Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Abra Cadabra Part 1

Ahh, language.  I lub it.  It's my favorite.   As it turns out, sometimes the subtle differences in the words I choose to get my kids to do my bidding, I mean, excuse me, guide my children to become kind, responsible members of the human race, can be, like Ron Burgandy, .....kind of a big deal.
Over the past 13 years as a parent and 18 years as a teacher I have picked up some tricks of the trade and here is one that I have tried and found very helpful.

As we say in the biz, "use or lose."

Eliminate 'NO' From Your Parenting Vocabulary  -   AKA No Noes

This strategy comes straight from a little book called Parenting With Love and Logic.
There are a lot of helpful tips, and although I'm not a fan of some of their more passive aggressive parenting techniques, the overall philosophy is one that helps kids become confident problem solvers. This happens by:
  • giving them control of their choices at age appropriate moments in their childhood and adolescence
  • allowing them to make mistakes and learn from them (logical consequences)
  • being there to support them and love them through it all

The net result is that we help the voice in their heads become their own and not ours.  To put it in a popular culture context, by the time they graduate from high school or college you want them to switch out the WWTND (What Would The Nag Do) bracelet with the WWID (What Would I Do) bracelet.
So, from this book I learned the power of keeping noes to an absolute minimum. The word 'No' can be such a "stir the pot" word.  As soon as the kids hear it, cue the whining, arguing and entitlement fueled behavior. Phrasing your response to their questions and requests sans a no, turns their fit throwing inclinations on its head. Well, most of the time.
Here's how it works. Instead of telling them 'no' when they ask for something, you tell them yes, BUT, only after they have taken care of whatever chore or activity they need to do.  What stands between the child and she wants will vary by situation.  The language suggested in the book is "You're welcome to...... when....."  Here are some examples:

Scenario A
Douglas: Can Kellen come over?
Me: Kellen is welcome to come over once you have picked up your room and emptied the dishwasher.
Douglas: Frustrated response of some kind because 87.999% of the time he has a strong negative reaction to work of any kind.
Me: That's okay you don't have to do those jobs, but Kellen can't come over.  Your choice.

Scenario B
Audrey: Mom, can I make a cake?
Me: You're welcome to make a cake after you have finished your homework and practiced piano.
Audrey:  (Eye roll) You never let me do anything fun when I want to.
Me:  You are correct. My job is to make your life a living hell.  From the trajectory of your eye roll, I'd say I might be getting my "Pain in the Ass" patch to put on my mom vest quite soon.

These might not be the best examples, but I've made the situation much simpler for me because I am not saying they can't do what they want, I've just put them in control of when or whether they will do it or not.  I think the whole idea is to lob the ball of control into their court.

Scenario C
 This is something that actually happened in my house earlier today.  Photographic evidence provided.
Audrey:  My gallon of glue came!!  (Leaping around the house in sheer joy) I can't wait to make slime!
Me:  You're welcome to make slime when you vacuum out the colored sugar sprinkles from the cabinets.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Slime and colored sugar sprinkles. Everywhere. All the time. There is a slight risk that if you come to my house you will be glued and sprinkled.

Here's a bonus scenario, which is also a hard hitting opinion piece on loud, obnoxious kid places with bad food and no alcohol.

Scenario D
Douglas: Mom, can we go to Chuck E Cheese?
Me: I will definitely take you directly to Chuck E Cheese as soon as you can hang up your wet towels and put your dirty clothes down the chute for three days in a row without reminders.  Not thrown on the floor in front of the chute...actually put them down the chute.  (This will thereby guarantee that I will never have to step foot in a CEC ever again, BTW.)
Douglas: You've never told me to do those things before!
Me: If you mean that you've never listened to me tell you those things before, you are correct.

I wish I was writing a post about how sarcasm is the most effective form of parenting because then I would be sitting here typing from my Manhattan brownstone which was paid for from the proceeds of my book, "Parenting with Passive Aggression and Sarcasm - Please watch TV while I clean up after you."
Unfortunately, sarcasm as a parenting strategy doesn't work very well most of the time, due, large in part, to the fact that it basically provides them with material to use right back at you.  However, for me, it can sure be a good release valve for that pent up parenting frustration, even if it is short lived.  A stress ball that you squeeze, toss to your kid and then he throws at your nose.

Okay, to summarize, instead of using the word 'No,' say, 'You're welcome to...." 
Game changer.  Let me know how this works for you.

P.S. It helps to just repeat what you've said when they argue about it.  The tried and true "broken record" approach.  This can be hard because they might require many repetitions and the urge to engage with them is strong.  It is extremely annoying for them, but in defense of the parents, so is arguing and not doing what their supposed to.  Carry on, soldiers.

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