If I had a dollar for every time I heard that growing up, I’d be able to pay for the therapy I clearly need. And yet, now, I want to wear a t-shirt emblazoned with it.
If you’ll remember from a post last week, here lately I’ve been at the end of my rope with the fruit of my loins, and one ill-timed eye roll away from tying it into a noose and slipping it over my head. After writing about it and linking to the Attachment Parenting website, I left the tab open on my computer. This weekend, while babysitting a friend’s children, I had a moment to actually read some stuff on the AP blogs. It reminded me of why I chose the AP path in the first place, and was really quite refreshing.
The post I especially liked was one with straight-forward tips to get your kids to help out around the house without resorting to threats of violence or promises of treats- two things it seems like I do exclusively as of late. It’s a dilemma I posted on my Facebook mommy groups about in search of advice, but the suggestion was nearly always to use a reward chart. Not a bad one, per se, but I started Da Beeb on charts when she was four, and over the years neither one of us would stick to them for long. And, as more and more people and sources seem to lament, it doesn’t really appear to foster a sense of duty or a desire to do one’s fair share (although there are exceptions, such as with developmentally challenged children). This has been our experience with them. It seems to embed the desire for gold stars or princess stickers or check marks or money (the latter something that I regularly get asked for now for the simplest thing, like picking up her shoes in the living room… WTF?) It breeds the mentality early on of being reward driven rather than result driven. As an adult, ain’t nobody tryin’ to give me gold stars for doing laundry and brushing my hair. I have to do what I have to do because I value having a car to drive and clean drawers to wear and not being taken for a homeless person. And because I don’t want to go to jail. But mostly because there are just things in life that need to get done.
The post that really got me thinking on that (the effects of reward charts, not imprisonment) was one by Evolutionary Parenting that they shared on their Facebook page. I’d never really thought about reward charts in that way, but once reading it, it really made sense. In our house growing up, you did your chores because if you didn’t, you had to answer to the Authority (which often held a belt). Period. Sure, there were some lectures about not living like a pig, or contributing to the family, but it was mostly about staying out of trouble and escaping punishment. As a result, both my brother and I are adults who are extremely externally motivated. If we don’t want to do it, we don’t want to do it (which, really, is most people), but it seems extra hard for either of us to get things we need to done, and sometimes we reap the consequences. To this day, the best way for me to accomplish anything is to hear that clock a’ticking until Dad’s Home. Of course, “Dad” might be my husband coming in from offshore, or guests coming over, etc, etc, but the sentiment is the same. There is a situation fast approaching at which point bad (or just unpleasant) things will happen if XYZ isn’t finished. I basically spend my life going from 0 to 60 in the half hour before something simply must be completed (which is an absolutely unfortunate way for a writer to be!). I’m not proud of it, but I realize this about myself. Although, much like depression, self awareness is not always enough to pull oneself through.
But I digress. My point is that I do not want that sort of headache for my kid. I want her to work through life- because it is just that, work- to the best of her ability, and not get into her own way as I often do. I think the first step to that is to teach her to be internally motivated to achieve things. Which is kind of like me trying to teach her Mandarin (if it hasn’t been addressed on Ni Hao Kai Lan, I know nothing of it). I’m totally lost.
Finding posts like the afore mentioned AP one make me feel better, and give me a bit of gentle direction that I can hopefully turn into positive results in my own household. It’s going to require more work on my part (boo), I need to make more of an effort to be more patient with her and guide her rather than command her (not my strong suit, the patience). I really don’t believe that the old adage “Spare the rod, spoil the child”- which actually appears nowhere in the Bible, but that I heard incredibly often growing up- is about beating your children into submission. From my understanding, the rod is supposed to be that of a shepherd, right? And what do shepherds do with their rods (please, let’s pretend to be mature for a minute here…)? Do they hit their sheep with them when they get out of line? That wouldn’t really foster a sense of trust and protection between the herder and the herd. From what I’ve seen, shepherds usually use their rods to guide their sheep around obstacles and out of danger’s way, and to fend off danger is necessary. I feel like that’s what we should do (more of), rather than threaten to punish for a lack of strict obedience. Easier said than done to be sure, but it’s not always about doing more good, it’s sometimes just about doing less bad. But I mean, who ever heard of repressed children morphing into rebellious teenagers, right? That’s crazy talk!
Hopefully I can make a discernible difference in her now before she thinks I’m completely lame and awful. I feel that timer going, too. Maybe that will help!
Wow. Shit got deep there for a minute.
See, this is precisely why I don’t get things done until the last minute (besides the above stated personal drama): I wrote this out Sunday night in order to be prepared for today. I knew Monday would be busy and wasn’t sure if I’d get a chance to blog (I didn’t), and I wasn’t yet sure about Tuesday, so I was like ‘I know! I’ll go ahead and type Tuesday’s post out, then I’ll be prepared! Yea preparedness!’ I also thought ‘Hmm, what is true today that will still be true on Tuesday?… I know! My kid being an absolute turd.’
Then my kid has to be all wonderful and I have to change my blog post. Man, kids ruin everything.
All day Sunday while I watched the Littles, my Not-So-Little was very mature, indeed. She helped out, did things for them, didn’t whine or complain about anything. I’m always quick to praise her for helpfulness, and this weekend she earned every word. Then yesterday- despite whining to go play rather than hold signs while we were at the annual Improving Birth rally (appropriately held on Labor Day each year, to bring awareness to birth rights, evidence based maternity care, and truly informed consent/refusal), which, really, was to be expected- she was awesome. A little whiny about being forced to go eat Mexican food (sometimes I feel the need for a maternity test), but good.
And then there was that moment. Most days she goes outside to ride her bike with the neighborhood kids (can we just take a moment to acknowledge what a blessing in everyway it is that we have the type of neighborhood and kids for this?), and comes in around supper time/dark, often dragging her feet and begging for five more minutes. She hadn’t been able to play with them all weekend, so was super excited to play last night. She came in about 10 minutes before supper was ready to ask if she could go in their backyard to play (all location changes must be preapproved), and I told her no and why. I unconsciously held my breath for the inevitable, and she responded “Ok,” and happily ran back outside. You know how it felt when you were growing up and your sibling was probably about to hit you, so you were prepared and waiting for it, and then it didn’t happen? It was kind of like that. Followed by immense relief, happiness, and a bit of apprehension. And then she was perfect for the rest of the evening. She came in on her own right before the oven timer went off, she ate her carrots and chicken without so much as a nose crinkle, and brushed her teeth without complaint. It was magical.
It’s times like this that remind you why you don’t abandon them outside of firehouses and orphanages. And It’s great.
Hopefully it’s the sign of the end of this growth spurt’s moodiness and hormone surges. She was great this morning, too. I try not to gush too-too much to her, I don’t want her to get used to that exhausting level of praise and head patting, but it sure is nice.
No list for today. I’m watching another one of my friend’s kids today (and I’m rather excited- of all the children this friend has, the one coming over today is totally my favorite). The house looks like a tiny little war broke out, toys and socks everywhere (I’m honestly not even sure whose socks all of these are, or how exactly they got here). I’m just going to get done what I can get done and hope for the best.
Really, if all I have to do to get things to change for the better around here is write a premature blog post about it, expect one soon entitled How Much It Sucks That I Haven’t Won The Lottery & Have Yet To Magically Wake Up One Day A Size 8.