Monday, March 18, 2013

Our Method to Going Out and Staying Sane

Today we went to W@lmart... all of them and just lil' ol' me.

I don't love doing that, but then again it isn't torture either.
We go, do it and get done.

Today at W@lmart we heard a little boy giving his poor dad a run for it, he was yelling for all the world to hear "I-WANN-IT! I-WANN-IT! I-WANN-IT!!!!" All of my children usually gawk in awe at such displays... ((I think, wondering what is going to happen to the screaming child.))

Today I said, "Maybe we should pray for that daddy. He is having a really hard time and so is his little boy." After our quick prayer, Thea (barely two) said, "Mom! Dat baby fits!" I agreed with her astute observation and thought internally about how that use to be me, the parent with the screaming child, that is!

Oh, yeah!
I have had babies and toddlers lose it under the demonizing neon lights of W@lmart...

I have had to take many a toddler out of a church service doing the flip flop fit with scornful pious eyes following me and my little heathen all the way down the aisles...

I have had to excuse myself from multiple conversations or play dates due to behavior that was issuing forth from Hades or Sheol...


We have had our many moments of "wailing and gnashing of teeth!"
Days of being hermits on our solitary hill... afraid to go out in the world!
And that was just me... not my children...

That was before "THE METHOD" came to me!

(((Please keep it to yourself... 
My children use to act like that too... 
but now they (typically) don't! 
I am going to let you in on a little secret... 
I have a plan and it seems to work!)))

First and Foremost... Training

If you were hired for a new job and you showed up for your first day and you sat there waiting for your boss to show up and show you how to do your job, so logically you spent your time taking instagram photos of your new desk and view. Then out of the blue your boss came charging in and started yelling at you and threatening to dock your pay because you weren't doing your job correctly how would you feel?

Probably mad and incredulous... right?

It is your boss' job to train you. You can't do what is expected of you until you are taught how to do it. How dare they be mad and yell at you when you don't know what it is you ought to do!   

Similarly, I think it is equally unfair to a child when we expect them to know what to do and how to behave when we have never taught/trained them the right and acceptable way to act in different situations. They are just doing what their little nature tells them to do.

The Method... of Undoing the Madness!

So here is the little secret... Preparation!
Anticipate the issues that will come and teach your child what you expect them to do in it! Before we go anywhere (nearly every time) we have a little "briefing" usually on the car ride or eye to eye in the car just before we go into the situation.

This briefing includes the following ideas:
1. Where we are going.
2. What we will likely do.
3. How I expect them to act while there.
4. Issues that might arise (ie how other children may act or situational issues that might arise).
5. What will happen if they don't obey. Or what will happen if they do obey.

This briefing is HIGHLY helpful for safety, unity and overall happiness of all involved!
~ It helps distill fears (particularly of adopted children) and helps our children know what to expect and what is expected of them.
~ It also sets them up for success and also holds them accountable.
~ It reminds me of what I need to be aware of as a parent in the situation.
~ It is training my children how to think and act independent of me and to make personal choices on their actions and attitudes.

The greatest benefit to The Method is that I am not having to swoop in like a "helicopter parent" and rescue or shoot them down (yell at them) every time they don't know what to do or do something wrong. They, in theory, know what to do... and if they mess up or forget then I can take them aside are remind them or correct them.

Applying "The Method" to Specific Places

The Method can be applied to nearly every situation a family goes into... Play dates, Church, Outings, Theme Parks, Bible Studies, School... you name it, you can make it apply!

For example...

Play Date Guidelines (Someone Else's Home)

1. Where we are going... Someone Else's Home... (enter name.) Explain to them how we know them (if it isn't obvious).

2. What we will likely do... We will play with them and with their toys.

3. How I expect them to act while there... You will be expected to:
- Be calm, quiet and self controlled.
- Be loving and sweet to others.
- Do not get out things and do not ask for things (like food). 
Stay where mom can see you, unless we agree to something else.

4. Issues that might arise... 
- It doesn't matter how anyone else acts or wants you to act, act in a self-governing (controlled) way that honors God and others.
- If others are being mean or not obeying general rules don't tattle on them, first tell/ask them to do what is right. If they don't, come tell mom and she will see what needs to be done.
- When mom says "Time to go" quickly get ready to go with a happy heart.

5. What will happen if they don't obey. Or what will happen if they do obey... If you can't obey I will make you sit by me during the play date and you will miss out on the fun (or we will have to leave early). How sad that would be!

(For play dates in our home)... I take out "Do not get things out and ask for things" and put in "Give preference to others and be a generous host" this also goes for places like the park... I hope my children will not get all worked up when others "cut in" and just let them go with a "no sweat" kind of attitude or implore them to follow the general rule of taking turns. I also usually throw in there the rule "Have as much fun as you possibly can!!!" Just so my kids don't think I am an old ninny.)

Three 6 year old boys who enjoyed a very uneventful,
self-governed and fun-filled play date on a rainy day inside!

Store, Outing and Appointment Guidelines:

1. Where we are going... We are going to W@lmart.

2. What we will likely do... We are going to shop for some items Mommy needs for our home... not toys or candy today.

3. How I expect them to act while there... While we shop I need your help! Addie you will walk and hold Allan's hand, behind the cart. Elias you will walk holding on to the side of the cart. Cora you will ride in the basket or walk by the cart. Thea you will be on mommy's back in the carrier. 
- We will be quiet and self-controlled.
- You will stay close to mom and not wander off.
- You will not demand anything.

4. Issues that might arise... If you have to go potty will you please tell mommy when we pass by it?

5. What will happen if they don't obey. Or what will happen if they do obey... If you can't obey mommy will be forced to leave all our food and take you out to the car and discipline you... that would be really sad because we'd have to start all over again and if you had been good we could share an orange or cheese sticks when we are done. (See, side note #3 below about bribery vs. reward).

Theme Park Guidelines... NOT even joking I did this before we went to Snisneyland

1. Where we are going.... SNISNEYLANDDDDD!!! (Rock on!)

2. What we will likely do.... EVERYTHING YOUR LITTLE HEART DESIRES!!!!

3. How I expect them to act while there... 
- Stay by mom and dad and don't get lost! Stick together!
- Don't be demanding... it will make the day stink!
- Eat lots of sugar!
- Have endless fun and don't be "that" bratty child! (I didn't say that last part)
- Our family rules apply even in Snisneyland!

4. Issues that might arise... Sometimes it is easy to get lost in crowds. If that happens, find another mom with a child... and stay where we last saw you! 

5. What will happen if they don't obey. Or what will happen if they do obey.... On days like this I don't even have to "go there" with my kids... it just doesn't happen. They know what will happen if they pitched a fit over cotton candy. Simply... no cotton candy! But they already know it is our heart's desire TO give it to them if it is ok.

This is what happens when you are naughty at Snisneyland!

Some Things to Consider
The METHOD works... but only because our children already know the following to be true:

- When mom/dad says something they mean it... they will be corrected and disciplined later or in private. We define obedience as "done immediately, done when no one is looking and done with a happy attitude." They know this little fact about life. If they didn't, The Method would likely NOT work. Sad, but true.

- Our standards are the same in our home as they are in a friend's house or in a store. We don't have different sets of expectations in front of people. We try not to have hypocritical or unreasonable expectations. Screaming is a "no" in our home... thus it is a "no" anywhere else we would go.

- Our REAL goal is to help them see their sin is proof of their need for a Savior and of grace. Rules or "law" is only able to do two things: be good for society and show us we can't keep it without help. We correct their hearts and their external sin for one reason... because it leads them to need Jesus more and more! We teach them "law" so they are drawn to the Gospel that fulfills the Law!

Just think on it.
It is pay me now or pay me later.

Side Note #1: I call them "Guidelines" or "The Method" not "rules". To me "rules" are things like the 10 Commandments; if you break them you are transgressing God's Law. However, if you don't follow "Mom's Guidelines" you are breaking the Rule "Obey your parents as the Lord". But the "guidelines" are not mandates from God... and I want my kids to know the difference and that our family guidelines are not rules we need to be prideful about or more importantly they are not things we should impose upon others. Family rules/guidelines ought not make us self-righteous.

Side Note #2: In situations when another child is asking my child to do something they know we wouldn't like I tell them to say either, "I can't do that." or "I don't want to do that." Then that they should come up with another option like... "I can't (don't want) to run around the church, do you want to sit and play tic-tac-toe or play 'thumb war' with me?" It maintains their self-respect while allowing them to still interact and have fun, but not disobey.

Side Note #3: We never give candy or toys for behavior our children are expected to have... that is bribery and once someone is bribed to do the job they are capable of doing they expect that costly fee again and again! I am known to graciously give a reward of a healthy snack for all hard work and energy they lost in being so good and self-controlled... which I think it can be exceptionally "draining" for a little child. I think if you are saying "Do this and I will give you such-and-such..." That is bribery. If you say "Do this, please." Then after say, "I bet you are SO tired and famished from being such a self-controlled little girl... you need a snack!" That is reward for a job well done!

So that is my little back pocket secret for going out with my children.
I don't even need to go through the whole METHOD any more. All I have to do is say, "Hey, we are going in to W@lmart... What does mom expect?" And they tell me what I expect... it pretty much rocks!

Remember... it is Simple
Prep your children BEFORE you go any place.
Mean what you say and mean it everywhere.
Follow through with appropriate and meaningful consequences.

Happy Outings!

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