tradecraft: boundaries (part VI)

boundaries at home: the wisdom of…parenting with love and logic…

reading books is a luxury that disappears once you have children…when someone asks me, what’s the last book you read, d.???…my response often sounds something like this…uh, let me think about that now…hmmmmmthe first ‘harry potter’ book…no, not quite that far back–maybe the first ‘hunger games’ book…the movies may be fresh right now (don’t see those right away either), but the books have been around for a while and i’m not on top of what’s new, you know…these twins have me on the ropes;)

but, the good news is–there is light at the end of the tunnel…and as they get older, it starts to come back…little by little…

i started to see that happening this past summer, when i had the chance to pick up the book ‘parenting with love and logic’ by foster cline and jim fay (and several opportunities to actually read it or at least parts of it, unbelievable!)…it was a book that was recommended to my wife and i by our friends nate and emily youngblood…and i’m glad that they made the recommendation, because it is a really great book for parents (both the ‘newly minted moms and dads’ and seasoned veterans of ‘the parenting wars’)…

for me, one of the greatest take-aways from the book so far...is the importance of choice in everyday life…and that, even if your kids are as young as 2 years old you can give them choices, options in the midst of a resistant or contrary behavior…choices that will help them and you reach the desired outcome of a situation–without a power struggle, no less…now, i’m a teacher, so this stuff isn’t completely new to me–i’ve written about choices/options as it relates to navigating expectations and boundaries and consequences with the kids i’ve worked with before…kids who are teenagers, mostly…but, working with toddlers is different…and working with my own toddlers has its own pitfalls–in other words, when certain challenges have come up, i haven’t always known what course to take…it’s like starting from scratch…

importantly, when i talk about choices or options that you can give your kids…i’m not talking about letting them call the shots…they’re 2 years old, people…but, what i am talking about and what i have learned from this book is the fact that even a simple, little choice can give them some power in a situation; it allows them the opportunity to think or to start thinking about things, what they are doing and what choices they are making…it is an opportunity to start working on those life skills…

let me give you an example of the distinction between your children making choices vs. your children calling the shots — and one of the many reasons for why i love this book…

one of the key phrases i picked up from ‘parenting with love and logic’ is: would you like to go by air or by feet?

it’s funny, i read this section of the book right when our toddlers, jack and grace, were first showing signs of serious resistance to our requests to go somewhere…telling us ‘no’ or ‘i don’t wanna’…and staying put, right where they were–immovable human objects…

common times for resistance in our family were/are:

  1. getting in the car
  2. going to the dinner table
  3. going to get changed
  4. going to their rooms for bedtime

here’s a case in point: jack was becoming more and more resistant about getting into the car when we had somewhere to go…so, one day, not too long after i had read the ‘by air or by feet’ part, he was up to his old tricks…not wanting to go to the car, refusing our directives and being non-compliant…and, of course, we were going somewhere fun…like the zoo–so, go figure (this is the kind of behavior that drives parents absolutely nuts)…anyways, the family was dressed and ready to head out the door when jack said…

i’m not going.

so, i asked him,

you don’t want to go to the zoo?

and he said,

no, i don’t.

[an impasse–if we continued to go back and forth like this, the situation would’ve turned into a power struggle–and nobody wins a power struggle; at the same time, if we had let him stay back and have his way when this is what the family was doing–we’d have lost this battle and it could’ve easily set us up for problems in the future–where we might find ourselves handing over our authority to our children again and again–or what i like to call: letting them call the shots]…

so, i paused for a moment and said…

jack this what we’re doing today…you can either go to the car by air or by feet…you can either walk there on your own or be carried (i explained it completely because it was our first go round with this technique)…

i’m not going, he said again.

so, i said…

so, by air, then?! (and picked him up and carried him to the car)

it didn’t take him long after that to realize that he had some say in how he could get from ‘here to there’…that he had a choice in the matter (a little life matter)…and since that first time, he’s often chosen the ‘by feet’ option…

importantly, and this is oh so important–in cases like this, you (the parents) are still getting the results you want…just like we did…in our case, what wasn’t up for debate or argument was the fact that he was going to the car and all of us were going to the zoo together…those were non-negotiables…how he was going to get there was up to him and allowable by “us parents” 🙂

despite the fact that this is something that won’t work with/be appropriate with older/bigger kids, it’s been such an effective response in our home that i’ve often daydreamed about using the same technique on my high school students:  what?! don’t want to go on the field trip–well, you can either go ‘by air or by feet’…what?! don’t want to go to ISS–well, you can either go ‘by air or by feet’…

i can only imagine the puzzled looks on their faces at being presented with those options…

🙂

honestly, ‘by air or by feet’ has saved us from countless knock down, drag-out battles

so, thank you so very much…parenting with love and logic authors, you rule!

 

teacher mojo

having kids changes you…more than you can possibly comprehend at any point prior to the instant that they show up in your life…

one of the changes that i’ve experienced in regards to this–has happened on the job…working with and teaching high school students…more specifically, in how i work with and teach students…

i now refer to “the change” in this way (originally coined by my wife)…

having kids messes with my teacher mojo…

look, before my kids came along i thought i would be hell at work, less patient, and have a shorter fuse with the students in my classes…but, surprisingly, what’s happened has been the complete and total opposite…honestly, “the change”…caught me off guard, knocked me down, and rocked my world in ways that i never knew were possible…who would’ve thought?!

take the example from the hard lessons post…in the past, i would’ve been harder on those guys that we’re giving me trouble–i would’ve been less patient and understanding…and quick to drop the hammer…my patience might have lasted one or two months, max…not a full semester…

but that’s not me today…

i’m different…i’ve been changed

when i talk to my students in class…all i can see are my own children in them, i see my students at one or two years old…so, it’s changed how i do things in my classroom…how i handle bad behaviors and challenging issues–because it’s harder to drop the hammer on a one-year-old…

now, some critics might say:

hey, d., you’ve lost your edge, man…

while i can see their point, i would disagree and say:

no, my edge is just different…it’s grown…it’s expanded…

i still ‘call kids out’ and hold them accountable, i just do it differently…my well is deeper, my heart is bigger…nowadays…i have a greater capacity to be compassionate and understanding–to be patient and merciful…

i have more grace to give…

hit me with your best shot

along with the “i don’t wanna’s” and the “no’s” (as mentioned in the last post), another way that our twin’s behavior has turned is in the “physical aggression department”…

importantly, this is not the type of behavior that is described in the post titled love bites…this is different…this is intentional and deliberate aggression…

let me tell you about the first time that we saw this type of behavior in one of our kids…

well, it happened a couple of months ago, when the twins were 22 months old…we had just spent an hour visiting with a small group of people (that included family and friends)…we had been hanging out in our living room, having some snacks, and playing…it had been a good time…eventually, a few family members left and we were continuing to visit…

i remember looking across the room, my son and daughter were playing on the couch…at first everything was fine–they were laughing and having fun…my son had a thomas the train engine in his right hand and he was rolling it over one of the cushions…then, it happened…as i watched, i saw my son pull back his right arm, swing it towards my daughter and smash the train engine right into her face–hard…my daughter wailed and wailed…

and, i thought…

cinders and ashes!!! (the thomas the train version of profanity)

at this point, we took the train away from my son, scolded him, and set him in “time out” for 2 minutes…while our son was in “time-out”, we consoled our daughter…and when that was done, we brought my son out and talked to him for a minute (about what not to do) and had him ‘mend fences’ with our daughter…

it was the first time we had to discipline one of our kids for that kind of thing…and now that i think about it, it was the first time we had to discipline one of our kids for anything…since then, we’ve had to discipline them (yes, both son and daughter) for a variety of other aggressive actions…

because even the most innocent human beings, like these two, can take things too far…

i don’t wanna

our twins recently turned two…and their behavior turned, too…

honestly, we’ve seen a lot of new, amazing, positive things happen in the months preceding the terrible two’s (which hit us at about 18 months–a time that dr. david walsh has identified as a specific and significant point in child development)…we witnessed them start to become more self-aware, use tools (like a fork and spoon), walk and run, put their boots on, learn how to be funny, play independently (sometimes), become more socially interactive, tell us when they pooped, and to speak and use a variety of new words…

of all the new words that they’ve learned…the ones that hold the title spot for my least favorite are:

“i don’t wanna” and “no”

these words can show up when they (legitimately) don’t wanna do something or say “no” to something they “don’t want”…but, they also show up often and in-between legitimate moments…when they speak these words just because they can...like the following exchange, which happens about 100 times a day…

me: you’re telling me you don’t wanna cookie–come on?!

my son: no, i don’t!

me: you’re telling me you don’t want the best tasting, yummiest thing we’ve got in the house right now?!

my son: no, i don’t!

me: what the fuck?! (not ‘out loud’)

you can see why parents need on-going and quality therapy (and potentially, on-going and quality prescription drugs)…this kind of thing, dealing with these people (children)…can make you crazy!

i am starting to see that…they are saying these words because they’ve begun to develop an awareness of their unique self in the world…differentiated from my wife and i…and so, they are resisting and rebelling against what we are trying to get them to do…

these are the first moments our kids have intentionally and deliberately tried to ‘push limits’ and ‘test us’…to see where the boundaries are…to see if we’re up to the job…and while it’s not the-most-super-fun-time we’ve experienced, we’re doing our best to ‘stand strong’–be firm, be fair, and love them along the way…

silent night

it will happen…you will have a time (or times) in your life, when something keeps you up at night

for my wife and i, one of those times was when the twins showed up–the early months were truly nuts!!!

i remember, in the haze of those early days, my head hitting the pillow then bouncing back up–instantly…this would happen regularly because one of the twins was crying, hungry, or needed consolation…since we kept them on the same feeding schedule, we would be up a lot of nights on that front (my wife would breast-feed one and i would bottle-feed the other at the same time)…one morning, the sleepless nights became all too evident when my wife asked me, do you remember what you did last night?! (the one question that can strike fear in the heart of any husband)…i replied, uh, no, i don’t…she gave me a small smile and said, yeah,  i woke up to the sound of you shouting and rustling around in bed…she paused for dramatic effect…and said, i looked over to see you commando-crawling through the bed-sheets shouting, ‘i’ve got to get out of here, i’ve got to get out of here!’ (we still laugh about that night)…

…often times, i would be sitting up all night with one of the babies…then, glance at the clock and realize–hey, i’ve got to get ready for work…so, i would set the baby down, get cleaned up, go in and teach a full day…then, come home and do it all over again…and again…and again…i remember going into the bathroom one day at work…and, as i was washing my hands, i caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror–it was ugly, i looked like hell (i was sportin’ what could be best described as the post-apocalyptic, world war z zombie look)–jeepers!  unfortunately, i wasn’t the only one who realized the ‘state of things’ in our world…because as i was walking down the hall to the copy room, my colleague stopped me and asked, are you alright?! (his face showed genuine concern–with a sprinkling of the early stages of panic:)…i mumbled some indiscernible response and continued on…in a way that would make the undead proud…

i didn’t really know what tired was until that point in my life…

so, if you’re there, at that point in your life…in the midst of a storm…where something is keeping you up at night…i wish for you peace, rest, and a good night’s sleep…i wish for you a silent night…

love bites…

while i have picked up some ‘tricks of the trade’ when it comes to working with other people’s kids…it is a whole different ballgame when it comes to my own…

basically, when it comes to herding (my own) cats, i have no idea what i’m doing…

sure, in the past, i’ve been kicked, punched, elbowed, grabbed, pushed, bitten, scratched, spit at, and swore at by young people in my charge…but, i hadn’t experienced any of these shenanigans by the little ones i had helped bring into the world, by my own offspring …until they started biting…it was something i wasn’t ready for and it rattled my cage a bit…

my son was the primary offender…and this kind of thing happened a lot before he could really talk or make words or knew how to show affection…at this time, if he was excited he would run at you (full speed), tackle you, and bite you–hard…often times, i felt like one of those poor victims attacked by the angst-ridden, brooding, pale-faced vampire kids in the twilight series…anyways, in one of his most exuberant fun-loving moments, my son bit his cousin–his cousin didn’t feel the love…so, we separated my son from his cousin and i gave my son a stern word…but, was that enough?

my daughter, of course, was not to be upstaged by my son’s antics…so, one day, she took her own pound of flesh…it was a day that started out as a normal one in our household …we had just finished a breakfast that included thawed/toasted/ buttered/syrupy waffles, diced fruit, milk, and random three-day-old cheerios that the kids scraped off the kitchen floor…

satiated, my daughter and i were playing on the living room floor, having a good ole time wrestling around and laughing…at one point during the melee, i rolled over to hide from her saying, “where did daddy go?”–and then it happened–she bit me, right between the shoulder blades–it hurt…so, i squawked, i screamed, i yelled– “stop it, let go!”…in my insulated, child-proof cranium it went more like “stop it, let fuckin’ go!” (it was a minor miracle that i didn’t shout it out loud) anyways, while she was clamped down on the skin of my back, i was twisting and turning–trying to reach behind me and grab ahold of her…but, she was elusive and determined and i couldn’t quite reach her…as i flailed about on the ground, images of jurassic park filled my head–you know the part, where the guy is mauled by the flesh-eating baby dinosaurs…

i was thinking–i’m not going make it out of here alive

somehow, i endured and survived and got loose of her…i told her, “don’t do that” and she cried –i thought what just happened? why do they keep biting? what can we do to make them stop?  what else could i do besides separating them and giving them a stern word? 

then, i thought back to the day when we first picked up our twins at that curiosity shop in chinatown…now, what did that guy tell me?!

no, but seriously, i realized that there are some things in life that there isn’t a playbook for, or instructions not included moments…i also realized, hey, these guys are one–what do they know? they like you, they bite you…that’s how they show their affection, their love–they’ve got love bites…it’s a phase…we’re movin’ on…

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