I realized today that children who are not in the house cannot mess up a clean house. Brilliant, huh? I wonder why I never thought of that before! Let’s go to the park until just before Daddy comes home. (works unless Daddy comes home early)
Archives for May 2006
The Great Imitators
What do my children imitate in me?
expressions, verbal clutter, mannerisms, habits (good and bad), food tastes, and many other things I’m sure we could identify.
Today we went to the dry cleaners. I needed to get a suit of Lee’s cleaned for his graduation on Thursday (and inspection on Wednesday). We realized on Sunday that there were some spots on it, and since yesterday was a holiday, this was the earliest I could take it in. After checking out one cleaners who didn’t do same day or next day service, and knowing that the time was getting late (9:45am) I stopped the car, and as is my custom, I pray out loud that God would give Mommy wisdom to know what to do, and help finding a cleaners in time that would have next-day service. (actually, David hears me pray for wisdom a lot!)
When we pulled up to a store, I heard David in the back saying, “Thank you, God, for Mommy finding a cleaners to get Daddy’s suit cleaned.” Now I wasn’t ready to thank God yet, since I didn’t know if I could get the suit back, but my heart did a double flip in gratitude with the knowledge that my son was responding to our custom of thanking God (out loud) when he answers our prayers. And we thanked God together when we got back to the car without Daddy’s suit. Would David have offered thanks if I didn’t make a conscious (and awkward, to be honest) effort to pray out loud for these “silly” requests? I doubt it. I pray that God would give me more opportunities like this, and that I would recognize them when they come.
Since David is my firstborn, and I’ve never had the chance to monitor the progression of attention span development in other children, I’ve been learning a lot about my expectations and reality in this area.
I was starting to get worried about David. He has the ability to do a fairly large puzzle for his age, but his attention span is too short to do the puzzle. Silly me, I’m worried he’s going to be an undisciplined wreck as an adult. The startling discovery is… get ready now: Attention span develops as a child gets older! Now, of course we can help or hurt attention spans. There is some evidence that excessive TV watching and computer use at early ages in particular hurts a child’s ability to focus. Helping children persist when a task is difficult (teamwork is the motivator of choice here) is a good thing for attention, I think.
But when all is said and done, a two year old doesn’t necessarily have the attention span to sit down with a puzzle for thirty minutes while I clean the house. I suppose part of me is surprised when they want or seem to need my interaction. I know that I am not a one-woman entertainer for my children. But I am coming to the awareness that my interaction is necessary in teaching valuable skills (like attention and persistence). And if I don’t expect my two year old to act like a four year old, maybe I can relax a little.
We choose our battles, don’t we? And sometimes we really do choose the wrong ones.
A Motivation Challenge
I’ve been thinking through a recent motivation challenge with our three year old.
David has been given a number of really cool t-shirts. Sometimes when we’re putting away laundry, he sees a shirt he would rather wear than the shirt he chose for that morning. I’ve never allowed him to change, telling him instead he can wear that outfit the next day.
However, he has discovered that if his shirt gets dirty, he gets it changed. And he knows how to get the shirt dirty enough to change. He either plays in water (allowed) enough to soak his entire shirt, or he is “careless” when he goes potty and gets on his shirt. Both of these situations nearly automatically guarantee he gets to wear the shirt of his [new] choice.
Lately, he’s been accomplishing this by not even going to the potty (he has some pants that he likes, too). What should I do?
My first thought was some sort of discipline or negative consequence for the action. But regardless of what I do, he still gets to change the shirt. I’m pretty confident that reward cancels out anything punitive in this situation. I could not let him wear the shirt he wants to wear, but again, he gets the shirt changed, so even if it’s not the shark shirt, it might be the airplane shirt. He still gets rewarded, even if he wears a boring navy blue shirt. I suppose I could foil his reward by making him wear pajamas until I can wash his original shirt and pants.
The motivation solution was eluding me.
The best solution I’ve thought of so far (and it came in a flash after pondering all of these unsatisfactory responses), is to remove the necessity of the reward. I can be quite flexible, so why does it matter if David wants to remove one clean shirt to put on another? As long as the first clean shirt is put neatly away, does it really matter if he changes? I don’t think so. So if he knows that he can ask me, and I’ll allow him to change, then the motivation to soil his shirt or pants is eliminated. I think this is what I’ll do, unless there are any better ideas around…