BIRTHDAY AGE vs EMOTIONAL AGE
With 5 children adopted from Russia, we have even more extreme cases of delayed maturity than come with some kiddos. We have struggled helping the kids understand that they can't throw a tantrum in the morning and expect to go off to them movie with a friend later that day.
My husband was inspired with this fabulous idea that has worked EXTREMELY well for us.
We have made a list of activities and privileges that kids participate in -- boy scouts, having a friend over to play, going to a friends house, a sleep over, going on a campout, etc. We then broke those activities into age groups so that there is a list of activities that are allowed in our family for various age groups.
For example: you have to be 8 to go to boy scouts, you have to be at least 12 to have a sleepover, you have to be 10 to go to a friend's house, you have to be 9 to have a friend come over and play. Now -- our kiddos we are working with are all above the age of 8 so we don't have to deal with sounding extreme for not letting a child play with friends at a younger age -- we are dealing with emotional age not birthday age.
We also made a list of behaviors that typical children have at various ages -- tantrums by 2-4 year old, hitting a sibling by 4-6 year old, sneaking food 3-4 year old, raising voice at mom or dad by 2-4 year old, can't make own bed by a 4-5 year old, etc.
Now with that information on paper and explained a bit to the kids -- we started 3 of our kiddos at an emotional age equal to their birthday age. If a child has a day of difficulty with choices then their age will go down by 1 number. The age can only change 1 number up or down per day. The prevents from Dad and Mom losing it and taking a child down to zero in a stressful day! It also prevent the child from having stellar behavior in one day to gain a privilege and then retreat back to the baby the next day. There must be steady progress and consistency.
On the board above, is a list for each child in the family and their responsibilities after school. Next to the last 3 lists are little numbers and that is that child's emotional age.
Important: This is not something that we use as a threat or as a tool to lobby. We don't discuss it. At night, after kids have gone to bed then Dad or Mom will decide if the age should change or stay the same. When a child asks for a privilege then we just refer to the board. We stay out of the emotional games and we don't argue or discuss it. They know what it takes and can choose what age they want to be.
Also Important: We are very open with our kiddos that if it is too hard to be 8 or 9 or 11 then that is OK. I am completely OK with any of them being 3 or 4. I will treat them more like a little one and they won't have the same or as many responsibilities of jobs -- I'm OK with that! BUT they have to remember that they only receive the privileges of that age or I am not being a good mother because I am letting them go into situations they are not ready for. Who would send a 3 year old go alone to a 10 year old friends house without mom supervision???
This system has been one of the best we have used and believe me --- we have tried MANY!!!!