Reading through the comments on last week’s debt discussion reminded me of some children’s discipline challenges I’ve thought about recently. Here are a couple short scenarios to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.
In hopes of motivating our three restless little ones to sit still (or at least with with their bums on the pew) and quietly during church, I often offer them an after-church-treat. Sometimes it works well and we have a great excuse to enjoy a little ice cream together after church.
Other times it backfires.
When one of the kiddos is loud or crazy and has to be taken out, that child loses his or her treat. The child knows this and is disappointed (which inevitably adds to the chaos). In addition, the older two kids have realized that once they have lost the chance of a treat, there is no incentive to be good anymore. Bad behavior turns to worse.
A friend recently described the discipline system at the school her children attend. A chart on the classroom wall has a space for each child’s name and a small colored card. All the students start the day with a green card. If a child receives a warning about behavior, the teacher replaces their green card with a yellow card, but there is no other immediate consequence. If a child who already has a yellow card merits further discipline, the yellow card changes to red, and that child misses recess for the day. There is no going back from red to yellow or green. Once a child is downgraded, he stays that way until the next day.
The problem my friend had noted was that once one of her boys got a red card, he had nothing left to try to be good for. What could be more awful than losing recess? The day was already a complete loss, so being ill-tempered about the whole thing, he would spend the rest of the day making himself and everyone around him as miserable as possible.
Do you remember the Mother Goose rhyme:
There was a little girl
And she had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead,
When she was good,
She was very, very good,
And when she was bad she was horrid.
This phenomenon applies not only to kids’ behavior, but to budgeting (and other goals) as well. When you feel like the budget is ruined on the first week of the month because of that expensive car repair (grrr!) it can be easy to want to throw in the towel for the rest of the month and decide to try again next month.
It’s Your Turn
Does this sound like your financial discipline? Do you cycle between very good and very bad at following your budget? Do you find that a moment of weakness or an unexpected expense that breaks a budget category, even if through no fault of your own, ruins your discipline for the rest of the month?