The Top 2 Most Ineffective Words in ALL of Parenting

The other day, I made a little video on my phone of my youngest boy. Of course, I had to have him repeat his question for the video because the first time he asked, I didn’t have any video recording running. I should just run video nonstop at my house. After all, I have three boys – feel sorry for me.

I was in the kitchen baking and The Little Guy came up and asked, “Mommy, if I make this noise (something between grunting like a pig and clucking his tongue or some concoction of extreme annoying noise) when I’m near you, would you say ‘Stoppit’?”

“Stoppit”
“Stop-it”
“Stop It!”
And “Quitit”
“Quit It”

They’re actually 4 words in total, but they roll of my tongue so rapidly and frequently that it seems as if it’s just 2 words after all.

I can’t even count how many times a day I say these simple “words” but clearly enough that the boys identify them as frequently used enough to completely ignore them. And they are right – these words are entirely ineffective.

The other day, Super Tall Guy lay on the floor wiggling and kicking around his feet. I kept repeating “quitit” “Quit IT!!”….he kept moving. I kept getting frustrated seeing all the papers that were being scattered and how he was kicking into Mr. Ornery also rolling around on the floor. “Quit it!” and yet he was not stopping.

Clearly my words were not helping him understand what his behavior was and why it was such a problem. “Super Tall Guy, please stop moving your feet around. You are messing up my papers and kicking your brother.” “Oh,” he replied, “I didn’t know.” My first thought was ‘how in the world would you not know? Don’t you feel yourself knocking into things?!? What’s wrong with you?’ But that question is not helpful. My commands were not helpful. I needed to educate him on exactly what was the problem and help him see how he was affecting the world around him.

“Yes, Little Guy, when you make that noise near me it makes my brain feel really crazy and Mommy doesn’t like it. But you can make that noise in another room if you want to.” Now the Little Guy can make an association between his behavior and how he is affecting the world around him. He can also choose to make annoyingly obnoxious noises in another space if he would like (for example, beside his older brothers who just punch him or start copying him!). What he now knows is that Mommy doesn’t just yell “stoppit” and “quitit” all the time for no apparent reason.Im perfect

I mean, I do. I do say them all the time.

But the first step to change is admitting you have a problem.

And visualizing the change you want to be.

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How do you build persistence?

I walked into Brighton Music Center last week. I thought I would be carrying a big bulky cello with me to return the rented instrument. For the past several months, Super Tall Guy has said “I’m quitting” every single week after cello and then orchestra practice at school. Every single week. “I hate missing recess” (happens rarely). “I hate taking it on the bus” (not even once a week does he do that). “I’m not going to practice” (that’s true – he hardly ever took it out of his case at home).

And every week, I would reply, “You can’t quit yet. You chose this instrument. You have to stick to your commitment until your concert in January.”

The next rental payment was due the day before the concert. Super Tall Guy spent the day grumping, “I’m not going to wear those shoes, they’re too tight.” “I’m not dressing up.” “I don’t have any dressy long pants.” “I’m wearing my tennis shoes.” “I’m not going to the concert.”

I wondered if it would be okay to return the instrument the day after the concert. We’ve never had an instrument in the house other than the piano which is definitely out of tune and woefully neglected by the only individual who can create a tune on it. I just didn’t want to pay a month’s worth for just two days of cello use.

The day of the concert was the first day of real snow of the season and we braced ourselves against the wind walking to the auditorium. Kids wandered up and down the aisles. Parents searched for rows that had enough empty seats to meet their “save me a seat” requirements.

Tuned and ready!

Tuned and ready!

Super Tall Guy meandered to the front to join the throng of kids waiting to have instruments tuned by very patient music teachers.

And then they began. It took a few notes, but soon each song became recognizable. Most of these third graders started four months ago without any musical ability. It was not until last month that they started to use the bow rather than just plucking the strings. It’s an impressive feat for a music teacher to turn 70 rambunctious 8 and 9-year-olds into musicians.

“Well, Super Tall Guy,” I queried as we stepped out into the night, “What did you think?” “It wasn’t bad” – and voila, we’re not taking the cello back yet, I thought to myself!  “Maybe some day you’ll be playing Cello Wars Lightsaber Duel!” “Nah, it makes blisters on my fingers.” Ah, sigh….

I’ll just rejoice in the fact that I’m plopping down a check on the music store counter instead of an instrument and hold out hope that he’ll persist for a bit longer with the cello (maybe at least until the Spring Concert). And I’ll be grateful for a passionate music teacher who inspires new musicians, a committed homeroom teacher that sends reluctant kids down the hall to practice, great music stores that make it possible to try instruments, and a school that supports musical arts. And the PianoGuys who end their Cello Wars video with the Jedi Mind Trick “you will start cello lessons now”….

It worked.

New Year’s First Week

 

If you’re a mom and fighting a cold, you might just close your eyes while sitting on the couch in the middle of the afternoon.

And if you close your eyes after a long week of work and the end of the first-week-back-to-school, you might just fall asleep.

And if the single mom falls asleep as it gets closer to five o’clock, the resourceful unsupervised boys might just make their own dinner.

And if two young boys decide to make their own dinner, they might just pour out a wrappersbowl of cereal and head upstairs with a large number of Hershey Kisses piled on top.

And if the boys are wise enough to know that they’ve taken far too many “treats” they might just try to hide the wrappers in their bathroom.

And if the boys mention getting some more treats as they walk past the couch, they might just wake up their mother who then decides to explore the little house and see what the boys have been up to during her absence.

And if the mom finds evidence of all this unhealthy eating, she might just send the little squirts off to their room for a break so that she can sit down on the couch.

New Year’s Resolution number whatever – beware the first week of January. It will knock you hard. Respect it. Respect the disruption it holds on your life. Respect the toll of exhaustion on little bodies as they try to “align” themselves with the routine again. Respect the stress on your own life as you readjust to work and wade through all that has piled up in your absence. Be more patient with those little creatures and with yourself. Rest more. Forgive more. Remember that it’s okay to say no to good things.

Do you know why parents have to talk to each other so much? They have to float ideas out there to make sure they’re not crazy. “Seems to me that a 7:00 pm practice is a bit late for a 6-year-old….” “Oh, yes.” “I know, right? It just throws off our whole evening!” “Uh, hmmm.” Check, yep, I’m right. We’re going to have to start skipping those late evening basketball practices and get a bit more sleep.

I think Mr. Ornery hit yellow on his behavior chart the second day back to school because he’s not back in the rhythm yet.” “Oh, yes. I’ve had to wake my kid up every day.” “I know, right? I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on him for having a rough time at school.

New Year’s Resolution next in number – support one another through those crazy stressful times. Encourage each other and take naps as often as you can!

 

 

 

The Year of Gratitude

You always think that you’re doing a great job at parenting (like never), but sometimes it hits you that you’re just not getting it right. There are those moments…moments when you drive to your sister’s house three times before you get there.

Take 1: Mom suggests to her three boys that she plans to a) be more consistent with their weekly allowances (I tend to forget…so, this can be New Year’s Resolution #1) and b) increase their allowance. It sounds good until the silly mother continues with the expectation that each boy will Share, Save and Spend. They are expected to Share ten percent through tithing either to church or to others in another way (“like Mom gives to Jeremiah’s Place” I say). Save ten percent for their future. The rest they may Spend as desired. It was a matter of seconds before Super Tall Guy angrily commented that he wasn’t giving any away. He wasn’t responsible for other people and wasn’t going to be sharing (“Any time I share, someone breaks my toys,” he moans).

So, I dropped off the younger two, texted an apology to my mother (who was watching my sister’s three boys) for adding to her workload, and returned to our driveway to have a discussion about all our numerous blessings and our responsibility and opportunity to share with those who do not have as much as us. I will be honest, it was not a successful discussion. It involved a lot of harsh ungrateful words, kicking at the back of my chair, and deep scowls. It involved sadness and anger and me telling myself that the boy is only nine and has much to learn and that children don’t just develop empathy without assistance. So, New Year’s Resolution #2 is to help my sons become more grateful and giving young men.

Take 2: We arrive back at my sister’s house (fortunately just 3.5 minutes away) and I calmly suggest that Super Tall Guy might take Mitzy puppy inside and return to help me carry in some food items for our upcoming fondue feast for New Year’s Eve. This “suggestion” is met with “I will not” and I turn the car around again. Now we sit in the driveway and begin a discussion on how this really nice Mom is always “helping” her boys and that I don’t necessarily need to “help” this capable 9-year-old get over to Auntie’s house where he would like to play with his cousins. He could walk there himself, but Mom could also “help” him.

New Year’s Resolution #3 – make sure the boys are helping even more with all aspects of our daily life. Yes, they have daily and weekend chores. Yes, I ask them to help carry in bags and groceries. But, it would also be good to point out the times that they do help. Highlight the times that I’ve asked them to help. Find opportunities for them to help in many different circumstances. Increase their inclination to help others through volunteering. You see, I’ve done a lot of volunteer work and spent significant amount of time working on the crisis nursery project, but just “seeing” your mom do something doesn’t have the same impact. They need to get their hands in it too.

Take 3: We arrive at Auntie’s house again. Super Tall Guy jumps out with puppy in hand and takes her in. He returns to carry in a load and asks if he needs to do more. I give him a hug. We are going to have a busy year.

New Year’s Resolution #4 – hug each boy at least three times a day. They just need more hugging. We all just need more hugging. I’m not generally a “huggy” person, but if I seem to be more huggy this year, you’ll know why.

New Year’s Resolution #5 – drink more wine. Wait, less wine. More coffee? Less Starbucks. More exercise – yes, need that. Settle on a school district. Find a “real” house. Study for recertification Board exams. Cultivate current and new friendships. Spend more “real” time with people. House-train that puppy. Love on my family. Praise more and be more thankful (thinking of starting that gratefulness diary mentioned by a friend or paper slips in a jar). And finally, I resolve to accomplish the above Resolutions (I think)!

And if you live in the area and want to join my quest to accomplish Resolution #2 of helping our children be grateful and serve others, let me know. If you have suggestions for doing this, let me know. I’d love to find a monthly service activity that is kid-friendly for all ages  ;).