This post is the second in a series of posts I am writing about parenting strategies a la Metta and Marcos. Some may make you think that we're crazy, but this is what we identify as being US.
- Sticking with it when introducing something new. When life goes according to plan, I like to introduce important things when I have the energy and time to be thorough and teach them well. There are many examples with weightier implications, but water color paints always come to mind when I think of this. When we first gave Gigi water color paints it was important to me that she learned how to rinse her brush between colors, and apply pure colors to the paper, rather than painting with the muddy hues that would result from simply giving her the paints and walking away. It took time and it was tedious to have to remind her to rinse her brush between colors, but once it became part of her muscle memory for painting, I phased out my prompts and have not directed her painting since. Sometimes new learning requires undivided attention and time (two things that are hard to come by in my home) but I find that if we teach well at the beginning, in the end we spend way less time and energy fixing things that were not taught nor learned well.
- Articulating feelings, giving them words. Most kiddos are familiar with the emotions of happy, mad and sad, but life starts to take on other emotional nuances fairly early on. So we have made a point to label emotions so that Gigi and Orion can learn to articulate what they are feeling. The way it looks in our home is: "Oh Buddy, you look frustrated!" or "You seem really disappointed that Michael is not available to play with you" or "Were you feeling nervous around that big dog?" It seems like emotional intelligence learned while young pays dividends in later relationships - with others and with ourselves.
- Actively ignoring. This is something I have brought with me from my time as a graduate student in Social Work. Active ignoring is the conscientious decision to help a behavior to disappear by withdrawing attention from it. Harmful or destructive behaviors are not what I'm talking about, but rather, things that are simply annoying. Behaviors like screeching and licking have had fleeting moments of glory in our home, but because we have intentionally turned our backs and put attention into something new that distracted the screecher/licker's attention away from the behavior without ever having rewarded it, the behavior phased out pretty quickly. It is SO hard to actively ignore behaviors that drive us crazy, but since both positive and negative attention can encourage bad behavior to continue, we have had better luck by turning our backs consistently until the phase passes.
- Talking Empathetically. Gigi and I often have discussions about how our behavior and words impact other people and how they feel when we treat them certain ways. Gigi is not wired to care yet about other people's feelings too much, but with some prompting she is able to imagine standing in another person's shoes so that she can feel how they might feel. And then she gets it. We talk about how kids feel when we say "go away!" or "I don't like you!" or " you are stupid!", and so she just doesn't say those things.
- Turning away when I don't have the energy to follow through. Sometimes I am just at my wits end, and I know I don't have the energy to intervene yet one more time when something obnoxious is going on. So, I have noticed that sometimes I intentionally turn away from naughty behavior or walk into the next room, so that I can pretend it doesn't exist. This is not parenting at its finest, but I feel ultimately that telling Gigi or Orion to stop a behavior or making a threat if the behavior doesn't change - and then not having the energy to follow through - is much more detrimental than simply ignoring it. As a mom my most powerful tool is my example, but my second most powerful tool is my word, and if my kids learn that my word is not backed up with the force of my action, then we are all in trouble.