Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bench Captains

Bicker, bicker, bicker. And them some more bickering.

I was getting in the van a couple of Sundays ago and the kids were bickering about who should sit where. For some reason, when we hop in the car with four or fewer kids, there never seems to be a problem. But when all seven are there, things often don’t go well.

Tired of these frequent life-is-unfair-if-I-have-to-sit-here events, I spent that drive trying to come up with a new “system for success.” (One of my favorite things to do as a father of a big family is to try to come up with a “system for success” that makes a problem go away. You may recall the shoe bins, for example.)

After hearing the kids voice their preferences/complaints, the “system for success” struck me – bench captains. Here are the new rules for engagement for child van loading.

The three oldest kids are bench captains who are in charge of the bench that they are currently sitting in. Each bench captain has assigned to them one younger child who is a permanent part of their team. Every time we get into the van, the teams rotate benches. If a younger child has an issue/question about where someone is sitting, they may only talk to their bench captain about it. The bench captains can confer about things as needed, but the only time an issue goes to the car captain (a.k.a. Dad) is when the bench captains can’t agree. (I am happy to report that no appeals have been made to the car captain yet.)

This is the gist of it, although there are several other minor rules such as “If you arrive at the van and think that someone is in your seat, don’t get in the van and tell them. Rather, wait for your bench captain to arrive and make your appeal to them.” Or, on the more technical side, there is this beauty of a rule: “Due to the fact that Anna sits in a car seat in the middle bench making things a little tight, any small child whose current turn is the middle bench can exercise their option to sit in the back bench instead. Exercising this option does not count as their ‘turn’ in the back, and therefore will result in them sitting in the back bench twice in a row.”

Last Sunday we all got in the car and I turned to CrazyMom and said, “Did you notice that?”

“Notice what?” she asked.

“We just got in the car and there was not a single comment about where anybody was sitting.”

Needless to say, I am in love with my bench captains.

P.S. Now, for all of you who think that we are short circuiting the learning process by putting in place rules to follow rather than teaching our kids how to act upon underlying principles such as thinking of others before thinking of yourself, you are right. However, in my defense I would like to point out that with seven kids in my home, I have approximately 253 other opportunities per day to teach principle-based conduct. Besides, I think the only lesson that they were learning from my “teaching” before was “Gee, Dad can get mad really fast when we are getting in the car.”


susieloulou said...

You are so creative. My BIL told me the oldest gets too much responsibility and not enough privileges, so we just decided the oldest could pick, and go in order. They pretty soon knew where they wanted to be, and if anyone was missing, that was simple, too :-)

Mama D.'s Dozen said...

Love it!

Our oldest also always get the front seat or bench. Depending on how many teens/young adults are with us, they sometimes make room for a Young One on the bench, too.

This leaves 4 Young Ones to fight/argue/bicker over the 2 back benches. So, Mama just assigns seats every time we leave the house. If you've been in trouble, you are pretty much guaranteed the back bench. If there has been no one in trouble, than Mama tries to rotate who gets to sit where.

I, too, have MANY opportunities to teach character traits, so I have no problem being the dictator in this situation.

:) :) :)

Anonymous said...

We have "weeks." Each child is the given one week to pick chairs in the van, house during reading time, fix their supper first on movie night, Give thanks or the meals, etc. This is rotated by age order. So the child who picks last this week will pick 7th next week and 6th the next. Eventually everyone is first and everyone is last.
However, after a few rotations, everyone was picking the same seats everytime (the oldest two always choose the front seat and the youngest two almost always pick the back row even wehn they pick first) so we don't even pay attention in the car anymore.
When they know they will have a turn to pick first they don't seem to care nearly as much.
Your method teaches leadership skills and delegation so it's still characture/principle training. Just a different area of life.

Anonymous said...

Love it! So glad you shared. We are slowly working our way out of car seats and toward a fuller van, so I will definitely write this on the fly leaf of my memory for a future date.