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Monday, September 26, 2011

12 Steps...

"Pick up after yourself" "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all" "How do you ask?" "Use your manners"...Just a few of my mom's catch phrases that I swore I would never use.  And now I give myself flash backs as I say them 50 times a day.  I do not understand how my son can remember a playground we went to a year ago but cannot remember to say please when asking for something.  A mother's voice seems to have a special feature:  when it is giving advice the child's ear is unable to comprehend, until at least the age of 30.  In a moment of clarity the other day I realized that maybe I was just giving my son TMI...advice overload.  I remember when I was teaching and how we taught character traits but we limited it to one trait a month.  If I was simplifying things for elementary age kids I should definitely be doing the same for my younger kids.  So I came up with a plan to help my kids focus on the traits and habits I find important. It doesn't matter which habits you deem "required" for your household or really even the age of your kids.  You can tweak this plan to fit your family's needs.

Step 1:  Make a list   

Make a list of the habits and traits you would most like your kids to possess.  You may only choose 12/year.  This is a great time to discuss with your kids the general importance of these things.  Write them on individual sheets of paper and fold them up.  Place all 12 pieces in a jar.  Explain to your children that they will get to choose a piece of paper each month to determine which habit they will be working on.
*For older kids/teens you can still try this idea just take away the childish elements such as the jar.  Try discussing with them in the car ride to school the importance of, for example being punctual and then explain that the focus of the month is them getting everywhere on time and also making sure to complete all homework/deadlines on time.

Step 2:  Reward

All of us like a reward for a job well-done so this step is crucial.  Keep things in perspective, for instance I am rewarding my 4-year-old with a quarter/day for every full day that he remembers to say "please" and "thank you" without being reminded. At the end of the month I will have only rewarded him with a little over 7 bucks. Gold to him, not over-indulgent of me.

Keep in mind your child's age and make the reward appropriate and simple.  If you have a 2nd grader, try letting them earn more vidoe game time (within reason) or a chance to have a friend spend the night.  For older teens go with the green.  Every teen just wants freedom and money=freedom.  Or just discuss with your older kids what it is they are working towards and find a way that their reward could coincide with that.  Just keep things reasonable so that you aren't breaking the bank and they aren't being overly-rewarded.  Remember you are teaching them life skills, not asking for them to learn another language!

Step 3:  Follow through

The point is to limit your "nagging."  You must follow through and try to only really harp on that one habit for the month.  For 30 days try to only focus on this one area of lacking while spending the rest of your time focusing on their great qualities.  Their self-esteem will have a chance to flourish which will in turn make them more confident in themselves and hopefully less resistant to you and your advice.  

Although we all want our children to be the best they can be we have to remember that they are human too and can only change so much at a time.  This method will hopefully make you both step back and realize that change happens over time and with practice.  It also only happens through nurturing and patience.  This exercise will be a true test for the whole family.  Good luck and let me know what your family will be working on from month-to-month!

1 comment:

  1. I love this! Such a simple way to teach important lessons. Now, if only I could figure out a way to incorporate this into my 16 month old's hourly tantrum:)


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