Parenting

The parenting countdown: One…Twoooooo…Two and a Half…

We’ve all done it! The thing where you ask your kid to do something and they don’t listen. You repeat it, with a more stern voice and they still don’t listen. So finally, you give a stern, “One… twooooooooo….” And usually, they listen. Like magic, they do whatever it was that you told them to do two tries ago. The funny thing is, most of us don’t actually know what’s going to happen after we get to “three” when we’re counting, which is exactly why the pause gets longer and we draw the numbers out longer to give them more time to move! But why is this counting technique so magical? Why didn’t they listen the first two times?

It took me awhile to figure this mystery out with my first kid. I was getting so tired of asking and nothing happening until I started counting. But without fail, he listened as soon as I started counting. SO frustrating!! Then I stopped to think about what changed from the first time I asked him to do something and when I started counting. I noticed a few things: 1.) I was no longer asking, it was a command. 2.) My voice was stern and I meant business. 3.) He knew this was the end of the road and a consequence (whatever THAT mystery was supposed to be…) was going to happen next. I used this information to try to hone in on a better system.

I changed my delivery of these commands. And let’s face it, they’re commands. We might “ask” them to go pick up their toys, but in reality, there’s no question about it. We want them to pick them up. We don’t care if they don’t want to or if they don’t feel like it! Why do we even ask them to do it? We need to just tell them. That helped a little, however, I think I had already created a bit of a monster. By asking twice (or more) before the counting/possible consequence took place, I had trained him not to comply until then. I had let him know that it was okay to ignore me until he heard counting. Whoopsie! Here I thought I was being patient, but instead I was feeding the problem. So I realized I needed to move that possible consequence up to the first request. And what do you know? It worked! I would say, “I need you to stop and clean up your blocks. 1…” and like magic, he would go pick up the blocks, then come back to whatever he was doing. Totally evidence that it had been a “me” problem and not a “him” problem.

He’s 14 now and I’m happy to say that I don’t have to count every time I need him to do something. Thank GOD! Ha! I actually don’t even have to command him to do everything. I can ask him to do something and he’ll go do it. I just had to retrain him. I continued the command/counting sequence for awhile and then I could start to leave off the counting. He wasn’t even waiting to hear it anymore. He knew when I told him to do something, it needed to happen immediately and there wasn’t a way around it. Gradually, I could make it more of a conversational thing instead of a command and he would still listen because he was in the habit of doing things immediately as I asked. Luckily, his compliance helped train the rest of the kids as they were growing up. They would see him acting immediately and they started doing the same thing. They’re not perfect and we still have our moments, but for the most part, they know they are to comply with what they’re asked to do the first time. All I had to do was retrain myself!

Self-Development

You Are What You Think About

Have you ever noticed that when you get a new car, no matter how unique you think it is, you suddenly see identical ones everywhere? Or maybe you just like a particular kind of car, and then it seems like they’re all over the place. Slugbug, anyone?!? When you look for them, you see them EVERYWHERE! Or at least, my kids do so they can slug each other. Or maybe you buy what you think is a unique color of vehicle…say, green…and then all of a sudden, there are green cars everywhere. It’s the craziest thing! Why does this happen? And why is it something that I would EVER blog about? Well, my friends, because you are what you think about.

I know what you’re thinking. She’s crazy! What does this even mean? Bear with me as I try to explain. It means that whatever you’ve got on your mind, you will start to see and notice everywhere. Let’s move past the car example, because seriously, cars are NOT important in the grand scheme of life. Let’s think about when you’re mad or upset about something at work. Have you ever noticed that when you’re mad about one tiny little thing and you can’t let it go, other little things start to happen that just add fuel to the fire and you end up angrier than ever? Why in heck do all of the irritating things happen back-to-back? Well, there’s a good chance that those other little things might have gone unnoticed if you weren’t focused on being mad. When you think about a green car, you notice green cars. When you think about being mad, you notice a million reasons to be mad!

Two and a half years ago, I joined a company and started my own small business. I’m not telling you this to try to sell stuff to you, I promise. That’s not how I operate. But it was the beginning of when I really started to understand this theory that you are what you think about. When I joined the company, I was SO excited. It was like somebody had breathed fresh air into this teacher-by-day, mom-of-four-at-night (more to come on that in the future!). I had something to focus on that was different than children. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE kids! But that had literally become my whole life, 24/7, and I needed something else. Once I joined, I had my mind on the fact that there was a new opportunity for me to stretch myself. And then, guess what…I saw all kinds of opportunities out there for me to step outside of my box and grow! This blog would be a prime example. It would have NEVER happened before joining my company. I also have a Facebook lifestyle group where I share parenting tips, organization ideas, beauty/skin care information, and a whole bunch of us moms can interact and just have a little break from our day-to-day lives and feel like we’re a part of something bigger (https://www.facebook.com/groups/328768520937361/, in case you’d like to join). I would have NEVER done this kind of thing before starting my own business. It opened my eyes to possibilities beyond my career.

So what does this mean for you? It means be careful what you’re focusing on and thinking about, friends. Is it okay to get mad? Of course! But you have to let it go and move on. Don’t harbor the anger or you’ll only find more reasons to be angry. If somebody hurts you, it’s okay to feel sad, disappointed, let down. But then process those emotions and move on. If you don’t, you’ll only be hurt by more people as you’re focusing on the fact that you got hurt. If your husband does something that irritates the crap out of you (it’s bound to happen, right?!?), address it or choose to let it go if it’s trivial. If you don’t, suddenly you’ll have twenty reasons to be annoyed with him. Can’t get past the initial irritation? Try this tip: mentally list five reasons why he’s amazing and what he does right. It will help you let go of that negative! You can use this trick for any aspect of your life when you need to…five reasons why you love your job when you something unfair just happened, five reasons you ARE a good mom even though you totally just had a crappy moment, five reasons your life is probably better off without that friend that betrayed you. Focus on the positives and I promise you’ll only find more positives! As a parent, focus on the good things that your kids do and I guarantee you, you’ll find more reasons than ever to appreciate them and be proud of them. Sometimes you have to force yourself to see the positives, but when you do, you will find it becomes easier and easier to see them right in front of you.

Parenting, Self-Development

“Why do my kids keep ____ (whining, begging, throwing fits…)?” Here’s your answer!

You know those irritating things that your kids do that absolutely drive you crazy? Things like whining, telling you “no”, begging, not picking up when you tell them to, throwing tantrums or fits when they don’t get their way? As a parent, you may find yourself asking “Why do they keep doing this?!?” with total exasperation in your voice. I have the answer for you. Sadly, you’re probably not going to like it, but here it is.

Kids do these things because they work! Or because they’ve worked in the past. For one reason or another, their irritating behavior has gotten them exactly what they want. Let’s face it. As humans, when we try things a few times and they don’t work, we usually stop doing them. If you tend to speed down a certain street to get to work quickly and you don’t get caught, chances are, you’re going to keep doing it. However, if you get a speeding ticket, you’re more likely to slow down. If you get multiple tickets on that stretch of road or there is a police officer sitting on that stretch regularly, you’ll probably stop altogether. You’ll either leave earlier and go the speed limit or, if you’re a rebel, you’ll find a different path. Either way, when it regularly doesn’t work for you, you’ll try something else. Our kids are no different than us.

When your kids throw tantrums, it’s like that adult speeding down the road. If it works, they’re going to keep doing it. Even if it only works sometimes, they might be the rebel that keeps trying it until it consistently doesn’t work. I know that sometimes you’re tired and you don’t want to deal, but you have to. If you ever want that behavior to stop, you HAVE to deal with it. You have to be the police officer, sitting in their car, monitoring and controlling the behavior, making sure it doesn’t get them what they want. If you let your kids get their intended result (new toy, later bedtime, more screen time, candy, etc.), you are basically a police officer, watching the stretch of road, letting that speeding car get by with it. And what message does that send to your kids? That it is okay to throw a fit and sometimes it works, so they should just keep doing it. You can replace the words “tantrum” and “fit” with “whining”, “begging”, or whatever else you’re dealing with at your house. It’s all the same. They do it because it works or it has worked in the past.

So how do you fix it? You make sure it DOESN’T work. And you will probably have to do this more than once, especially if you’ve had weak moments in the past where they’ve found success with their behavior. In a calm time, where they’re not ____________ (let’s just say tantruming, for ease of discussion), you need to lay down the rules. This is how you do it:

  • First you need to describe the behavior and be transparent about what is behind that behavior. I suggest saying something like this: I’ve noticed when you want something really bad, you throw a fit. You yell, scream, tell me “no”, cross your arms and turn away from me. It looks like this (model so there is NO question about what you’re referring to). I understand that when you do this, you’re trying to get me to change my mind, but I want you to know that it will no longer work. When you throw a fit, I will make sure you do NOT get what you want, no matter how big of a fit you throw.
  • Next, you need to model what will happen when this behavior happens (and it WILL, so make sure you’re willing to follow through on this!). It helps to have some sort of visual cue, since those don’t initiate backtalk. It could be putting your hands over your ears signaling you won’t listen, turning around and walking away, clapping your hands twice, etc. As you coach them through this, I suggest something like this: I’ve decided that you need a signal that reminds you of this new rule that fits won’t get you what you want. When you start to throw a fit, I will say, “Fits don’t work anymore” and I will turn and walk away from you. It will look like this (model how you will do this calmly…even if your blood is boiling inside). If we are in public, I will say it and then take you to the car so you can throw your fit in there. When you are done, we can talk about what happened, but you will NOT ever get what you want because you threw a fit.
  • Finally, explain why this behavior won’t work any more. It’s okay to tell them you’re tired of it, but honestly the reason you want it to stop is because you love them. When I talk to my kids (or my students!) about these things, I usually say something like this: I love you too much to let you act like this. You are such a good kid and I want everyone to see that. Kids that throw fits and get whatever they want usually don’t make good friends and are hard to play with. I want you to be happy and have friends to play with. I think that is more important than giving you _____________ (more screen time, a new toy, etc.).

And after you’ve done all of this during a calm time where the behavior isn’t happening (this is SUPER important to do), you wait. You wait for the behavior to come. I promise it will, unless you have a child that is like the adult that sees a police officer once on that stretch of road and never speeds again. We know how rare those individuals are, but they are out there! I’m guessing if your child happens to be one of those, however, you aren’t searching for answers on how to make a behavior stop! Once your child exhibits this behavior, you HAVE to do exactly what you said you were going to do. You probably won’t see an exact change the first time it happens. However, if you continue to do this every single time the behavior happens, it’s like giving a person a speeding ticket every single time they speed on a certain stretch of road. They will get tired of not getting their intended result. Consistency is key, and it’s really up to you to make it happen. If your kid keeps doing it, more than likely it’s because it works. The change has to start with you as a parent before you’ll see the change in your kids.

organization, Parenting

When Schedules Collide

With four growing kids, you can imagine how ridiculous our schedules can get. I struggled to try to find a way to keep everyone connected. We used Google Calendar, and I still do. But somehow we ran into some hiccups where my husband wasn’t seeing things on my calendar, a few things mysteriously disappeared…basically just chaos happened. We needed something better!

A friend of mine is a Mary & Martha Consultant. I hadn’t heard of the company until I became friends with her, but their products are awesome! As a super thoughtful gesture, she gifted me a weekly calendar notepad, similar to the one in the picture that I found on Zazzle. It has been a game-changer. I’m positive she had no idea how big of a help that was. Or maybe she actually saw that I was a hot mess and was gently trying to help. Who knows!!Either way, I will forever be buying these things because they have majorly changed things at our house!

On Sunday afternoons or evenings, my husband and I write everything from our calendars (digital calendars, school calendars, activity calendars…everything) on one of these pages. We ask the kids if there’s anything they need to put on there like due dates for projects, spelling tests, activities we didn’t know about, or anything else. Not only do we make sure everything is laid out in one place, it’s a good reminder for us as to what the week actually holds. It’s easy to look at my calendar on my phone and think I’ve got it all. But to actually have to carry it over and write it down? It cements it in my brain and makes it harder to forget. Not impossible, but harder!

When it’s all on the counter in one place, not only can we make a plan to divide and conquer if needed, but the kids see what the week holds. It is SO easy for them to see which nights are jam-packed and which nights are free. We are all on the same page and there’s no surprises. It has made all of our lives so much more streamlined! It’s such an easy thing. I’ve seen notepads like this in the past. I’m pretty sure I’ve even bought them. But I don’t think I fully understood the need for them until there were six of us going in different directions at once. Now? Now I get it!

The most brilliant part of all of this is that we’ve started using the back of the sheet as a grocery list. Whenever somebody uses the last of something, they’re SUPPOSED to write it on the list. My husband and I are good at this but the kids aren’t quite trained…yet. It’s still been super helpful though! We usually place a grocery order on Saturday nights (we are QUITE the interesting couple, I tell you!), so it’s right there in front of us, ready to be entered.

Now, we still forget things here and there, but it’s been such a practical thing that we put in place that has made a huge difference! If you’re starting to feel like a chauffeur that has no idea where they’re going, give it a try. Go back to the basics of a pencil and paper. There’s something about it that just works for us!

Parenting

Choose Your Battles

One of the best pieces of parenting advice I’ve ever gotten came from my oldest son’s 2-year well-child visit. Our pediatrician at the time very wisely told us that soon we would start having some battles with our son as he began to strive for independence. Her exact words were, “You have to choose your battles. Don’t fight them all. But the ones you choose, you HAVE to win.” This has stuck with me through all of my years of being a parent.

It sounds simple enough, and really the idea of it IS very simple. In reality though, what it means is that you have to pre-think every situation through. When they ask for something or for permission to do something, you have to think it through completely before you give your answer. If you say “no” to playing outside before dinner, are you prepared to stand your ground? Is it important enough for you to go to battle for? If the answer is yes, then carry on. If the answer is no, then don’t say that “no” in the first place.

In that case, you aren’t actually committed to that no. It really doesn’t matter to you, it’s just more convenient if they play inside. But if they start to beg and whine, you don’t care enough to fight the battle. You will most likely give in and then reinforce the fact that fits, whining and begging will get you to change your mind. But the funny thing is, they didn’t! You just never made your mind up in the first place!

I’ve had my fair share of weak moments where I’ve given in or changed my mind, and I can tell you that it makes the next battle even harder. Don’t do it! Save your energy and patience for the battles you care enough to fight for. I’m not saying you should let your kids do whatever they want. I’m not crazy!! I still have stipulations before I say “yes” to things! Whatever reason would tempt you to say “no” in the first place becomes part of the stipulation for getting the “yes”. You want to play outside? Sure, but when I say it’s time to come in for dinner, no complaining and you pick everything up immediately. If they don’t follow those stipulations, there’s a consequence. I’m not letting them walk all over me, but they’re seeing that there’s some give-and-take, even in the yes moments.

Parenting is HARD. There are no perfect days, perfect answers, or perfect situations, no matter how hard you try. As you navigate through though, think your answers through before you give them. Be thoughtful and intentional in your parenting and mean what you say. Your kids will hear “no” less often, but it will mean more and become non-negotiable.

Parenting

“Don’t Stare!” (Spoken By Moms In Stores Everywhere)

Do you ever go out in public and get embarrassed because your kids stare at somebody who looks or acts differently than them? It happens to ALL of us. It can get embarrassing, but really, kids are just curious and trying to figure this world out! It’s not that they’re judging or trying to be rude. Your first reaction may be to tell them not to stare because it’s rude. When we tell them not to stare or look though, it makes them think those differences are taboo or that they should just ignore the person.

Instead of telling them not to stare, tell them to say “Hello!” It teaches them that even though that person might act and look differently than them, they’re still a person and we treat them the same as we would everyone else. It teaches them to be accepting of differences and even teaches them to engage with people who are different than them. Our world needs more of both of those things! It’s a simple change in our daily interactions with our children, but it’s one that can cause a completely different mindset as they’re figuring out this big confusing world!

Parenting

No, I really DON’T want to play…

“Mommy, can you play with me?” It’s like kids have a radar and they know exactly when you need to accomplish something. That’s when they strike and ask you to play. When my oldest was a toddler, I dropped what I was doing every time he asked and subjected myself to playing cars, trucks, trains…whatever he wanted. I. Wanted. To. Poke. My. Eyeballs. Out. Seriously, I love my kids, but I wasn’t great at pretend play when I was a kid, so doing it as a grown-up is rough. I hate it. Maybe that makes me a terrible mom. But if it does, at least I’m an honest one, I guess!

After my oldest got a bit older and started asking me to play things like Ninjago or Transformers or whatever these characters were that I knew nothing about, I couldn’t even pretend anymore. Luckily, by then, our second son was old enough that they could sort of play together. It was more like the oldest was telling the next one what to do and how to play, but they were mostly happy…for a little while. And it was then that I realized it was okay to say “no thanks” when they asked me to play. Not only were they learning independence, they were actually becoming more creative without me stifling their play with my non-creative self! I wasn’t hearing “I’m bored” by my oldest as much anymore. AND I was getting things done during the day, which made me way less stressed and better rested. That meant I was a more patient and understanding mom. It was like all of a sudden, things were falling into place!

I thought back to when I was little and realized my mom and dad rarely played with me. My friends’ parents didn’t sit and play with them all day. That’s not how it worked! Don’t get me wrong, I had wonderful parents that gave me plenty of love and attention. But they did NOT sit and entertain me all day! If I asked them to play a board game or something like that, they often would. However, it was one game and then they went back to whatever it was that they were working on. No endless rounds of CandyLand like I felt like I had to do when I was just starting this mom gig. For some reason, nowadays, moms are made to feel super guilty for not sitting down and entertaining their kids from sun-up to sun-down. You’re made to feel like that’s the way to teach and enrich them and if you don’t, they will be behind. It’s like you’re supposed to leave every single thing you have to do in a day until after bedtime and your kids should have your undivided attention. Guess what. I tried that. It’s awful! I was so tired when my oldest kids were little because I’d be bored to tears playing all day, then they’d go to bed, I’d do a million tasks and then crash before waking up and doing it all again the next day. I don’t think that’s actually supposed to be how this parenting things works, you guys.

As a teacher, I see problems with students who have no attention at home. They don’t have supervision and they sit on screens all day. I’ve blogged about that and got “Amens” from most of the teachers I know. BUT, the kids that are entertained by parents all the livelong day come with their own set of problems! These kids don’t know how to engage with teachers that aren’t sitting right in front of them talking directly to them…you often have to call their name to get their attention before speaking to the class. They don’t know how to initiate play. They often don’t have the same set of play skills that the other kids do (because theirs is more like an adult pretending to be a kid…that’s all they’ve seen). They don’t keep themselves engaged in a task because they’re used to somebody pulling them through it. They don’t know how to wait for attention, help, etc. because they’ve always had attention on-demand. They don’t know how to be bored and live through it! There are SO many skills that kids learn when they have to entertain themselves. Independence depends on it. And let me tell you, kids NEED independence when starting school!

Now before a whole bunch of people jump all over me, I am not saying you should ignore your kids. I’m not saying you should never play with them. What I am saying though, is they need to have a balance. Obviously, they will learn though play with you, so it is a wonderful time to model skills, slip in some practice with colors, shapes, counting, etc. It’s a great bonding experience (even if you’re bored to tears!) and shows them that you care about them and are interested in what they are learning. It can give you great insight as to their strengths and weaknesses. Yes, you need to play with them. But not every time they ask and not all day long. If you are working on a task and they ask, it’s okay to say “no” or “not right now”. It’s okay for them to not be able to play what they wanted. It’s okay for them to not get their way! It’s actually really very healthy. When you do play with them, set some limits for yourself. Play one or two rounds of the game, build with Legos with them for 20 minutes…but set a limit. Then go work on your to-do list. It’s good for kids to see that you have household jobs to do, that you want to sit down and read a book, that you have work to do at home. This is your reality and someday will be their reality, too. Most of all, it’s good for them to see that the world does not revolve around them. Even though they may be your entire world, once they step foot outside of your door, they’re just one piece in whatever world they are a part of (school, daycare, sports teams, etc.). It’s a hard reality to face when the world has always revolved around them. From experience, I know it is a hard reality to get them to accept without them (and their parents) thinking you’re completely against them. When bedtime comes, you’ll be less stressed and have time, patience and energy to give them. You’ll have time to be more than a stressed out mom after bedtime is over. Seriously, everybody wins!!