Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Giving 6-Year Olds Choices

Today Payton got "Kitty" fresh water --- without any spills! He proudly reported his accomplishment with his hand up for a high-five stinger. Such enthusiasm for a job well-done --- this was a job I hadn't requested or reminded him to do. I had just woke up with a splitting headache --- the same one it seems I've had on-and-off for the past month. His happiness makes me smile. Things have changed here in the jobs area.

About 3 years ago, when my kids were around 3-years old, I was struggling big-time to become the parent I wanted to be. I expressed my exasperation with a good lady I was just beginning to get-to-know. She introduced me to Love and Logic. I devoured the parenting techniques they taught and began practicing those on my children. The results were wonderful.

Overtime, we sort of let those ideas fall to the wayside.

My husband and I have our own ideas of what a good parent needs to be like. Eventually, parenting became a battle and it didn't seem right to push so hard for what I wanted; although, it would certainly be a disservice to our children if I just gave up. So, how are we going to teach our kids? We needed some new ideas! I was given good suggestions and advice from some of my readers which I've seriously considered. 

And then, of all things, we were reminded about the Love and Logic approach to parenting. (If you've experienced with it or listen to this audio, I would love to here your opinion on it.) One idea in particular was about giving children choices. This was once my favorite technique. It is to give your kids LOTS of choices ALL DAY LONG, choices, that as parents, we can be perfectly happy with either result, such as, "Do you want to put on your shirt first or your pants first?" This is suppose to help them feel like they are in charge, that they have some control over themselves. In the back of my mind, I thought of Payton shouting at us, "Why don't you ever let me do what I want?" Which, of corse, we do. But, in his little mind, we are making way too many demands comparatively. I couldn't wait to reintroduce this technique.

Another reminder was to let my kids make mistakes. I have been so focused on helping them be successful that I have forgotten that it is ok to let them learn from their mistakes. I guess it is mostly the sting I feel from those who see me mother this way, such as, sending my children to school in pajamas because they would rather play than get ready for school, letting them go without breakfast because they would rather go to school on an empty tummy than in their pajamas, not combing their hair because we don't have time to find the brush that didn't get put back away after brushing the doll's hair, not taking them to an Easter egg hunt because they refuse (for over 2 hours) to do a 5-minute pickup in their room, taking them back to pay for the 25¢ candy they stole (1/2 a dozen different times)... Is this really what a "good mother" does? Love and Logic convinces me that it is better that they learn from their (cheep) mistakes when they are little rather than when they are older and the consequences are much more severe.

Does this make me feel too strict? YES!!! Really, I don't want them to be embarrassed, I don't want them to miss out. So, what can I do? I figure I can do my best to make it possible for them to get their little things done. And empathy --- Don't forget the empathy! Always make the bad guy the unfortunate consequence of their choice; I should be there to love them through their suffering, hold them while they cry, but let the consequence of their action teach them.

The transformation has been greatest in Payton this week. The first choice I gave him was, "Do you want to run to the ice cream shop door or walk with me? At first, he looked at me questionably, then a huge grin came over his face when he said he wanted to run and he sped off. Although, he still puts up a stubborn attitude when I ask him to do a job (how do I embed this video?), he will, eventually, do it. And sometimes, like today, he will do one if his jobs without anyone asking. I guess that makes him feel like he's in charge.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

6-Year Olds and Chores

Aaaaaaaargh! I am frusterated! In fact, this week they have become so defiant that for the past 2 days they have even stopped flushing the toilets! 

I expect my 6-year old twins to help with jobs around the house. They've had jobs since they were 3-years old and sometimes it can be a challenge for the 3 of us. I only ask them to do what they have shown me themselves they can do --- I take that as my cue to know what they are ready for.

It doesn't seem other mom's I know have chores for their young (6 and under) children. I need to know if I am totally out of line here or what I am doing so wrong, because I can't seem to make it work anymore and attempts are just getting worse. I don't know if I should scrap the whole thing and be the mother who does everything and expects nothing (my husband's ideal type of mother, but, not in my nature) or to press forward in my thinking that if I want my children to be capable, me, the mother, has to teach them. So, I give them jobs.

Their job list:
  • MAKE BED (All they have to do is flip the covers back over, only trying to teach habit here, not perfection.)
  • PERSONAL PRAYER (again, it's about habit, this is mostly a reminder and will be taken off  the "job" chart when school starts again)
  • GET DRESSED put pajamas in drawer
  • WASH CLOTHES Once a week (Alyssa on Tuesday and Payton on Friday) they bring down their hamper and I help them load it into the washer. If it gets in early enough, they help me put it into the dryer before leaving for school. I fold or lay out most of it and leave it on their bed for them to put away when they get home.
  • ZONE JOB These are once a month jobs spread out over the month. Each week we detail clean a section of our house. They each have 1 job a day in that area. This week we are in our bedrooms and today the job is to straighten up the clothes in their closets so they hang nicely.
Now they are ready for breakfast.

After breakfast:
  • Clean up TABLE SPACE (their own dishes into dishwasher and garbage into trash can)
  • KITCHEN JOB --- Every morning the table needs wiped off and the floor needs swept. They take turns doing one or the other. I am not looking for perfection, just a 6-year old effort. (Besides picking up their toys, and making their bed (if you want to count those as jobs), I feel like this is the only real job I insist on every morning.) This is an attempt to teach them that being part of a family means helping with the household chores. We play "Beat the Timer" and I set it for 5 minutes.
  • BRUSH TEETH (habit reminder that will come off the 'job' list soon)
  • COMB HAIR (another habit reminder that will come off the 'job' list soon)
  • WIPE OFF BATHROOM COUNTER (I want them to be aware of how much toothpaste they get on the counter --- again, not looking for perfection here.)
  • PACK LUNCH (I didn't say 'make', I put it on the counter for them, in a few years they will get to make their own.)
  • FEED PETS AND WATER PLANTS (together because we use the same water pitcher for both) I usually end up doing these, but, often, they want to help so I put it on their job list. I gently stress the importance of this job by saying things like, "The dogs must be thirsty/hungry, we better get them some water/food because we would sure hate to be hungry/thirsty all day.  Until they learn the importance of the task, I make sure it is done every day. I am not willing to let the pets or plants go without if they won't do it.
  • OR --- TAKE OUT COMPOST --- Last year they fought for their turn; the weather's just warming up enough again to put it back on their list. (I'm afraid it's going to become a struggle this time around. I can't help wondering if I should put it back on the list just because I know they can do it.)
That should be 10 minutes max. in their bedrooms. After breakfast, it's easily 20-30 minutes if they go at a good pace. I know it's too much time to keep them focused, so what do I cut out? At this point, I would like to snuggle on the couch and read to my kids until the bus comes; unfortunately, this almost never happens anymore. It makes me sad because this is what I most want to do before they are gone for the next 6 1/2 hours of the day.

Today, nothing got done except they put on clothes! (I have taken them to pre-school with their pajamas on before, so if they want to wear clothes, they know they had better get them on.) Often, I am trying to get food inside them while they are putting on their coats and I am stuffing their lunches into their backpacks while the bus is waiting. Part of the problem, there are no consistent consequences, if there are any at all. Sometimes they stay in their rooms until it gets clean or their wash gets put away. But, Payton will stay in his room all weekend (except to eat) and still not get it done, even if it means he has to miss out on fun activities. (He is more stubborn than me, and I am stubborn.) I hate doing it that way. So, I help them succeed, which usually means I do it all while they watch. It seems they learn to expect that. Then I get all crazy about them not doing any of their jobs! I hate being the mean mom. All I really want is for them to quickly get through their jobs so I can spend quality time with them. I hate asking and asking and asking for the same old things to be done EVERY day and then have the evening end without spending quality time with them. What do you do when they refuse to do what you ask? How do you teach them these things with love?

The worst of it was that while Alyssa put on her jacket, I pointed out that it was filthy. "Look at the orange stuff on it! And all the dirt on the front! Why do you put your jackets on the floor." As I quickly removed it, and replace it with a dirty coat (I just washed) I noticed food and sleep junk on her face and say, "You're face is dirty too. Why didn't you wash it?" I try to help her with her backpack and let out a sigh as she picks up the opposite arm that I need. "Oh, your hair!" I had tried to do it earlier, but it didn't happen. "You look like nobody takes care of you," and guiltily I wonder if I don't. She frowns and says, "People think I look funny when I don't comb my hair." Me, I say, "If it was important enough to you, you'd get it done." Isn't it important enough to me to help her get it done? She puts her head down and says she doesn't want to go to school. But I walk her out to the bus anyway. She pushes up against me. I pick her up and put her on the bottom step and nudge her forward. My poor baby. How can she stand the way I talk to her?!?!? I just can't stand myself sometimes. I feel so bad now that I sent her off to school feeling that way.

What would you have done?

Giving 6-Year Olds Choices