The man stares at his computer screen, a bewildered look on his face. He has just spent the last several hours organizing invoices, only to find that he organized the wrong folder, leaving him with the decision of either being late for dinner or stuck with a huge mountain of work the next day. He can’t imagine either scenario working out well, so he does the natural thing and heads for the liquor store.
No matter how hard I strive for perfection, I fail. Every time. And if I can’t make it, the rest of you suckers have no chance. I often have the angry, sarcastic love-wasting-time speech with myself over a failure to catch a minor detail that could’ve saved me hours of work.
So it goes with parenting. What I once thought was a sure-fire method to producing great kids sooner or later turns out to be the antithesis of what is needed to move toward that result. Searching Pinterest, I found a pin that sums up what I, and my wife (she said it was okay to include her in this. Honest), sometimes forget:
“Don’t let yourself become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have one.” I won’t say I couldn’t have said it better myself, but I was feeling lazy, so Pinterest won this battle. You get the point, though.
To this end, Amy and I sat down and drafted a list of how we will approach parenting in the new year. Disclaimer: I’m not telling anyone they have to listen to me. Never have, never will.
I’m just putting this out there as an FYI, a way that my wife and I will try to become better parents, and if you happen to find some of it useful, awesome. If not, just shut the hell up.
I realize you haven’t said anything negative about this yet, but it’s on some of your minds to be Discord in my Equestria (yes, that was a My Little Pony reference. Deal with it), and I don’t need negativity; I just need another day to try to become a better person.
As do you. As do we all.
1. Volunteer once/month at a soup kitchen.
2. Engage in indirect charitable giving, e.g., packing Thanksgiving and Christmas boxes during the church’s holiday food drives, taking a name from the Angel Trees.
3. Don’t assume the worst when you encounter a conflict with one or more of your kids, e.g., not assuming they spilled something on purpose or out of carelessness, or that hitting was with the intent to practice MMA fighting skills on a live dummy.
4. Don’t jump down your kids’ throats. Bypass yelling and get started on fixing the problem. Hypothesis: doing so will make them want to work with you, not against you. Treat them the way you would want to be treated, e.g., treat them the same (or better) than the way you would treat a co-worker with whom you were having a conflict. Writing this one down made me realize I’ve been guilty of this, which makes me totally suck. Big-time.
5. Recognize age, loosen ropes, extend freedom accordingly, give more responsibilities. I’m a paranoid parent. I know, but this is necessary.
6. If they earn something, it’s theirs and cannot be taken away, e.g., Will earned money by scrubbing the shower floor. Then he turned into a jerk about something, and I reneged on his payment (since rectified, as by stiffing him, I was the bigger jerk). Have the punishment fit the crime, e.g., no dinner = no dessert, not no toys. The latter doesn’t make sense. It’s an illogical progression from offense to punishment and fails to get your point across. Fighting over toys = lose toys, etc.
7. I wrote about the glass jar concept a few posts ago in “Stones,” where we start out the day with a certain number of stones, removing them one-by-one as the kids get into trouble, and the remainder is what they have to purchase dessert. I think this is a good visual for them to keep track of their behavior, but now realize that it only focuses on the negative, so while we’re keeping this approach, we’re also employing its opposite.
We’re getting another glass jar, one for each kid, and when the kids show good behavior, we’ll put a stone into the jar, along with a short note about what the behavior was. Then, when full, or when the stones reach a specified number (TBD), the kids will get a reward, and we’ll read the notes in the jar. I try to make verbal notice of every good thing my kids do, but, again, I’m not perfect. With this, it’s a built-in method of ensuring you’ll have to praise your kids.
8. When the kids interrupt you in the middle of non-work, non-mandatory tasks, such as reading novels, watching the Packers (that last one was very hard for me to write), stop and be helpful. Don’t say you’re too busy. Also, when you help, do so with a positive attitude. No eye-rolling or other irritated gestures, i.e., no behaving in a way that would make you pissed at them if they showed a bad attitude when you asked for their help.
9. Don’t cut them off when they want to explain something to you, i.e., listen and don’t be an ass.
10. Periodically evaluate your parenting methods to make sure they align with where your children are with their development. We’re going to do this quarterly.
As I write this, I realize pretty much all of it boils down to the Golden Rule, which, in case you’ve forgotten, says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s amazing to me that I often forget this applies to my children.
Here’s to less non-singing vocal strain in 2013.