I read another mom blog last night. I tend to read it because her children are so much younger than mine and it reminds me vividly of what we've gotten though and what we're going to revisit in the coming years. Her children are bundled together, slightly closer than my three oldest children. She's currently dealing with what I always called Fibber McGee syndrome and she's Freaking Out Big Time.
Her Freak Out in yesterday's blog got my wheels turning. We went through that. We still go through that. But I've kind of figured it out. Each kid has a tell. Typically when confronted and caught in a lie, K can't look me in the eye. G blushes. And J is either the greatest liar on the face of the earth or doesn't need to lie because I have no clue what her tell is. K is the easiest to detect.
So what other tricks have I found over the last 15 years that make life a little easier? And what do I still struggle with on a regular basis and need to work on? Hm.
1) Follow Through. Don't threaten to do something if you know you can't follow through on it. For instance, don't threaten to call the school to find out what the homework really is if you know there isn't anyone in the building who can answer that question. Think before you dole out consequences. The second a kid detects you're full of BS, you've completely lost the battle.
2) Ask yourself: Is this a hill I want to die on? Only make it a battle if it's truly important. When J flops herself downstairs wearing what is easily the most ratty, splatter painted, ill-fitting jeans she owns and we're on our way to Mass, it drives me insane. The easier thing to do would have been to discuss the clothing the night before, but she's 15. WHY do we have to go through this every week? So I have to decide - in that very moment - how important is what she's wearing. I'm probably far too guilty of making this a battle of Devil's Den far more often than I should... at least she's going to Mass, right?
3) Allow them to fix the problem themselves.
Kid: I want a cookie!
Me: Huh. Good to know.
Me: I do so enjoy cookies. (Going about my business.)
Kid: Can I have a cookie?
Me: Oh look, your shoe is untied.
Kid: May I please have a cookie?
Me: Ooooh, that's what you're making noise about. (Then either choice A, depending on the kid and the circumstances) The next time you would like a cookie, you need to remember to ask using your good manners. You just showed me you have them. Here's a cookie. (Or choice B, again, depending on the kid and the circumstances.) Are you nuts, kid? You just marched in here and demanded I drop everything I'm doing to give you a cookie? No, you can't have a cookie, but you can have an apple. And the next time you want something, start with the decent manners you just proved you have. It works much better that way.
This allows the kid to recognize the problem and fix it on her own. I don't have to yell or correct or really get involved at all until they've remedied the situation. It's important to note, however, that this method has its flaws. For instance, if you've just gone through this routine 1,346 with one kid and a different kid starts in with the same demand in the same tone, you run the risk of your head exploding. It's also important to note that you need to spend years 2, 3, and part of 4 starting with the basics and consistently teaching (through modeling) how to ask for something properly. This method really doesn't work until they're in the late pre-school stages and beyond.
So those are things I think I have a handle on. Now if I could just figure out how to make K less destructive, G less quick to anger, and J more willing to study, I'd be absolutely perfect. Oh... and if I could keep my garage clean and the basement from being taken over by laundry and the dishes from piling up and shoes out of the kitchen....