Love and LogicbySelena_Kitt©
There's a sort of parenting tactic called "Love & Logic" that we try to practice as much as we can with our children. It's all about natural consequences. This is what it says on their website:
Children learn the best lessons when they're given a task and allowed to make their own choices (and fail) when the cost of failure is still small. Children's failures must be coupled with love and empathy from their parents.
I like this particular approach because I'm never the bad guy. I don't spank, I don't impose many parent-initiated consequences that cause resentment. The kids learn personal responsibility and independence. And I get to be empathetic instead of mad. It works out pretty well.
And it even works with husbands.
I adore Mr. Kitt - I think he's the cat's meow. He's brilliant, insightful, kind, generous... I am a very blessed woman, and I know it. :) But he is, of course, human... and not without his faults. One of them is organization and resource management. The good news is, I'm fantastic at those things. I can balance a budget on the tip of one finger. I'm telling you, I'd give Hillary a run for her money!
But that also means Mr. Kitt has, over the years, come to depend on me to do those things. Which, after a while, becomes tedious. And frankly, I think a forty year old man should be able to keep track of a check register, don't you? So, two years ago, I gave up the finances. I handed them over and feigned frustration. I can't do this anymore, I said. You handle it.
Then, I applied love and logic. Because frankly, Mr. Kitt's parents never did. They are very generous with their money - to a fault. All Mr. Kitt has to do is hold out his hand, and things are put into it. And I don't mean $20 here or there. I mean things like cars, college educations. You name it. Well, he names it - they provide it. Which gave Mr. Kitt a sense that the world will always provide, money is always available, an unlimited resource. Consequently, he burns money like George W. Bush burns fossil fuels.
All of this I knew when I handed over the finances. I understood I'd have some issues to deal with. The major difference between love and logic with a child and love and logic with an adult is the consequences. They are much bigger when you're dealing with an adult. Which is why it makes sense to teach this sort of thing to children long before they have major consequences to face. But sometimes adults get to this point, and they haven't learned this lesson in some areas of their lives. (I know I'm lacking in a few myself...) You see this issue a lot with addicts, and it's part of where the "tough love" idea came from. You stop enabling someone, and then you let them pay the consequences.
Of course, if you live with that someone, you end up paying them, too.
I knew what I was in for - things like bounced check fees, late mortgage payments, bad credit. But if I ended up with a husband who understood the value of money and could balance a checkbook, to me, it was worth it.
So I said.
So I kept saying.
Hundreds of dollars in fees later... (gritting teeth) So many late mortgage payments I finally pulled the plug and we moved closer to his work and attempted to sell the house in a short sale. (wince) Bankruptcy. (Complicated by a health-issue that landed him in the hospital three days before insurance kicked in, but still... ouch!)
I even ended up in jail.
I sat there in a little cell next to a drunk woman with puke drying on the front of her t-shirt and wondered, what in the hell was I doing? Was this really worth it?
You see, Mr. Kitt had forgotten to pay a speeding ticket. I got one for going five over on a side street near home. It was a stupid ticket, all the way around. It's always annoying to have to pay $75 for something stupid, and I think Mr. Kitt was annoyed at the whole concept. So he didn't pay it. Eventually, my license was suspended. Only, I didn't know it. Because he hid the notice, meaning to pay the ticket. Except he forgot. Again. And I got pulled over one night on the way to a birth. And arrested for driving on a suspended license.
I was booked, Danno. Printed. Mug shot. The whole deal.
You can imagine the scenario when Mr. Kitt posted my bail and picked me up from the police station, can't you? At this point, I was ready to shove a Love and Logic book up his ass to see if he could absorb it through osmosis. But I didn't. I also didn't scream, yell or berate. I cried. And believe me, I felt like crying. I felt like burying my head and weeping for days. I said I didn't know how much longer I could live like this. And I meant it.
Mr. Kitt was sorry - truly sorry. Of course he didn't mean to get me arrested. And I think, perhaps, this particular consequence was the one that really hit home, even though it happened to me instead of him. Maybe because it happened to me instead of him. Hurting someone else can often impact us more than hurting ourselves.
It took him a long time... (Mr. Kitt moves in what I call "glacier time." He does move... you just can't see it happen!) But he's finally got it down. He pays the bills on time, without incurring extra fees to pay them late. He keeps a check register and knows the bank balance at all times. He worries about money now in a way he never did before.
Just last night, he brought home some over-the-counter medicine I asked him to pick up for one of the sick kids and as he handed it to me, he said, "Use it sparingly, that stuff might as well be liquid gold for what it cost!" I actually did a double take. In the past, he wouldn't have thought twice about picking up a seven dollar bottle of anything. He wouldn't have even considered it, he just would have done it and assumed the money was there to make the purchase.
Last week, he made an honest mistake. We recently changed banks, and he paid a bill out of our old account by accident. It was an online payment, and he just chose the wrong account in the dropdown box. It was an accident. Trust me, I've had them myself. Once, I paid our mortgage twice in one month due to an online error on my part. Ouch. To say money was tight that month is like saying Karen Carpenter was a little too thin.
And of course, now we have the usual fees to pay for bounced checks (because nothing was in the other account to cover it, of course, all our money was transferred to the new account) but I could empathize with Mr. Kitt. I did and do.
Little honest mistakes I can handle, they happen to everyone. But I have a feeling the big ones, the totally unconscious ones, those are gone for good. That Love and Logic thing really does work, if you're willing to watch someone else suffer the natural consequences of their actions... and yeah, sometimes you have to suffer them right along with them. *sigh* I think I've done my time - literally - in the service of natural consequences. At least, I hope so.
(p.s. By the way, yes I did make it to the birth after I was pulled over and arrested... and the baby was beautiful!)