Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sometimes it's Simple

Things can seem so complicated. And then it turns out to be a simple turn of the valve.

I wrote last week about my adventure with lice. That turns out to be a tad complicated what with all the washing, combing, sterilizing, rechecking, braiding, etc. But nothing a simple working washing machine can't fix. Turns out the my brand new washer, which seemed to be malfunctioning in it's very first cycle had a simple fix. The cold water valve was shut off, meaning the rinse cycle couldn't start, meaning the spin cycle couldn't go, meaning the clothes were just sitting in limbo. A simple turn of the valve and voila, washer working.

Life lesson. Sometimes it's as simple as turning a valve. I've been taking a parenting class of late. Actually it is a bit late - my kids, after all, are 16 & 10. I wish I'd known about this class sooner. But hey, I didn't. The biggest lesson I've learned from this class has turned out to be nearly miraculous and nearly as simple as turning the valve. Reward positive behavior, ignore negative behavior. Of course there are details to work out. Negative behavior does not include hitting, breaking things or disobeying. But it does include things like arguing, screeching protests, begging, lollygagging and general obnoxiousness. I'd heard for some time that I should reward positive behavior, but I was missing a link. Of course I knew to reward positive behavior, ie, praise cooperation, praise sibling nonrivalries, reward good school work and doing chores cheerfully. What had been missing before was what to do with all the annoying stuff. It seemed those needed to be dealt with, punished even. Turns out my generation is over-explaining everything. Mommy can I have some cookies before dinner? No honey. Please Mom, I'm so hungry. No, it's too close to dinner, and you'll spoil your appetite. But Mom, I'm hungry, I didn't have lunch. Are you going to make me starve? Honey, just hold on, we'll be having dinner in a half hour. Mom, I'm hungry now! STOP. The first no was all that was needed. Truth is, she knows all the rest. No explanation needed. All the begging, logical explanation, guilt tripping is just an engagement with me for attention. In my effort to try and rationally explain why cookies before dinner isn't a good idea, I might as well have gone to the park and pushed her in the swings. Same degree of attention from me. The art of ignoring is new to me, and surprisingly powerful and effective. I never thought I'd earn "good parent" points by ignorning. We've had far fewer Momchild war of words since learning that simple trick. And of course, now it seems sooooooo obvious. A simple turn of the valve. In this case, it's the Mom attention valve, OFF.

I still turn it on though when little Missy thanks me for getting her a snack at the appropriate time.

Good bye good people.

Thanks for reading. (see, I'm praising your good behavior!)

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