So now that I’ve publicly ridiculed someone else’s parenting tactics, it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.
I am currently reading a very inspiring parenting book called Have a New Kid by Friday, by Dr. Kevin Leman. Some of you may recall my recent blog entry, The ABC’s of Men, where I cited another of Dr. Leman’s book, Have a New Husband by Friday.
The book is full of great suggestions for training your children to be responsible for what they say and do, at every age. Dr. Leman, a psychologist with 40 years experience and five kids of his own, guarantees it will keep you from nagging your children all the time but also prevent you from enabling them and doing everything for them. I’ve been highlighting and flagging sections of the book like a crazy woman because so much of what he talks about really describes our house. Don’t get me wrong, we have fantastic kids (if I do say so myself). I mean, just yesterday I got stopped in the grocery store as a woman told me she thought my children were extremely well-behaved. But let’s be honest, that is definitely the exception to the rule. Most times, I am uttering threats at them the entire time we’re in the store all the while about to pull my hair out with frustration at saying the same things over and over and over and…
As I read the book, I will admit that there were some suggestions that I really had a hard time agreeing with. I heard myself gasping and thinking, “No! Surely he wouldn’t suggest you say that to a child!“. But I appreciate that Dr. Leman puts the onus back on me, as a parent. It’s not about what kind of child I have (which many parents use as an excuse for bad parenting) because it truly starts with what kind of parent I am. This is not a case of “which comes first? chicken or the egg?“. His tried-and-true principals are based on you being a better parent, therefore producing a better child. For starters, he pointed out that my aforementioned threats before entering the grocery store (okay, and while getting ready to go to the grocery store, while in the grocery store, leaving the grocery store, umm….you get the idea), was actually a no-no on my part, and he gives much better suggestions for how to avoid that.
Well, this morning marks Day 1 of a week to a better Attitude, Behavior, and Character in our children (so the author says!). And J&L will act as the guinea pigs while I document the success and failures here.
Although it’s unclear whether this morning’s meltdown will be classified as a success or a failure, Project New Kid (or should I say Project New Parent?) has already been put into full effect. I’m curious to hear what you think of how I handled this situation.
We recently found an amazing kid’s outdoor pool in the area. Jack has been dying to go back ever since. As I packed our bags to go this morning, the boys were being their usual spastic selves. You know, not listening when I asked them to get dressed, pack their bags for the pool, clean up their messy toy room, etc.
So, instead of my usual
B) shouting, or,
…I just walked away.
The boys then spent the next twenty minutes fooling around doing whatever. Finally, they came to me (while I leisurely relaxed in my room) and asked when we were going to the pool. Taking a page out of the book, I just calmly said “we’re not going” and walked away. Of course, I was braced for the response! “BUT MOM!!!! I’m in my bathing suit!!! I wanna go to the pool!!!!! I HATE your days! Your days are STUPID!!” To which I just walked away again (felt weird but hey, gotta try it 100% if we’re going to say it works or doesn’t work). When they came after me a little while later to push the subject, now very curious as to why we weren’t going (here is what the author calls the “teachable moment”, when your kid really wants to know why things are not working out the way they expect them to), I calmly said “we’re not going to the pool because you haven’t done the things I’ve asked you to do”.
Reading this book has helped me see that I don’t give our kids enough credit. Often times, we think we need to say things ten times for them to “get it” but that just tells them that we think they’re too stupid to get what we’re saying the first time. Because they do get it! I didn’t think they were listening at all when I asked them to help this morning but sure enough, as soon as they knew we weren’t going to the pool, they responded with “but we’ll clean the toy room!!!”. Ah hah! So you did know! You just didn’t feel motivated to actually do what I’ve asked you to do! Now the trick is to stick to your guns (so the book says) and let reality be the teacher. If I let them go to the pool after they’ve cleaned up now, I’ve simply taught them that they only have to act responsibly once I’ve threatened them. Reality discipline is about no threats, no nagging, no warnings! Let their natural consequence be the lesson — no matter how painful it might be (for you and them!).
So an hour later, my house is still an absolute mess and I’ve officially gone on “strike”. They’ve come to ask me to do things with them or help with something and I just say “no, mommy is not helping you with anything right now” (again, feels harsh, but gotta do it). Liam just looked at me sadly with those big brown puppy-dog eyes and then walked away (stay strong Tash! stay strong!). Sure enough, he came back to inquire, “why mommy?”, to which I replied “well, you and Jack haven’t done anything mommy has asked you to do, so I’m not doing anything you’re asking me to do, either.”
Wow, does that sound like being a total jerk, or what?! But I agree with what the author is saying…that no kid should get a free ride in life. We are all accountable for what we do and say. At first, it seemed very heartless to say something like that to a child. But when you think about it, life is about accountability. As the author says, B doesn’t come before A. So many times we let our kids have “B” before they’ve done “A”. And the world doesn’t work that way! If we consistently do this for them, we are setting them up for failure and teaching them that they can expect to get what they want without living up to any expectations. So by saying, “sure, I’ll help you with this craft even though you’ve done absolutely nothing I’ve asked you to do”, you’re actually giving them a false sense of social interaction and how the world works. In other words, you’re conditioning your child to be spoiled and self-centered.
To conclude, the house is still a mess…and the boys are quietly playing in the toy room. I’ll have to get back to you on how this all unfolds. The author swears that it only takes a week to have a new kid. That in a week’s time, they will be surprising you with their cooperation, thoughtfulness and responsibility.
Of course, there is a chance that they won’t clean up at all — this is still a very new type of “mommy” they’re dealing with! But should that happen, I will simply clean the house myself and then brace for the outcry tomorrow when I make them fork over their entire allowance to pay me for cleaning up their mess (another tip from the book). Ouch!
But hey, I haven’t once yelled, nagged, or cleaned up after their mess this morning. That alone has gotta be worth something!