Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Creative Parenting: Day One

Ok, so let's just cut to the chase. My kids are well behaved for the most part. The majority of the time they are helpful and kind, funny and compassionate, silly and smart. But they are little people. And just like big people, they have bad days. They get cranky. They need something but don't necessarily know how to ask for it and act out in irrational ways that are totally rational to them. I get all that. I fully understand and grasp it all. I am a rational adult...who is sometimes irrational. So I empathize. Emotion is one thing. Sassy pants and bucking the system are another.

There is nothing...absolutely nothing that happens in this house that makes me more angry than being told "no" by a little person. Well, there is one thing and that's the UFC fighting that happens when I need to switch laundry or use the facilities (you smell what I'm steppin' in?). Good. Ok. So being told "no." It happens at least once a day. And then I go into speech mode. "I am the parent. You are the child. When I ask you to do something, you do it. You do NOT tell me no...EVER. I have earned the right....blah blah blah blah blah." So all of that mixed in a with a few more things my mom said to me when I was a sassy pants kid that swore I would never say...but, eh, what you gonna do?

I know, I know...we do the whole love and logic thing. "You have two choices...yada yada yada." That works for almost every thing else. I have read a half dozen parenting books in the past three years. They are great guide books, and work a lot of the time. But this "no" thing..ugh. I hit a brick wall. We took away special toys. That did nothing. We redirected, talked calmly, tried to rationalize, and begged. And then we got creative.

Time for back story.

The girls get allowance for doing things above and beyond the normal tasks that are expected of them to active participants in our house. For Avery this is unloading the dishwasher, putting clothes in the dryer, sweeping, and picking up dog doo-doo. (She did that on her own, btw.) Kendall's "chores" vary according to daily situations. Anyway. For them, they think this is great. Their chore cards get filled and they get a couple bucks. Kendall saves all her money in her wallet. Avery buys necklaces and all things girly. To each their own. But to Avery it is a big deal. She gets $20 in her wallet and it starts burning a giant hole.

Ok. I digress. A few weeks ago, I saw on Pinterest a mom who charged her kids for whining about boredom. Every time they complained, she charged a quarter and put it in a jar in their kitchen. Then she had a jar next to it full of activities or jobs they could do to curb this boredom. Lovely idea. Boredom isn't a problem here yet but I was storing this for future reference.

Then, my dear friend Cassie was here last week and she was telling me about how her mom gave her and her siblings an allowance when they were younger but she charged them an "allowance tax" where she took a portion of their money and put it in a jar. She acted as the "government" and could use that money for whatever she wanted. Sometimes she gave it back, used it as a fun thing for the family to do, or in extreme cases, bought herself something when the kids were misbehaving.

So last night, an idea struck me. What if I combined the two? What if we charged Avery and hit her where it hurt...straight in her pocket book? I ran it by Congress (dad...I mean, he gets a say too, right? ;) ) and he thought it was worth a shot. Then I talked to Avery about it. I told her that if I asked her to do something, and she said "no," I will charge her a dime. She will put a dime in a jar we have set in the kitchen. I got a lot of "no fairs" and "but that's my money" whining. But ultimately, I explained to her that this always was, is, and will be her choice. It is her choice not to listen or to listen. So, if she wants to keep all of her money, she will not tell me "no" any more. (And to clarify, these "no's" come when she is requested to do the things that are expected of her on a daily basis: showering, doing homework, brushing teeth, putting something away.) It is that simple. I earned 20 cents this morning. Not too shabby for her. Only two "no's" over the course of the morning. We are already getting better.

I haven't decided what I will do with the money I collect. Hopefully there won't be much because she will get it rather quickly. Every kid, every family, and every situation is special. What works for one kid doesn't work for the other. And sometimes a Mom just has to throw her hands in the air and wave 'em like she just don't care...and start charging their kids for their sass and 'tude.

I will keep you updated on how this all goes down, pals.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

One Year and Two UFC Fighters

Hi, friends. We last chatted January 25th of last year. That's a long time. Like almost forever. And a lot happened in that almost year. I know you want to to know what here is the abridged version:

I worked for a bit. That was ok...not great. Only ok. We got a new mini van and named her Princess Di because she is regal. And quite a looker. She even has a crown. Not that it isn't a blow to manly-ness to drive a mini-van, but we go and put a princess crown on the rear view mirror. I bet that makes Eric feel REAL manly.

Hmmm...what else happened? Oh, I went to Florida for an epic weekend. I saw the ocean for the first time and didn't get stung by a jelly fish. WHEW! Summer was was hot. HAWT actually. We spent an amazing week up at the cabin up north. We swam, boated, fished, played, relaxed, and got bit by ants. Avery lost her first tooth...and swallowed it. Oops!

We drove to North Carolina for a long weekend with our friends. Then Christmas came and went. And here we are, smack dab into 2013 and I have the itch, desire, and urge to blog again.

 Alright. So let's cut to the chase. For the most part, I have been home with my girls for over three years. That's a lot of years. In the beginning, I was full of gusto. We crafted and arted, cooked and baked, and adventured a lot. But then as time started passing by, that started to peter out. My expectations were greater than what reality could support. Avery started to get more homework. Creativity started to dwindle. Funds ran low. Exhaustion set it. So, we started to stop doing a lot of those things. We fell into a rut. A boring, colorless, lame rut.

That is when my kids turned into UFC fighters in training.

True story. Wanna hear the tale? Well, here it goes.

For so long, they were entertained by me. I guided them in their play and I played right along side of them. But when Kendall got to be old enough, it was like, "Go play with each other. You live with a friend. Run along. Do stuff." And they did. And this is what I envisioned was going on:

I pictured laughing, giggling, whispering, and all around cuteness when they were left to their own devices.

But a whopping minute into my new-found silence bliss, someone would start to cry. Or yell. Or whine.

And this is what I would actually find was going on:

Full on fist-a-cuffs. Right hooks. Full nelsons.

It is totes ridic. I mean, a chick has got to pee or switch laundry and I can't walk out of the room without tears thirty seconds later. It's neat.

In hopes to combat this combat, I have tried a few things. One was to lecture. "When I was your age, I played Barbies. ALL DAY. BY MYSELF. My parents didn't entertain me all day. YOU LIVE WITH  A FRIEND. PLAY WITH EACH OTHER NICELY." They didn't care. Not at all.

So, I took away TV. We all know how long that lasts. I mean, it is a free babysitter. And sometimes necessary for life to happen.  But again, I had to let my voice be heard, "When I was your age, I never got to watch TV. EVER!" (lies. all lies. but hey, work with me here.)

I tried reasoning. Worked with the older one, not the younger one. "You know, sometimes I have to walk away from you two. It is not my job to entertain you. It is my job to feed you, keep you safe, help you learn, and love you. So, you might actually have to play with the toys that fill this house without me." (I should win an Oscar for that performance. I might have pretended to be really hurt by their behavior. Kudos to me.) But it didn't last.

In a last ditch resort, I tried something that worked like a charm. It is not a new tactic, just not one I had used before. I mean, I have taken toys away, banned them from things, redirected, hugged, and once, just laughed and threw my hands up. But nothing has quite worked as well as whispering.

Let me set the stage. We are all in the living room after school, just hanging out eating a snack. I have to go in the basement to switch laundry. I ask them to get along and be nice for this five minute span. They nod in agreement. I walk downstairs where I can still hear everything that is happening upstairs.

One minute later, there are tears and a Kendall standing at the top of the steps whining about this or that. I just keep on keepin' on with my task. Now, when I am done, I walk up to find both of them standing there bickering about who did what, where it happened, and why. But I don't say anything. I just guide them by their shoulders to the living room. I silently pick Kendall up and set her on a couch. I silently steer Avery to the other. I turned around, clicked off the TV, and whispered, "No one move or make a sound. I am going to go start dinner." And I walked in the kitchen. They just sat there, stunned. Like, "WTF is this woman doing? No lecture? No anger? No reaction at all?"

Twenty minutes they sat there, stone cold silent. Worked. Like. A. Charm. MUAH HA HA!

Low and behold, this fighting still happens. Daily. Unless we have company. Then they are angelic.

But we are getting there. With a little tough love and constant reminders, the fighting is starting to become less frequent. We are starting to glimpses of them doing those cute things like tickle fights and holding hands. Hopefully someday I will actually have the vision of sweetness between two sisters that I dreamed of. Until then, I will just keep freaking them out by whispering at them. (BTW, I was mentally high-fiving myself for that entire twenty minutes).

Now that I am back in full force, I will start sharing some of the awesomeness that we are doing around here. We are gearing up for Valentine's Day up in here and have a lot on the agenda. Thanks for giving me yet another chance. Check back soon!