were each old enough to understand what was happening in the big toilet and that if they didn’t make it to the potty, wetness was happening.

Was it 1,000% fun for me? Nope – but having a kid who was potty trained when they went back to daycare on Monday – oooooooh yeah. I was happy, the daycare workers were happy. It was all win. (Pull ups at night/naptimes as needed are a different story, and I’ll advocate for all day long. I am also aware that this doesn’t work for everyone so don’t start chucking stones here.)

I don’t reward or pay for chores.

The kids empty/fill the dishwasher some days. You ate on the dishes. They put away their clean clothes. You wore the clothes. I washed them. You can put them away. How I feel about giving kids responsibility is a whole other post that we will certainly cover soon. You live in this house, and to a degree that is appropriate for your age, you can contribute to the running of it.

The baseline here is that I don’t reward for things humans are generally expected to do.

Do I thank them for being considerate and kind? Oh boy, I do. Do I help and give guidance while they’re doing their chores? Yup. Can I check and assist with homework? Of course! This doesn’t mean we’re all drill sergeant in my house – it just means that I’m trying to teach them, that when we all do our part, we all get to enjoy our time.

So if you’re hankering for getting out of the reward cycle, give it a try. I am the first to say that everyone has to do what works best for them – this is what works for me – right now. Ask me next month, I might be the queen of rewards. 😉