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An Expert’s Advice

November 28, 2010 by  
Filed under J.Bright

I’m very fortunate that my husband and I are on the same parenting page a good 87 percent of the time. Yes, we make our boys clear the table after supper. No, we don’t make them “clean their plates” at supper. Yes, our boys can earn money by doing special things for others or things around the house. No, we don’t pay them allowances.

On two pretty big issues though, we were divided: Sleeping and spanking. When our boys were babies, they didn’t sleep well, and my husband and I had a hard time agreeing on how much, and when, to let them cry. On spanking, my husband was ok with spanking when necessary; I was not.

Rather than going round and round on these two issues, in both cases, we sought out experts for advice. And both times, before talking with those experts, my husband and I both agreed that we would put our trust and faith in those experts, and what they said, we would do.

For sleep, we found a terrific sleep clinic, Millpond. It’s in England, and they worked with us by phone and email. Our wonderful counselor put us onto a schedule and a controlled crying program, and while her advice was sometimes hard, it worked.

For spanking, my husband and I went to a session on Smart Discipline at our church when our son Tyler (now five) was one. We agreed that we would ask Larry Koenig, a respected expert, what he thought about spanking. I was actually surprised by what he said, but I respect him so much that I was ok with following his advice.

This strategy of looking to an expert for advice has served Mike and me well, and I won’t hesitate to do it again in the future!

Keep ’em Busy!

November 22, 2010 by  
Filed under J.Bright, Uncategorized

Today has been quite a day. Like most mornings, I tossed a load of laundry into the machine after taking a shower and before beginning work. I didn’t give it a second though until my husband came home from dropping Tyler (age five) off at kindergarten.

“Quick, turn off the washer” my normally calm husband yelled!

By some miracle, he had come in the front door, instead of the back. That’s how he spotted soap suds spilling out of the pipe vent in our front yard. Uh-oh, that can’t be good.

Several hours and several hundred dollars later, we found out the sewer line had been blocked. But here’s the point of this story: Our sons Tyler and Austin (age three), were fabulous the entire time, even though Mike and I were quite distracted. I think the secret was instead of trying to push the boys aside, we welcomed them into this adventure. We invited them out to watch the plumber work, and we kept them busy going for flashlights and turning sinks on and off as the plumber requested.

As the plumber was packing up to leave, Tyler asked me if he could give the plumber some treats for his hard work. Absolutely, I said, and Tyler filled a ziploc bag with Reese’s peanut butter cups, Milk Duds, and Hershey’s bars, all from Tyler’s Halloween stash. The kind plumber was grateful, and quite surprised!

Smart Discipline

November 21, 2010 by  
Filed under J.Bright

For the first years of my sons’ lives, my main discipline strategy was time-outs. They worked well. When my sons misbehaved, they sat for the number of minutes they were old on a white wooden bench inside our front door. They don’t like to sit still, and so time-outs were very effective.

Then one day a few weeks ago, I told one son he was going to time-out. “No, I’m not,” he calmly stated. Uh-oh.

I looked at him and realized there’s not really much I can do at this point. I can’t carry him, plop him onto the bench, hold him down, and make him take a time-out. At that moment, I knew I had to up my game. We had been starting to see some attitude problems, with talking back and defiance, and so it was time for a change.

And so I asked my husband if he was ok with starting a discipline program we learned about when Tyler (now five) was only one year old: Smart Discipline. The program was developed by Larry Koenig, and we adjusted it a bit for our family. My husband and I sat down and wrote five simple rules for our family:

  • We do what we’re asked to the first time.
  • We keep our hands to ourselves.
  • We speak kindly and politely.
  • We treat our toys and books with care.
  • We do our chores without argument 

Then we came up with three consequences–three privileges that our sons would miss if they were taken away:

  • Lose your nightly TV show pick
  • Lose your nightly small candy/cookie snack
  • Lose your opportunity to play quietly in  your room before bed and go straight to bed after bath

I made up a chart for each boy with three stars and these three privileges. When our sons break a rule, without advance warning, we cross off a star. Break another rule, lose another star. Break a third rule, lose a third star. Then when they break a rule, they start losing privileges.

As an extra incentive to do well, we added in a rule that if the boys go an entire week without losing privileges (even if they’ve lost stars), they get a dollar.

It took about a week for us all to get used to this new system. But now I’ve seen a dramatic increase in behavior. It really is smart discipline!

Toy trading

September 19, 2010 by  
Filed under J.Bright

“Austin, will you trade Thomas for James?” Tyler (four) asked.

“Sure, Tyler!” Austin (two) replied.

Exchanges like these are daily, probably hourly, events here at our house. We used to have such a challenge with “toy taking,” one boy snatching a toy from the other. Then, I discovered the power of trading! My husband and I started to encourage the boys to offer something that they have in exchange for something that they want.

This worked out great because at the time, Tyler had a Leapster, but Austin didn’t yet have one. Austin would trade practically anything for a chance to play with the Leapster. So they quickly both learned that trading was beneficial to them both!

Now they trade toys back and forth all of the time, and toy taking is rare.

Paper, paper everywhere

September 19, 2010 by  
Filed under J.Bright

Wow, did I feel bad. Tyler was crying hysterically, and it was my fault.

He asked me for some Valentines that he made last month out of paper and plain envelopes, and I couldn’t find them. Worse, I suspected that I had thrown them out.

I felt terrible because I knew how I would feel if someone had thrown away something I had worked hard on. Yet sometimes I admit I do toss some of my sons’ “artwork” in the recycling bin because otherwise we’d be drowning in it.

But Tyler was so upset I knew I needed a better plan. So we agreed that before I threw out a drawing, I’d ask. Anything Tyler wants to keep goes into a small bin. Once the bin is full, it’s Tyler‘s job to sort through it and throw out enough paper to make some room.

Chuck Hustle

September 19, 2010 by  
Filed under R.McAllister

As a wife and the mother of three sons, it has come to my attention that in general, individuals with an XY chromosomal makeup tend to be a teensy, tiny, bit less industrious in some domestic tasks than individuals with XX chromosomes. Simply stated, many males don’t seem to be inclined to work as hard around the house as most females. Although this tendency may be observed at any age, it is never more apparent than in the teenage years.  As the sole woman in my household, I’m in charge of the laundry. I have scooped up and laundered countless pairs of wayward dirty socks, briefs and boxers, casually dropped on the bathroom floor or draped across the nearest bed. 

Fortunately, I actually derive a measure of satisfaction from doing the laundry, so I really don’t mind the work. But I do worry, from time to time, that this careless casting off of clothing is a sure sign of—God forbid—laziness in my teenage boys. As a card-carrying Type A workaholic, I rank laziness right up there with irreverently sassing one’s mother or skipping school to hang out at the local pool hall.

To add fuel to the fire of my maternal concern, my two teenage boys often seem incapable of dragging themselves out of bed in the mornings or remembering to take out the trash. If not for my interference, I feel certain they could remain virtually motionless on the couch for days on end, playing games on X-Box or texting their friends. In my darkest moments, I’m convinced that these are sure signs that my teenagers will grow up to be unemployed ne’er-do-wells, still living in my basement in their late twenties.

Fortunately, my 27-year-old son, Chad, recently dispelled my fear that teenage lethargy invariably leads to adult laziness. Last month, I drove with my daughter-in-law, Lindsey, to attend a homecoming ceremony for Chad and his fellow Marines who were returning from an eight-month deployment to Afghanistan. As we drove to the military base, I asked Lindsey about some of the men in Chad’s unit: a soldier fondly known as “Biscuit” and one called “Grease” by his buddies. As she shared the latest news about these Marines, it occurred to me that my son might also have a nickname.

“Does Chad have a nickname?” I asked, bracing myself for a potentially unflattering moniker.

“Yes!” Lindsey laughed. “The guys call him ‘Chuck Hustle.’ They say he works harder and faster than anyone, and they have to run to keep up with him. ”

I was speechless. Tears of maternal joy and pride sent my carefully-applied mascara streaking down my cheeks. My lovable, easy-going Chad, the former X-Box-playing, late-sleeping, laundry-producing, couch-warming teenager had matured into an enthusiastic, hard-working, Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps known as “Chuck Hustle.” 

Moms of teenage boys, take heart. The rapidly growing bodies of adolescent boys require lots of sleep and rest. Until they are emotionally mature, they may not see the need to voluntarily pick up their dirty clothes or take out the trash. In spite of experiencing bouts of teenage lethargy, chances are excellent that our teenage sons will grow up to be happy, hard-working and self-sufficient young men. When the realization hits you, let’s hope you’re wearing waterproof mascara!

The Days System

September 19, 2010 by  
Filed under J.Bright

“Who’s day is it?”

Yes, you read that right! I asked “who’s day,” not “what day.” This is a question I ask here probably five times a day.

We used to have a challenge with Tyler (four) and Austin (two) arguing about who would pick a DVD to watch or what music we listened to, even silly things like who would get out of the tub first!

And so I instituted the “days” system. It’s simple: Odd-numbered days are Tyler’s days; and even-numbered days are Austin’s days.

This has simplified dozens of decisions each day. Whoever’s day it is goes first for everything that day, both good and bad. For instance, he picks the first DVD we watch, but he also has to get strapped into his car seat first!

Protests from Tyler and Austin have reduced dramatically. After all, who can argue with the calendar???

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