Wednesday, March 7, 2012

5 - You're Good, not Great...and Tiger Moms

I was proud of myself today.  A good mom moment.  My eldest son, age 6, is going through a rock star phase.  He is a Big Time Rush fan, and his eyes light up anytime he sees a music video (which I censor, and pull up on YouTube for him).  He practices the moves, dances and sings.  I'm hoping that this isn't what he wants to do with his life, because if it is, he has some work to do.  Some people are born with it, some people are not.  When he sings, I smile and clap.  But today, after he sang a little song he made up, he said "I'm GREAT".  I said "You're Good".  He looked at me, shocked.  Shocked as if he had said 2 plus 2 is 4, and I said It's 3.  He KNEW he was great, and I was clearly wrong.

I went on to explain that anyone who is GREAT at something, practices a lot, and learns from the best in the industry.  Great riders take riding lessons, great tennis players take tennis lessons, and great singers take singing lessons.  He nodded in understanding.  I followed up with, "Do you want singing lessons?"  He didn't have to think about it...  "No".

I was proud of myself for finding an opportunity to teach my son that we work hard for the things that are important to us.  I didn't plan on steering him away from a singing career at age 6.

I do adore my kids, and so I worry that I might inflate their egos, from time to time.  I praise them often, and genuinely admire their creativity.  It is not often that I tell them they aren't as great as they think they are, or that the work they did was not good enough.  But, I try to be honest, and ask for more effort, and better results if I know they are capable, on a regular basis.  This is partly in thanks to an article I read last summer, in a waiting room.  It was about the book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.   There is something to be said about the Tiger Mom's mentality, in which they set the goals and standards very high, and expect their children to achieve those goals; Because they believe their children can.  No inflated egos, no satisfaction in mediocrity.  The Tiger Mom has a point, and, if we want our children to be successful, as most parents do, it is a perspective worth considering.  Through the bad, there is some good, like it or not.  Here is the article, by Time Magazine, if you want to cut to the chase.  I'll be honest, I didn't read the book myself, just the review.  It's on my "To Read" list.

I would never condone her methods. I think we should treat our children with kindness and respect. You'll still see me smiling at my children, telling them good job, and holding them if they just want to be held.  But, I am also going to make my 4 year old practice his W's until he writes them correctly.  I believe that he can.  I also believe that hard work is important, that he can do anything he puts his mind to, and that most things in life don't come easy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

4 - Making the most of Daddy Time

In our house, daddy time seems to go in spurts, based on what hunting season it is.  I am fortunate that my husband has a job that allows him to be home every day, at a reasonable time.  We eat dinner together every night, and he helps get them to bed.  The boys do those routines well, and it works for everyone.

The weekends can be rather unpredictable, however.  The challenge is when the weather is foul, and my husband has to entertain 3 active boys, without mom.  Snow is a great entertainer, but our winter has been unseasonably warm and muddy.  He doesn't have a problem, when the weather is nice.  He takes them to the playground, takes them fishing, hiking, swimming, and tree climbing; He's in his element.  But when they stay home, inside, they always end up FAR exceeding their TV and video game limits.

Hunting season just ended in January, and my husband spent at least one day every weekend, since November, in the pursuit of ducks.  So, I have some 'me time' headed my way, and I would like to know that they aren't going to spend the entire time I am gone, in front of the TV.

I need activities that meet the following criteria:

  • Not too messy.  My husband is not a fan of messy activities...or perhaps just cleaning up.
  • Doesn't require him to assist the older boys, since our 2 year old often needs more supervision.
  • Physical activity is always a good idea, since I'm talking about 3 young boys, after all.
  • Budget friendly.
My oldest, burning energy at Kingdom of Bounce

Here is what I've come up with:
  • Pick up some oversized cardboard boxes so they can decorate as castles, airplanes, whatever.  Free, from some grocery and big box around.  Offer the kids markers, crayons, glue sticks and safety scissors, for guaranteed fun.
  • Fresh batteries and flashlights for everyone...puppet shows, flashlight tag, ghost stories in a ...
  • Fort built with blankets and kitchen chairs.  (Also a great way to keep the kids entertained while the floors get washed!)
  • Open gym (We have the Jungle Gym, and Recreation Outlet, locally.  But, some Y's offer day passes, as do some toddler oriented gymnastics facilities and bounce house companies.  Google it!)  Usually a cost for this, but, I'm willing to pay for tired kids!
I'm always looking for more ideas - please share!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

3 - Redshirting boys for Kindergarten

Preschool registration dates are approaching quickly, so whether to send a child to Kindergarten, or keep them in preschool another year, is a hot topic among my circle of moms.  Already having redshirted (a term used in sports for benching a player in order to prolong his eligibility for college sports) my first son, who has a summer birthday, I figured I would do the same for my middle son, who is just 23 months younger.  Of course, that extra month puts him at the beginning of summer, or the end of the school year, depending on the school system.  So, if I redshirt #2, he would be turning 7 at the end of Kindergarten, whereas other children might just be turning 6.  So, I began to doubt my strategy, and turned to the research I had relied on when making the decision for my first son.

Pro's for sending:

  • Save money by not paying for preschool.
  • Older peers modeling good behavior, and academic expectations may help develop the younger child
  • Greater academic growth during the Kindergarten year.

I hesitate to include the link to this article, because I feel it is very biased towards sending children, and makes a persuasive argument, at the expense of unfairly skewing the facts.  For example, the author cites a disadvantage of withholding a child from Kindergarten as losing a precious opportunity to learn, when a child's brain is growing so rapidly.  I agree that a child that is "disadvantaged", in other words, not going to preschool, is losing out by not going to Kindergarten.

What he doesn't consider in this statement, is that the majority of parents who are holding back their children, are providing them with an additional year of preschool.  The people reading his article in the New York Times, are typically not "disadvantaged" households!  My child's preschool offers opportunities for learning that aren't even presented to children until 1st or second grade, such as counting money, telling time, and certain other math and science lessons.  I can't say that all preschools offer these same opportunities, but, I am certain that there are lessons being learned, and that this time isn't just being wasted in the preschool classroom.

He also attempts to persuade the audience by listing off a slew off advantages/disadvantages, with the seemingly harmless word, "may" before his facts.  They convey facts, but the reality is that every fact he states as "may be" could very well be read as "is not".  For example..."Some children, especially boys, are slow to mature emotionally, a process that may be aided by the presence of older children."  Don't insult me with a fact that may or may not be true!  This could just as easily be "Some children, especially boys, are slow to mature emotionally, a process that IS NOT aided by the presence of older children.  You get the idea.

I also have concerns as to how some of the studies he presented, were conducted.  But, he doesn't care to share the sources for those studies.  Interesting.  Since I sold pharmaceuticals, I am very familiar with how studies are done, and how a study can be presented to pursued one way or another.  Good doctors read the studies and form their own opinions, based on how the study was run, how well controlled the control group was, if there was one, and so forth.  I like to form my opinions the same way a skeptical doctor would.

Pro's for redshirting:

So, what to do?  Well, if you are putting some time and consideration into the question, chances are that you will make the right decision for your child.  Even if boys, in general, are better off waiting a year, that doesn't mean that YOUR boy is better off waiting a year.   There will always be exceptions, and you need to know where your child stands both behaviorally, academically, and socially!  If you need more help making that decision, here is a fantastic article with questions you should ask yourself, your school, and your preschool teachers.

And, a few other sources particular to the subject of boys:

If you have an education background, you will appreciate this source, on the gender differences, and teaching:  Girls will be Girls, and Boys will be Boys.

I would recommend the book, Raising Cain, not only for the Kindergarten debate, but as a guide to communicating with your boy throughout his development.  "Girl's behavior becomes the gold standard.  Boy's are treated like defective girls." - Author of Raising Cain  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2 - Invite Popeye to dinner!

I can't complain.  My kids are pretty good eaters.  I would like to think that my kids are good eaters because I breast fed them all, and, just to be sure my kids were getting the taste of broccoli in the breast milk, I, personally, would take an extra serving of vegetables at dinner time when I was breast feeding.  Did you know, breast fed kids are suppose to be less picky eaters because they have experienced so many tastes, before they even start on solids?  So they say.  I would also like to think that it is because my husband and I trained them well. We diligently fed the vegetable baby foods, one at a time, until they were all being consumed rather than spit out, before moving onto the sweeter fruits. Did we train their pallets to accept the bland and bitter?  All that being said, they are still kids, and would rather eat PB and J's than green beans. 

But, you never would have believed what happened at dinner the other night.  Their eyes lit up when they saw the bowl of dark greens (and bacon!) coming to the table.  I made Collard Greens (from my garden :-), and the kids grabbed the tongs and put some on their plates as soon as they sat down.  Their little faced scrunched up as they chewed up and swallowed their bitter greens, without a single reminder to eat their veggies.  Apparently, I haven't mastered the art of cooking greens.  Regardless, they ate it, all in the name of Spinach.  I didn't dare tell them that it wasn't actually spinach.  They had recently seen Popeye, thanks to an old school DVD I had picked up from Goodwill, and they were eating in the name of bulging Popeye style muscles.  As soon as it had been swallowed, they promptly started making muscles and saying, "Look how strong I'm getting!"  Indeed.  As long as they overlook the smoking pipe and fighting, Popeye is quite a role model.  I just want to know, why don't more cartoons involve superhero's that require vegetables to activate their powers?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

1 - Ugly parents

Yelling is ugly.  I don't like being yelled at, and I don't like doing it.  Either way, it feels yucky, and the only feeling that remains is guilt if I've dished it out, or disrespect (and a strongly dislike) towards the yeller, if I'm the recipient.  I'm pretty sure that feeling is the same, regardless of age.
But, I do it.  I wanted to say, "doesn't everybody?"  But, I stopped myself, because I don't want to 'make it OK'.  I don't care if everyone does.  I would like not to.

Like I was saying, I do it, not regularly, but when it happens, I've ruined my own day.  I call it a bad mommy day.  But, I've figured out how to make the bad mommy days go away, so I thought I would share:

1.) Just like my children when they can't control their emotions, I'm probably not getting enough sleep.  So, go to bed earlier.  Take an Ambien if necessary.  Get some sleep.

2.) I need to review my Love and Logic DVD (I have the books too, but, it sure is nice getting all the most important information in just a few short hours).  Suddenly, what to do about whining kids, arguing, kids who won't pick up their toys, and picky eaters is crystal clear.  Easier said than done, I'll admit, but clear.  And once it's clear, it's less frustrating.  No biggie.  No yelling.

I've found that brainwashing myself with how to be a good parent can actually overcome the lack of sleep, which is helpful, since, after all, I have 3 young children, a variety of animals, a husband, a house to clean, mail to sort, coupons to clip, a garden to weed, emails to check, and so on and so on.

Good parenting takes some thought.  Some planning even.  Some effort.  But, I don't think lazy parents make very good parents, and I like to be a good parent.

"Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty... I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well."
-- Theodore Roosevelt

And the brilliance of the Love and Logic approach is that the difficulties become your childrens', for them to overcome.  They are better people because of it.  I bet the Love and Logic people are Teddy fans.