Monday, June 20, 2011

My Secret to ‘Good’ Kids

I was enjoying a conversation with another Mom at the pool last night when she said she really had to leave and added apologetically, that it might get ugly since she would have to drag her daughter out kicking and screaming. I tried to share my secret with her and figured I would share it with all of you too.
Here it is - my kids are not necessarily ‘better’ than anyone else’s although I do (blush) receive lots of compliments on their behavior. I’ve just been sneaky in how I manage those ‘unwanted’ behaviors. You know, the whining, fighting, complaining etc. Which is not to say that they never do it, but I think we are on to something in our house so I want to share it.

1. Whining - especially at stores - the “I want that” “so-and-so has that, why can’t I?” etc. that are frequently encountered in retail settings. Since they were very young, I have kept up an Amazon wishlist for each of them. Whenever something is desired we simply write it down or remember it and add it to the wishlist when we get home. (you’d be amazed how often the must-have item is quickly forgotten) As for grocery store meltdowns over specific commercial items and candies, the remedy was simple. We only shop at Trader Joes. Not only has it been less expensive and healthier for our family, but there are no cartoon characters wielding their trance-like powers over my kids. Oh, and we don’t have TV, so they have not seen the commercials for all this junk anyway.

2. Fighting. Oh No You Did Not Just Hurt Your Sibling! This is a big one for me, any kind of hurtful behavior is stopped immediately. If at home, they are removed from the house to the back step since this behavior is not acceptable in our house. Of course I stand nearby on the inside to watch them and when they are brought back in they are reminded that hurting people is just not an option and they need to apologize ("say it like you mean it" never really works, does it? a muttered and shamed apology is fine). Usually just a quick disapproving look and a reminder that what happened was not okay is sufficient for minor infractions.

3. Complaining. This brings me to the pool incident. Evie HATES leaving the pool. The first time I experienced her strong reaction to my telling her we had to go I froze. It took me a few minutes to gather myself and figure out my strategy - “Hey Evie, if you complain about leaving now, we won’t be able to come back because it won’t be fun for Mommy.” Amazingly, this two and a half year old had the logic skills to figure out the ramifications of continuing her tantrum. My hunch is that all kids are smarter than we give them credit for and most of the time we can appeal to their logic and get great results. This applies to a wealth of situations. Complaining about not having anything to do? Okay, I’ll take your computer for a week. Don’t like the food? You have to try it, not finish but at least try it so that you can be honest in your description of why you don’t like it.

So last night as another little girl was being hauled out of the pool kicking and screaming, Evie whimpered, I whispered this in her ear, she took a deep breath and held my hand to walk out of the pool. Ah, now we all had a fun night and will look forward to returning for another swim!

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