Monday, September 27, 2010

A DuHa! moment

I recently had a DuHa! moment. Duh, because I can't believe this didn't occur to me sometime during the previous, oh, 9 years that I've been a parent and Aha! because I think I've had a major realization of what my job as a parent is (maybe that should be Duh! also).

It's not about me.

When my kids "spill" baking powder all over the kitchen floor, it's not about me.
When my kids "decorate" their rooms (walls, blankets, toys, bed frame) with a sharpie marker, it's not about me.
When they have a total meltdown over cleaning up their playroom, it's not about me.
When they have a tantrum over doing their homework, it's not about me.

If it was about me, I'd be angry that they made such a huge mess that they were in no way capable of cleaning up themselves. I'd be mad that they ruined a new bed spread, and left me a lot of work to do with a magic eraser (praise be to magic erasers). I'd be frustrated and feel like throwing their toys in the garbage. I'd be ready to tack on some extra jobs, and maybe do a little tantruming myself.

But it's not about me.

So instead, I show them how to use a measuring spoon without spilling the whole jar (or I keep it out of reach of little fingers), and teach them how to use a broom. I keep permanent markers up high, and kid-friendly markers and paper down low, and get two magic erasers and teach them how to clean their toys. I provide places for each toy to belong, and teach them how to put each toy away before getting out new ones, and sometimes I put toys in time out (but I don't yell, because it's not about me). Finally, I sit down with them and show them how to make a to-do list when they're overwhelmed, and if it helps, we both eat lifesavers to get us through the work.

My Aha! moment was that it's not about punishment for things they do that make me angry or frustrated, it's about teaching them to take care of their belongings, and how to clean things up if they make a mess, and use their words to express frustration, and take a deep breath and take overwhelming tasks one step at a time.

It does my kids no good for me to yell and send them to time out because I'm mad. Time outs are for helping them to calm down and think about things. What I need to do when they do something they shouldn't, is teach them what they SHOULD do next time, and show them how to fix whatever it is that they did.

Seems pretty obvious, but it took me 9 years for the idea to occur to me.


Charlotte said...

You're a better mom than I, Al! Want four more kids to raise?? ;)

Alice said...

Having DuHa! moments doesn't mean I follow through as I should.

I'm a great mom all day, then the kids get home from school and the quality of my parenting quickly deteriorates.

wordsfromhome said...

At least you have figured out what you need to learn to do. That is a step up in parenting from where your parents were I think.

Salt H2O said...

love this post

Stevens Family said...

Thanks for the reminder. :)

Lisa said...

Even though you just barely had this DuHa! (love it, btw!), I think you have already been implementing it in your parenting. The time I have the hardest time thinking that it's "not about me" is when I directly ask for something to be done, or not done, and Sawyer doesn't mind me. It feels like it's about *me*, ever so much more so than when he just does something naughty or messy or mischievous. I try not to expect too much -- he's only two, after all! -- but sometimes the willful disobedience really gets to me. Maybe in six or seven more years I'll have it a little more figured out.

wordsfromhome said...

Lisa, I just have to comment on that!
Two is the time in a person's life when he figures out that he can say no. Nothing personal there for you, He finally realizes that he is a distinct person and can say no to, or ignore, anything. In the grand scheme of things this is his first Aha moment, and a really important one.

Lisa said...

Thanks for pointing that out, wordsfromhome (Ruth Ann? George?). Your experienced perspective helps so much! So it isn't really about *me* after all, it's about him realizing that he is separate from me and has his own will. Tomorrow I shall be more patient about this.

Emily said...

And the super awesome thing about the "it's not about me" revelation is that it applies to EVERYBODY else, not just ones children. Though I still think Ripley has a certain deliberateness in the items she periodically selects for destruction. But my feelings about that ARE about me - hers are about the soothing feel of leather and plastic and cardboard on her teeth.