Saturday, June 27, 2015

| Parent Tip | Just Listen

I happen to have a child who remembers very little of what I say, especially if said child is engaged in something other than giving me his undivided attention, which is often. If I throw in the word "baseball," or "ice cream" he perks up, but only for a short moment, until he discovers my decoy. 
Giving him one instruction at a time, or writing a list is always best if I want results. I let him check off the list when tasks are completed and keep a personal list when he has schoolwork to accomplish. “Make your bed” and “brush your teeth” are a poster size list that never changes.

He isn't a big talker about school, friends, or church either. His word count is incredible low. I have found that the best way to gather information is to get him one on one. With siblings in the mix this often poses difficultly but with some strategic Tetris maneuvering I succeed. 

Beginning with subjects that interest are best. "Do you think the pitchers should be required to hit as well?" or "When is the best time to use a driver in golf?" get the vocal chords lubricated for the real conversation and questions like "What happened to your grade in language arts?" or "Why don't I see Luke around anymore?" One-word answers are his specialty so I construct open-ended questions for greater results.

For adult children, the same is true. If I want to have worthy conversation I need to discover their communication style and timing. Do they prefer e-mail or phone conversations? Do they respond to text message or a message on Facebook? While one child gives little information when he is hungry, another rattles on endlessly when we take the dogs for a walk. My daughter has unique timing. She could talk for hours at 10:30 in the evening or right in the middle of the workday, inconvenient at best, but rarely shunned.

Talk, converse, share, collaborate, seek, and ask, but always keep the conversation going. Do what works best for their style; feed them, take them on a date, make a list, send an e-mail, draw a picture, play a card game, or go for a bike ride. Fight through the grunts and groans, push away the one-word answers, encourage, question, and consult. Getting some children to talk is tough, but it is rarely impossible, unless you begin with a bullhorn.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

| Parent Tip | Carpool

I am a huge fan of silence. As a mother of four children, silence is a luxury therefore, when I was offered a coveted position in the carpool mafia my acceptance was met with reservation. Having to only drive 2 out of the 5 days to school was appealing yet suffering through 20 minutes of incessant preteen boy babble would be painful. Carefully weighing my options was a must.

With the promise of dessert after dinner or candy in between meals I can coax our children into studying for an upcoming quiz on the way to school, turn up the radio so as to drown out their voices, or make them count the number of black vehicles they observe. Other people’s children aren’t as easy to persuade. Although candy may be their favorite meal, since I am not their parent, I wasn’t in a potion to make them the offer.

While I admit to succumbing to the offer, my heads still rings as a painful result. I grossly underestimated boys and chatter, and noises, and potty talk. Grossly. However, this experience provided huge learning opportunities. You will be edited to me for sharing these ideas with you whether you have boys or girls. You’re welcome.

1.     Listen. Children will forget that you are in the car and will inadvertently share thoughts with their friends while you listen. They will enlighten you to situations at school they would not normally share with you. Wear one of those disposable surgical masks so you are not tempted to interject your words of wisdom. Your kids won’t be embarrassed at all.

2.     Question. As they share responses to the conversation take time after school to encourage, lead, and guide. I will often say, “I noticed that Jack said he doesn’t like Ben because he is annoying. How do you treat Ben?” This provides a great way for you to share your thoughts about how we are to treat difficult people.

3.     Watch. I noticed that my children are critical of other kids. They had to learn this from someone. As I examined my own character I realized that they learned their critical behaviors from me. Yuck. As I grow and develop spiritually I need to be cognizant of what I am teaching my children and make changes in my life for the better.

4.     Take good notes. I have learned tons about upcoming tests, field trips, lunch bag ideas, behaviors from teachers, and classroom expectations. This is invaluable information for a parent whose child can repeat very little about the six + hours they spent at school.

5.     Fart. If you have boys this will always and forever be hysterical. Whether in word form as in, “Did you hear Lauren fart yesterday?” or the actual act of flatulence, laughter will ensue and your car will smell. If you have girls, this will always and forever be revolting and reserved. Always.

I may not be a huge fan of carpool chatter but I am a huge fan of learning. I highly encourage you to join forces and enter the ranks of carpool, but, don’t forget the air freshener.

Friday, June 5, 2015

| Parent Tip: | The Power of Prayer and Tickling

| Parent Tip: |
The Power of Prayer and Tickling
Every night we pray with our little kids. We pray about our family, school anxiety, having good beach weather, grandparents who need healing, and if I am disappointed in them, I ask God to help them make better choices when Mom asks them to do something. They don't always like when I throw that last request into our prayer time but I am the one who prays so I get to say what I want.
We rarely pray with our bigger kids. Since they no longer require the closet doors shut, back tickling, and "wear your retainer" reminders, we typically open the door to their bedrooms and say, "Hey, we are going to bed. We love you, good night."
I am uncertain as to when the good night prayers ended, but I am certain that I am sad about it. I think, if our bigger kids were completely honest, they would admit to still enjoying their Dad or myself lying in bed next to them and praying out loud while we tickle their arms and back. As they mature though, we expect that this is no longer a requirement. Who made that decision? Our bigger kids need our prayers just as much as the little kids.
Prayer is an amazing gift that we can give to our children. When we pray for them and with them they get to witness, first hand, God's miracles, faithfulness, grace, and mercy. They get to rest in the arms of our Savior knowing that with prayer, anything is possible for those who believe. They get a peek at the workings of God and how He cares for our EVERY need.
Perhaps it is too late to begin again the regime of night time prayers and tickling with a 21 year old girl and an 18 year old boy, but I am certain, that tonight, our typical cadence of good nights will have an additional sentence, "How can we be praying for you?"