parenting

The Parenting Pitfall of “Maybe”

With the distance of not being on the front lines, I can see the troubles that some parenting techniques bring. One of the biggest ones I see after 30 years of practicing pediatrics is parent saying “Maybe” in answer to a child’s question.

Parents tend to say “Maybe” when they don’t want to say no and risk a confrontation. We’re hoping that the child will forget about the request and we will not have to say no. But children have great memories—I used those memories when we were heading to the grocery store and I needed help remembering why I was there. Children quickly learn that a “Maybe” most often means “No”. The pleading just goes on and on.

One of the more enlightening parts of being a grandparent is to watch one’s children become parents. Due to my own “excellent” role modeling, my children often use the phrase “Maybe if” to help explain what needs to happen to get to a “yes” “If we have enough money when we finish paying for the groceries we will buy an ice cream cone”. “If I have time for an hour break after doing my chores, we will go to the park”.  “When you finish your chores, we will go to the movie.”

If the answer to the question is “No”, just say no and why.

If the answer to the question is yes, just say yes. Don’t discount the power of the gift of yes. For our children, we are the gods who determine their lives. A generous god is well loved and also gets to have a good time.

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parenting

Part three: Relating to my increasingly independent child.

The final part of this three part series is by far my favorite. It also came as a complete surprise but when I tell you that if fuels the conversations AJ and I have on a daily basis I am not kidding. It has been the greatest gift of this age. Talk about utilizing the time we already spend together to the fullest!

One of the biggest things I learned while teaching, (thank you Ms. Pittman!), was that as kids start to become fluent readers (third grade and beyond) it is extremely important for them to still be read to.

Even knowing  this fact, we started skipping book read  ALL THE TIME. One reason for this is that AJ was picking the books and I wasn’t excited about them (honestly how excited am I supposed to be about the fifth Captain Underpants book in a row?) SO instead of book read I would let him watch a second show – which HELLO!!– he was never going to pass up.

So I came up with a rule – we could each pick one skip night a week. And then I came up with a better process for finding a book we would both like – I would find three books I thought we both might like and then he could choose one of those.

I first noticed the change this approach took one weekend when we were about finished with Hatchet and we decided to go for a hike.

For two hours we talked about the book, how different things we saw made us think of different parts of the book. What our favorite and least favorites parts of the book were and how we thought it might end. It was so much fun!

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Deciding if this rock would work for shelter like in Hatchet. Verdict? Probably not.

Later while reading Holes, we were stuck somewhere waiting in line when AJ commented that he was a thirsty as the boys in the book digging in the sun. What could have been a boring wait in line turned into a conversation about the camp and how terrible we thought it was. And EVERY SINGLE TIME we go to the dog park we get to rehash parts of our favorite dog books, Shiloh and Because of Winn Dixie.

Use book read before bed as a time to create lasting memories with your kid. You know you and your kid best – find books you’ll both love and enjoy returning to time and time again.

It’s best to read books two grade levels above your child’s reading level. This will help them improve their comprehension.

If you need some help finding books at the right level for your child Scholastics Book Wizard is a great place to start. Your child’s teacher can also help! 

Your kiddo is growing up and it’s natural that his interests will grow with him and maybe away from your own and that is perfectly fine! You can find ways to maximize the time you spend together – such as music in the car and enjoyable book reads at night. And you can create ways for him to share in some of your favorite activities as well.  

Read part 1 here! 

And read part 2 here!

parenting

Part two: Learning to relate to my increasingly independent child

Last week I introduced this series by sharing how I realized my son and I were not spending much time together as he grew more and more independent. Today I’m sharing two ways I have found that have helped us grow closer again.

Look for more opportunities to say ‘yes’.

An article in this Friday Finds really sparked this idea. In general I started to examine if my “no”s really could be “yes”s, and honestly most of them could be. But one major thing I started asking myself is: can a no become a modified yes? For example AJ always asks to play on my phone in the car. Instead of saying “no – let’s talk” or “sure” and turning on the radio I suggested he be a DJ and play us some music.

This approach lead to non-stop conversation about what songs we like, why we like them, how it’s nice to play some of my favorites in between his favorites. Car rides have quickly become a favorite past-time! I do however get unlimited veto power on songs–because a girl can only listen to so much Whip and Nae Nae.

Do you already have certain times that you and your kid spend together by default? Can you find a way to turn that time into a favorite for you and your child?

Make spending time with mom (or dad) a “special” event.

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It is impossible to talk about how we spend our time without discussing the use of technology. Listen, this blog is a no judgement zone and technology is an important but touchy subject in parenting these days.

I’ll just put a disclaimer in here that we do NOT have it figured out and provided my kid is healthy and happy I don’t put too many limits on electronics. That said – we do have one major tech rule in this house: one electronic at a time. Basically this means that, no, you may not have a show playing, youtube going on a computer, and be playing on your iPad at the same time.

Almost every rule I have for my kid, I try and apply to myself. Which is why we have one big exception to this rule, sports. If you are watching sports on the TV, you may also have one other electronic. Because of this rule (and the exception to it instead of AJ being downstairs watching something while I’m in my room watching something else, he will often end up sitting next to me while I’m watching sports. He probably knows more about women’s professional soccer than any other boy his age – but honestly it’s so cool. He has favorite players and he asks me about them all the time and makes sure not to miss any of their games.

AJ will often get to stay up a little past his bedtime if he’s watching sports with me. I cannot stress it enough, make doing something you love doing (watching cooking shows if you’re not into sports, staying up to play your favorite games, etc) feel like a special treat for your kiddo!

Keeping an eye out for opportunities to turn a ‘yes’ into a fun shared moment and making time spent together extra special have helped AJ and I find new ways we enjoy spending time together.

Next week I’ll share the most surprising activity that has brought AJ and I even closer together recently.

Read part 1 here!

Read part 3 here!

parenting

Learning to relate to my increasingly independent child

AJ and Kelly together outside in front of a barn
When AJ first came to live with me he was five years old, and I was a pre-k teacher bursting at the seams with ideas to interact with kids his age. We played with chalk, blew bubbles, brought shaving cream into the shower, painted with water, built legos, and watched the few shows I introduced to him – mainly Wild Kratts because well, it’s the golden standard of kid TV.

As our lives began to evolve, AJ matured and grew and I quit teaching, I woke up one day and realized AJ and I really did not do a whole lot together anymore.

He would be downstairs watching some Disney show I could not even stand listening to (perhaps a future blog on our struggle with kids shows) and I would be up in my room reading or watching sports. Occasionally he would ask me to play a nerf war or pokemon game and I would either begrudgingly agree and do my best to fake enjoyment or suggest something like catch outside which had like a 50% success rate.

Aside from a few games of catch, a couple of walks, and our scheduled sports, we no longer enjoyed the same things.

I totally understand that as time passes kids become more independent and want to do less with their parents. However I felt we had grown apart too much and wanted to find ways to bring us back together.

In this blog series I will share three of the ways I have found to rebuild our shared interests and capitalize on the time AJ and I spend together. Here’s a little preview of what’s to come, stay tuned!

Look for more opportunities to say ‘yes’ – Not only will your kid think you’re cool for finally saying yes! But you can look for opportunities to use those yes moments to turn average moments into great ones!

Make spending time with you a “special” event! – Do you have any rules that can be bent if it means togetherness? Thinking he got away with something is a sure way to make memories of being together more fun.

Be purposeful in choosing the books you read together.  – Selecting books that can spark conversations when you least expect it has been my favorite way to reconnect with my kiddo.

Read part 2 here!

Read part 3 here!

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Friday Finds

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Hey there!

It’s Friday! I find most things as a parent to be slightly bittersweet – like weekends. Though wonderful in many ways they’re definitely not the same as my pre-kiddo days. And while I am looking forward to spending time with AJ, watching his various sports and maybe squeezing a hike in Sunday morning – I also know that Monday won’t have the same dread that it had pre-kiddo either because… routines, man they are the best. Do you have anything planned this weekend? Have you come up with a way to incorporate the right amount of structure and fluidity into your weekends?

Without further ado here’s another round up of different articles and finds from around the internet this week relating to parenting:

  • Six Screen-Time Studies That Changed My Parenting Approach is a very digestible summary of the studies and how the author used the information. I especially appreciate the last two about reading and acknowledging our own roles.
  • Amazon is coming out with a children’s version of the Echo – along with some parental controls and FreeTime content it comes with a feature that will encourage your child to say ‘please’. I showed this article to my mom and she responded that my dad wants one “so that he can talk better than command… Hey, google.”
  • On A Cup of Jo, the author shares the Three Words That Changed How I Parent:  “Aim for yes.” This is very similar to advice my mom shared with me early in my parenting journey “avoid the power struggle” and was such a good reminder. The examples in the article made me smile and also realize I could definitely say ‘yes’ to a few more things – I read it Monday and can already sense the positive influence it’s having.
  • In this Scary Mommy post,  My Kids Eat Dinner At 3 P.M., And Here’s Why, the writer explains how changing the expected routine has worked for her family. I think it’s important to always do what’s best for your family, not one answer works for everyone – but if you share some of the same struggles I do this might work.
    • From me: While working as a teacher in OKC I incidentally started this routine of grabbing a quick, (often fast food – no shame y’all) small meal for AJ on the way home form school. It completely changed the tone of our afternoons and evenings. He often ate a little bit of the dinner I made myself later in the evening as a second dinner of sorts. By avoiding behavior driven from being “hangry” we were able to keep peace and it was so worth it!
    • From my mom (Dr. Venters): I use to feed the kids the dinner that I had made the day before since they were always hungry earlier than when their dad got home around 7pm. By the time we moved to Denver I just started eating with them at 5-5:30. Kept me from being “hangry” also.
  • BONUS: Having trouble transitioning your little from book read to actually falling asleep? I was recently reminded of these audio Sparkle SleepyTime Stories and wanted to share them with you.
    • When AJ was younger we used these at the end of our bedtime routine; I would rub his back for a couple minutes before leaving the room while it played. The stories are about 12 minutes long and were usually sufficient in slowing down his little brain and sending him off to sleep. I also used them quite successfully in my classroom as a pre-k teacher. I find kiddos really only need to lie still and  be quiet for 5-10 minutes to fall asleep. This worked for us. The other stories were not of much interest to my five year old but I’m thinking of resubscribing to try a few stories for my now nine year old. By the way there’s a similar adult version, Sleep with Me, I haven’t tried it yet though!
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Why won’t you just do what you’re told?!

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AJ’s first time in a pool, he didn’t let go of the side the entire time!

We often know what is best for our child. We know that if they just do this one thing that we’ve suggested not only will our lives be easier, but their lives will be easier. We have experience after all, years and years of experience that have taught us things like… showering as soon as we’re done swimming makes us feel better and keeps our skin from becoming itchy angry messes. That going to the bathroom before leaving the house is the best way to get to soccer practice on time and without an emergency. We know that following these suggestions will make everyone happier and less stressed. We explain our reasoning and we approach it in the least dictatorial way possible. So why or why “won’t you do what you are told?!”

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Pic from last week, it was fantastic! And yet this week I’m eating PB&Js… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 You guys. I know that if I get up with my alarm instead of snoozing it we will get out of the house in a more peaceful, less tense manner. I know if I spend 10 minutes a night picking up and putting away I will feel better in the morning. I know that if I prep five salads for the week on Sunday I will eat healthier, feel better, and save money. I know these things. I have experience with these things. But I still have a tendency to hit snooze, to read a book instead of clean the house, and to skip the grocery store and spend the week eating PB&Js instead of salad. Y’all, why or why, “won’t I do what I am told?!”

In a post written by Dr. Venters, “It is noted that the most compliant child [like I was] will only follow directions 75% of the time. And an aggressive researcher [like my child is] will rarely follow directions without researching other options first.” When I stop and remember my own experiences following directions– most often my own these days, which you would think would be easier to follow than someone else’s, it gives me more perspective on my child. It doesn’t make me feel better about the fact that his skin is shriveling and flaking off as I watch him sit in still damp swim trunks on our recently(ish) cleaned sofa – with the smell of chlorine permeating through the house. But it does make me more sympathetic, less likely to enter a power struggle, and more likely to explain the consequences once and let him experience those natural consequences for himself – as I add intensive healing lotion to the store list.

One last thing I want to add about this, is as a usually compliant child I find myself often worrying about how my aggressive researcher child will do in the “real” world, as a grown up. How is he ever going to hold a job? Adulting is hard enough but is he going to consistently make his life even harder than it has to be?! I voiced these concerns to a few of my co-workers recently and was SHOCKED when a few of them fessed up to being a child just like my son. Tales of their parents being at the school every week for some behavior or another, detentions and groundings. And ya know, if my child turns out to be as successful and happy as them – well then that’ll be just fine.