Category Archives: Discipline

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Ready

As soon as I read this week’s WordPress photo challenge theme, I knew what my picture would be. “Ready” is a challenge I face at our house every school day. Managing to get my kindergartener on time at school every morning is a feat requiring to move mountains. Well, maybe not, but I feel exhausted after I drop him off. He doesn’t start school until 8:15am (his little brother starts preschool 30 minutes later) so you’d think we have plenty of time to get ready by waking up at 6:45am. But that would mean forgetting his son is a master procrastinator with no sense of urgency.

We keep getting nasty letters from the school, listing the days he’s been tardy. And by “tardy”, they mean the days I get him in the line in the courtyard barely one minute after the bell rings. Give me a break! Well, apparently they don’t want to give me one. All he may miss is the beginning of the pledge of allegiance one or two days a week. Boo-hoo.

So every morning we follow the same routine, which the kids always seem to forget from one day to the next:
– Wake up at 6:45am
– Get out of bed / get pulled out of bed
– Pee
– Get dressed / have Mama dress you
– Go downstairs
– Sit down at the dining table
– Stay seated long enough to eat breakfast
– Only play with toys if there’s extra time (I said, only it’s there’s time!)
– Brush teeth
– Put shoes on
– Put suncreen on
– Put jackets on
– Go in the car and get strapped in

Of course this is only their part, not everything I have to do on my end to make it all happen. If you’re a parent, you know exactly what I go through in the morning. How did we do today? The boys were in the car at 8am sharp and we had plenty of time to make it to school. Ta-da!

Wordpress weekly photo challenge: Ready

Wordpress weekly photo challenge: Ready

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More thoughts on sensible parenting and the trouble with hovering parents

The trouble with hovering parenting

The trouble with hovering parenting

A week ago, I shared my thoughts on what makes a resilient and perseverent kid, who can grow up to become a person armed with a no-can’t-do attitude. I would like to thank everyone who provided feedback and shared their own experience as a parent. In particular I’d like to say thanks to Kristen at Motherese for sharing a wonderful article from The Atlantic Monthly on this very topic.

I found this article quite insightful and the people I shared it with enjoyed reading it too, so I thought I may as well share the link to this article titled “How to land your kid in therapy” right here and see what you think. The main point of this article is, if you do everything to make your child’s childhood happy and as painless as possible, you may end up with an adult who can’t face challenges and failures. Go figure! As parents we all want our kids to be happy and enjoy life, but by doing that, they may not be happy and enjoy life as adults.  I especially like the part about organized sports, where coaches are starting to find ways to reward ALL of the kids on the team. Yes, it is getting that ridiculous.

Enjoy this very complete article and share it with other parents who want to do the best for their kids. Life is full of surprises, many of which can be unpleasant, so the biggest favor we can do our kids as parents  is to teach them how to best face the bumps on the road.

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Practice and perseverance

xylophone

“When you practice and practice and practice, you get better and better and better.” This accurate observation came out of my five-year-old son’s mouth earlier this week. He’d been practicing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on his xylophone with the goal of playing it error-free. After a couple of days, he did. And he was proud of his persistence and hard work. Case in point.

It seems to me perseverance is not a strong trait of human nature and you can observe this early in life. How many toddlers give up on a task, just because they can’t get it right? How many young kids will stop an activity because “they can’t” and “it’s too hard”? How many school-age children will give up on math because “they don’t get it”? How many young adults will refuse to draw anything, even if they drew well in their childhood, because “they’re not good at drawing”? How many adults will stick to the same career path even if they don’t enjoy it, just because “it’d be too much work to learn something new”?

We give up too easily. Why? Because it’s the painless, easy road to take – the path of least resistance. And because we lack the confidence to go all the way. Because we don’t want to work hard at it and end up “wasting” our time, in case things don’t work out as expected. Why do so many of us act that way? I believe it has a lot to do with parents, teachers and other influencers teaching us it’s OK to stop trying. At least at some point.

My mother raised me, most of the time as a single parent. She didn’t let me get away with anything. Once I started something (of my own choice or required, such as school), she expected me to finish it. Failing was an option (although frowned upon) but giving up wasn’t. It was tough, painful, frustrating at times. It led me to obtain a highly respected baccalaureate in biology/math/science when I knew I never wanted a career in those fields. But it also taught me I could accomplish a task even if I didn’t like doing it.

This no-can’t-do attitude gave me the strength almost 20 years ago to leave the nest and travel by myself 3000 miles away from my home in France after accepting a teaching assistantship in Connecticut. I gave me the courage to move another 3000 miles to San Diego, California when I couldn’t take anymore of the snow, the ice and the cold. It helped me explore a career in marketing communications at a time when I had no clue what marketing was about. And today it’s helping me explore a new career path, with things lining up pretty nicely at this point. I believe perseverance pays off, as long as you stick to it.

As a parent, I’ve now taken a mentor role with my own kids. Just like my mom, I don’t put up with their use of “I can’t”, “it’s too hard”, “it won’t work”. I simply don’t allow these words in the house. If my kids say they can’t, I remind them they just mean “they don’t want to”. But I also remind them that if they keep trying, they’ll succeed. And it works. Every time. And they’re starting to figure it out. So today I hear less of “I can’t” and more of “I can do it by myself” and “let me see, how can I do this?”. I hover stand back and provide encouragement along the way (I believe in praising the effort rather than the result). The grin on their faces as they accomplish something difficult on their own is priceless.  They get it, they really get it!

How do you handle fear of failure with your kids? What have you used to motivate your kids to accomplish difficult tasks? Do you think the way your parents raised you influenced your attitude towards accomplishments?

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Please sit down and eat!

Jumping boys by Madaise - Flicker Creative Commons license

Jumping boys by Madaise - Flicker Creative Commons license

Please sit down and eat. I must repeat this sentence 20 to 30 times a day. And no, this is not an overstatement on my part. Every meal at our house starts with the same prompt: “please sit down and eat”. After the kids have gotten up a few times, it turns into “come here and sit down to eat”. It’s all downhill from there and I usually end up barking “SIT DOWN ALREADY!”. And we’re not even halfway through the meal.

I have a problem. A meal eating problem. A serious and exhausting problem. My kids won’t sit down to eat. If they’re hungry, they’ll cooperate and get to the table when prompted. Their buttocks will touch the seat of the chair for just a few minutes when they decide to take off with some mind of their own. I swear the buttocks control their bodies, because my kids will walk aimlessly around the room until I remind them to come back to the table. It was never a problem while we used high chairs and boosters we could strap the kids in. But let’s be realistic, no five-year-old will fall for this trick again!

I’ve mostly solved this problem at dinnertime. We don’t have cable TV so the kids can’t plop themselves in front of the idiot box hours on end. Instead they get to watch DVDs during dinner. Curious George, Elmo, Blue’s Clues and Charlie & Lola help them stay seated long enough to eat their meal. I usually sit down with them and have dinner too, and we get to discuss the video we’re watching. I know all the experts advise children to not eat and watch TV at the same time, but they clearly don’t have to feed my kids every night. I draw the line of video watching at dinner, so breakfast and lunch are still no-sitting zones.

I’m not sure what my kids’ problem is. My youngest is often the hungry one so he’ll sit down promptly. His temporary state of hunger will entice him to make a dent in his meal but as he gets satisfied, he’ll often get up to “get something”. If my oldest could survive without ever eating anything, he probably wouldn’t put any food in his mouth, except to enjoy the taste of it. Although he’s an adventurous eater and likes good food, he’s rarely inspired enough to sit down for more than a few minutes. Unless I remind him he’s supposed to eat, he’ll go through the whole meal without putting a forkful in his mouth.

I’ve tried it all, the easy way, the hard way. I’ve put the food away when they weren’t interested, ending up with hungry, cranky, whiney kids an hour later. I’ve allowed toys and books at the table if it will help them stay in their seats. Unfortunately they always want something else to play with, something else to read… I can read books to them during the meal, but it means I don’t get to eat. And clearly my conversation topics are not interesting enough to keep them at the table long enough.

So I turn to you, parents of younger and older children. Have you experienced the “ants-in-the-pants” behavior at the dining table? How have you dealt with it? What has worked for you? Thank you so much for sharing your successful parenting tips.

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