Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Potato Head Example

I've done a lot of reading, thinking, and praying over the years about how to train my children. I've said before that I'm no expert, not by far, but that we are blessed with relatively well-behaved children. We have never had any serious parent-dissing type behavior nor any truly foul attitudes. That being said, we, like most, do always have room for improvement.

One of the (many) areas (and perhaps one of the most important) that I've been working on is the whole notion of "Say what you mean and mean what you say" or "Say it once" (depending on which book you read). It's amazing to me both how 'well, duh, of course' obvious this seems and yet how seldom I see this idea adhered to. Even more amazing to me is how inconsistent I can still be even after realizing how important, and right, this concept is, and purposing to practice it- I still see examples in our lives daily, where my children are in essence being trained to believe that Mom doesn't actually mean what she says, and that they can pretty much do as they please a bit longer, you know, until Mom really means it.

An example-

The 8, 7, 4 & 3 yr olds were all playing very nicely together with our collection of Potato Heads. The problem was, they were playing up on the dining room table, within reach of their 14, wait, 15 months old today, brother. He was crawling on the table reaching for potatoes. I'm working on teaching him not to crawl on top of the table, but I am also trying to teach the older children not to always play out of his reach, keeping all of the preschooler toys away from our youngest preschooler. I told the girls to move all of the potatoes to the floor, and instructed them that they were to let their little brother try to play along. I added that if they couldn't let him play with a piece or two then they would let him play with all of the pieces and they would be finding something else to do, something like sweeping and mopping a few floors.

I turned back to my reading (mistake #1) and a sentence or two later I noticed that they had moved to the end of the table and were huddled much closer together, sort of circling the wagons (their arms) to keep their little brother at bay. I gave them another order (mistake #2) and told them to move the potatoes to the floor and let him play with a couple. This time they did obey, partly, and without any real attitudinal huffing, puffing, sighing, or eye-rolling. They moved the toys to the floor and let their little brother go to town, then promptly decided to find something else to play with, something without the little brother. At this point, taking away the potato heads was a moot point, they had willingly handed them over, and ran off in search of something else. I let them (mistake #3).

Three strikes and Mommy's out.

First, I was distracted. I often am. I need to work on that, to really work on that. Second, I told them twice, not making sure they did the right thing after the first instruction. Third, I didn't assign any unpleasant tasks, which they should have earned with their partial compliance. I can be a softy, and while my children aren't unruly or outright disrespectful, they aren't really first-time obedient, at least not consistently, and yes, I do think that first time obedience is an achievable goal, but it's a goal that takes work to achieve. With 7 children, I've got my work cut out for me, every day.

What I should have done- I should have watched them as soon as my first command left my lips, for immediate and right-hearted compliance. When it didn't come, I should have walked right over and taken the potatoes away and assigned each girl a room to sweep & mop (not because disobedience = housework around here, but because that is the consequence I happened to blurt out when I first told them to include their little brother in their play). Then, I should have made sure that the floors got cleaned. If I said it, I should have meant it.

I'm working on it :-)

I'm working on them.

More than that, I'm working on me. Notice the work involved here? I'm learning (again, I find myself relearning anew with each toddler) that child training is 3/4ths parent training, maybe more...



Blogger Redeemed1 said...

It's so hard...I all too often do the "second and third time" requests myself. Then I get frustrated and determine to do better...but it usually doesn't last long. Thanks for reminding what is right.

January 21, 2010 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Kate (KnitsInClass) said...

Struggling with the same thing now myself - only with two little boys though - And it is most definitely work. It is so nice to hear other parents have the same issues and feel themselves falling into the same discipline traps as I do.

January 21, 2010 at 4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am soooooo guilty of threatening punishment and not following through. It results in endless inconsistency and I know it's one of the biggest downfalls in the parenting of our two little ones. Though, hubby is pretty bad about it too, I know I need to work on it so much.

January 21, 2010 at 8:16 PM  
Blogger S.I.F. said...

I love this; Such a great story and such an incredible example of parenting, and learning as you go!

January 21, 2010 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger Trisha said...

I have 4 kids ages 8, 5, 4, and 21mos and I am so guilty of this. I recently found your blog and I have been reading. Been trying out the Multitude Monday idea too. My blog is still private as I don't feel it is ready to go public because I am not consistent with posting and I am still trying to work out what my own style is.

January 21, 2010 at 10:50 PM  
Blogger care-in said...

I appreciate your real life example!

January 26, 2010 at 9:43 PM  

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