Friday, June 2, 2017

New Mom, New Kid

I had heard of this book before and maybe I'd seen the cover.  I thought about it as a book for other people.  People who thought there'd be a quick fix or an easy formula to get parenting right- let them try it.  I knew better than that.

But in a very grey puddleslug season of mothering recently, a dear friend and mentor passed on this same title to me encouraging me to take a look.  Hearing it from her, I finally agreed and snatched up a kindle copy of How to Have a New Kid by Friday (by Dr. Kevin Leman.)

So... my humble pie?  The book is totally, especially, exactly for me.  It's a book that is positively about helping me be a stronger mom before I even think of focusing on getting any new kids from the deal.  You bet I want to see change in them, but I know I need change in me first.  Leman tells you in the book not to ruin the fun and tell your kids about the changes coming (when you start implementing the strategies in the book) but instead, just to make it a surprise for them.   No threats, no warnings, just consequences delivered on the spot.

At our house, I'm happy to tell them that I'm learning, I'm changing, I'm becoming a new mom who is aiming to do a much better job at helping my kids learn to obey, choose wisely, and work for excellence.  Seems only fair to give them just a tiny heads up that things, are, indeed changing around here....

I had heard that the book was about giving your kid real life consequences.  I thought I knew enough about that and that I was probably doing it about as good as could be done.  I was wrong.   This book is equipping me to change things pretty completely.

These have happened already....
Old:  "Hey kids, can you please pick up your roller blades and helmets at the front door?"
They'd "forget" and I'd steam a bit and holler louder and get testy and unfun and holler some more before the job would maybe, half-way get done, half an hour later...
New:  1- Give them the instruction one time (smiling firm with "I love you and I am your authority" certainty into their eyes (that's my little addition)) 2- turn your back, 3- walk away.  When I see half an hour later that they stepped over their rollerblades and went outside to play, I ask their brother to put it all away for them.  And add "and buddy, those two will be paying you from their allowance for this extra chore you're doing for them.  Good job."  And you know, he gets the job done well and they won't forget so easily again.

Old:  Rudeness and disrespect in classtime.   I used to lecture them about it- it never helped them one drip and it only heated me up with frustration and helped them not want to hear my words.
New:  "Hey loves, since you were unpleasant in classtime, I'm going to add extra classwork to make your afternoon less pleasant for you too.  Here's your extra math assignments.  I hope this will help you remember now that a kind and respectful attitude is absolutely expected of you in our family."

Old:  Bickering at the table.  For so long, I've felt like there's nothing that I could do for a bad attitude or for behavior like this.  I was wrong.
New:  "You two are excused from the breakfast table.  You'll have to sit in your room till you can speak to each other peacefully and solve this on your own."  And if plates have been removed from the table when they come out, a little extra hunger will help them remember to find a way to speak peaceably at the table next time.  (Dr. Leman makes a strong case for never doing things for your kids that they can do for themselves.  Peacemaking is a big one.  Their responsibility- more often than not- not my job to solve their squabbles for them.)

And... from the book Siblings Without Rivalry, a recent GEM that was loaned to me from across the country!, the authors say the same thing.... how parents can aim to guide kids to solving problems, making peace themselves without parents taking either side.  (I'll have to write more about this book soon too... it helps me so much to write to remember!)

This one hasn't happened yet, but I'm ready for it now...
Old:  Arguing in public or in the car.  Again, I would just lecture them about why they should stop and complain about how terrible it is to listen to them....
New:  Since parenting can be awfully inconvenient, strong parents need to be ready to be really inconvenienced for the sake of serving and training their kids well, the book reminds us.  I need to be ready to turn the car around and take them home hungry.   And not give in and fill their tummies with treats as soon as they show one tiny glimmer of repentance or some new kindness.  Hold your ground, mama.  "No dear, I'm really not going to take you to that friend's house even though you're speaking more kindly now.   I'm glad you're doing better but I need to see you choosing to keep yourself speaking respectfully.  We'll have to try again for next week."

Dr. Leman stresses, when giving consequences:  "B doesn't happen until A is done."  A is the consequence you give them..... and B is everything else that every child depends on their parents for....   money, driving privileges, phone access, time with friends and online....    I'm realizing that more up-front, real-world consequences over things that matter helps my kids see me for what I truly want to be for them:  the kind of mom that loves them fierce and true and will stand up and fight for them and dive in and get dirty helping them to learn character and skillful excellence. I want to be the kind of mom that will pour out my last comforts and conveniences for the sake of truly, really helping them grow up into maturity and honor.  Lecturing has never done the job.

Personally, I've felt handcuffed by fears of stepping outside what our culture (and this culture) insists is positive, polite parenting... Plus, I couldn't imagine a tolerable way to be a stronger HELP to our kids, rather than just telling them what I hoped they would do.  One of my dear friends joked on me for "hurling virtues" at our kids while I was cooking in the kitchen:  "Come one guys! Bravery!  Kindness!  You can do it!"  I think, in general, we are a generation of parents that doesn't know how to be strong for our kids,  to be a helpful, loving authority, training our children to get good things down.  I think our parental handcuffs and handicaps are plain as day when you look at kids in this generation.  And I'm glad there's some help and some hope to see things change for the better...

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