Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Recently, parenting has felt a bit like the ocean - continually changing and rolling. Every week new challenges get churned up, gently pushed into the surf and ultimately coughed up onto the shore (i.e. into my awareness.) I pray for this - a more acute awareness of what my children need - so I am thankful for the continual revelation. But sometimes it can be a little daunting to come up with solutions. I think we should use each other more in coming up with parenting solutions; surely we're dealing with similar issues. So I hope Bloom can once again be a forum for sharing insight and suggestion, especially on the tricky matters of parenthood.
For my contribution this week I thought I'd share the most recent problem we've confronted as parents, and the solution we came up with. I'd also love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on the matter.
I hope that the comment thread might be a place for you to share the challenges you're facing in your parenting and that other readers will have wisdom to share. This is also something we'd love to hear about via e.mail - the issues that are arising as your parenting sea changes and churns. We could post them and solicit wisdom and advice from this fertile little community of parents. Kind of like Ann Landers, except we all get to be Ann.
So. This week's dilemma at our home:
Since reading Clayton Christensen's book, "How Will You Measure Your Life" **(see footnote) Nate and I have been very mindful of helping our children develop processes and skills to solve their own problems. Henry's morning tendencies have become a glaring instance of where we've enabled bad habits and sluggish behavior. We realized we needed to make some changes that would foster more autonomy. For all his many talents and abilities, Henry is not much of a hustler and he is terribly distractable. Getting ready for school in the morning was pretty much just a steady stream of my reminders/doting and Nate's frustration. "C'mon Henry! It's time to be downstairs eating breakfast. Hurry up, Henry! Where are your shoes? Is your backpack packed? Comb your hair please, Henry." Every single thing that needed to get done required a prompt from us. And every single morning, Henry and Nate were rushing out the door in a huff, usually five minutes behind schedule. We all felt flustered and frazzled. And poor Henry was leaving the house feeling hen-pecked and half-hearted.
A few nights ago, Nate and I had a pow wow about it. What can we do to help him manage himself better? What consequence can we impose if he isn't ready to walk out the door at 7:35 that will motivate him to be more mindful the next morning? It is really hard to impose a consequence on Henry...he is so mellow and easy going, there aren't many things that ruffle his feathers. And he doesn't have a lot of easily-revokable privileges - he doesn't play video games, doesn't watch hardly any tv, doesn't play on the computer...and if we take away a beloved plaything, he'll just choose another, or go outside and split wood or something similarly mundane and enjoy himself immensely in the process.
But he loves to be read to. LOVES it. It's part of our nightly ritual that both of my kids just adore. So we decided that if Henry couldn't self-manage in the mornings, he would have to read by himself for a half hour in the afternoon (which would cut into his free time AND remove the beloved nightly ritual of reading together). I hate to impose that as a consequence because it feels like a punishment to me, too; I love our nightly reading as much as the children...but I have a feeling we won't be missing many nights. I have noticed that wisely-chosen consequences are extremely effective in changing behavior. Nate is a master at choosing consequences; I am so thankful for his insight in this aspect of parenting.
Last night we sat down with Henry and talked about the problems with our morning shuffle. He agreed that mornings are really stressful and rushed and that he hates being nagged all the way to the door. We talked about being a self-manager and brainstormed ways to help him be more successful and efficient in the mornings. I bought a little whiteboard to list the things he needs to do, always helpful to have a visual reminder. And we talked about things he could do the night before to make the morning less hectic (lay out clothes, find his shoes, pack his lunch, etc.) And then we told him that if he had trouble staying on task in the morning, he would have to do his reading independently in the afternoon. But if he was ready to go on time, we would read together at bedtime.
This morning was a success. Henry was ready to walk out the door at 7:30...it was Nate we were waiting for :) Henry felt good about being a self-manager and his last words to me were, "do we get to read together tonight?!"
I told him that we could and he walked out the back door with a big, "Yessssss!"
Do you have any additional advice for our mornings? How do you help your children be more efficient self-managers?
What issues are you confronting in your parenting right now? Let's talk about strategies & solutions!
(**I cannot recommend that book heartily enough. Seriously. Read it. Nate and I both read it just before Christmas - it was so enjoyable to read and discuss. Clayton Christensen is so incredibly insightful; you will reexamine every aspect of your life).