It’s been a whirlwind couple of days. They just flew by and I can’t quite put my finger on where the time has gone. On days (weeks) like these, to help me multitask, sometimes I switch to autopilot. Everything that has to get done, just has to get done as efficiently as possible.
Ironically enough, I noticed that it’s in times like these when the kids “act up”. They’re… more challenging to say the least. I don’t know if I half less patience with them, but I do have less time, and maybe that’s why I’m easily frustrated. It’s in these busy times when I expect the routine I’ve instilled run smoothly things just move right along one after the other. They eat dinner, I give them a quick bath, they read a book, go sleep, and I can work. Sounds easy enough, right?
Except of course, they’re kids. And they have minds and wills of their own, so of course they don’t follow, don’t listen, or do the exact opposite of what I say. Whatever it is, it throws my plans for a loop. One setback and everything is off schedule. And with these kids, everything is always off schedule… everyday!
Initially I attributed this “obedience coup” to a cry for attention. It made sense; when I needed to work, I paid less attention to them, and therefore testing boundaries was one way to definitely get my undivided attention.
And then I thought: Maybe they’re just tired of the routine.
So I tried to be creative. You can imagine how challenging and time consuming it is to be more creative and still not get any significant change in their behavior. They still needed to be asked and told 200 times.
I reflected on it alone in the many silent car rides I had. I try very hard not to threaten or bribe (it’s anti-progressive parenting!), but it’s tiring to have to be creative all the time. I can’t just drag them against their will either. And funny enough, an incident with Jamie recently reminded me of a lesson I learned from Coach Pia that might work.
I was in front of my computer one afternoon trying to focus. Jamie was asking me something repeatedly but I really wasn’t listening. Eventually I felt her tugging at my shirt, still pestering. She finally caught my attention when she climbed the chair onto my lap and stuck her nose onto mine. Then she said: “Mom I finished eating. Can I have a marshmallow now?”
With her right in front of me (at my nose to be precise), I literally had to stop what I was doing and pay attention. And I realized that unless I’m right in their face and they’re looking back at me, that’s probably what’s happening to them too. They hear my voice so often (saying the same things), it’s just me talking over their head. I become into white noise.
Since then I’ve made it a point to walk up to them, get down to their level and say nicely, “Will you look at me please. I have to tell you something.” And I wait for them to stop and look up before I say anything.
I feel like it’s worked. I feel like I don’t “nag” as much, or call out their names in vain (as much). They still negotiate and compromise, but at least there’s a discussion face to face. And they know that I don’t use this technique just to discipline them. Rather, it’s a practice we do whenever I want to tell them something or ask them a question. I don’t want to jinx it, but at certain points it’s become surprisingly easy. I never really thought it could be!
And it’s true. One principle I try to follow is to make sure I treat the kids the way I’d want to be treated too (and that they treat people the way they want to be treated). I do like it when the person I’m speaking to is looking directly back at me. Why can’t I offer my children the same courtesy?
Eye contact. That’s all it was. I have three new favorite words now…