Tuesday, February 09, 2010

a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. step #1; get out of your chair.

a few weeks ago the duke was NOT having a very good morning. you know the kind, nothing is working and so it's easy to snap and snip at those around you.

now, when a nearly 13 year old acts like this it's easy to remind him of his age and tell him to start acting like it and not like a 3 year old.

it's easy to yell at a nearly 13 year old who acts like this. to be incredulous. to be mad. to force the behavior away. with consequences or opportunities taken away.

but i know yelling doesn't work. and whether you're nearly 13 or 3 or 38 no one likes to be yelled at. especially if you're already having a bad morning. how does that help?

so that morning a few weeks ago i was watching him rant and rave and just plain have a bad day. and i remembered that occasionally when he was a little kid he would do the same. and i didn't yell at him or try to force the behavior away with consequences or opportunities taken away. when he was little and something was 'up' with him i would re-direct. get creative. i'd 'work' at finding a solution. i wouldn't just sit at my desk and yell at him to stop.

if he had a full blown tantrum (rare, but it would happen) i wouldn't shout at him to stop or leave the room and tell him to come get me when he calmed down. i would grab a pen and a piece of paper and i would go sit next to his mad little shouty self right there on the ground and just start writing down what he said. eventually he would be curious and stop shouting and ask me what i was doing. and i would tell him that if he's that mad, mad enough to shout and freak out, then i should pay attention to what he was shouting about. and he would stop shouting and just tell me what was wrong and watch me write it down. then i would give him the paper. and then we were done.

this of course DID NOT always happen. there were times i could NOT muster it and we both had to take a break from each other. the duke was a challenging and headstrong child. and i am a silly mortal mama. one day i'll tell you about the box of popsicles i threw against the wall. not one of my finer moments. to his credit the duke just laughed at me and told me to use my words.

but i always tried, then. at least i always tried. and i can honestly say that as my children have gotten older i've gotten lazier in the 'trying' department. because sometimes it's just easier to 'make' them behave than to figure it out. to keep sitting and holler from your desk rather than get up.

but, it was time to get creative again. so i got up from my desk and i went to the art shelf and i grabbed some sparkly penguin stickers that were lying there.

then i went and sat next to the duke. and i didn't preface anything or suggest anything, i just started talking. 'when you were little, you were nervous about your first few days of preschool. so one day i grabbed a sticker and put it on your hand. just like this.'

and i took a sparkly penguin sticker off the sheet and stuck it on the back of his hand.

'and that way, you could look at it if you were feeling nervous or missed me and it would remind you that i was thinking of you. and if you were having a bad day the sticker always made you feel better when you looked at it. and as time went on you decided that we had to put the sticker somewhere else because it would come off of the back of your hand when you washed or played in the sand. so i started putting the sticker on your sweatshirt or vest and you would get a whole collection of different sparkly stickers until it was time to peel them off and wash the sweatshirt or vest. and this went on for a long time. until one day we didn't think about the sticker. but by then you loved preschool so much you didn't 'need' the sticker.'

and then i got up and went back to my desk.

and the day passed much smoother than it had started. we did school, had a walk, ate dinner, etc. just another day, uneventful.

and later on that evening, when the day was finally finished and the duke was getting ready for bed, he came to hug me good night. and right there on the back of his hand was the sparkly penguin sticker.

i don't know how to parent a teenager. any more than i 'knew' how to parent a baby or a toddler or a preschooler. but i do know i can't buy into it being some great mystery any more than any child at any age. i'm just going to do it the way i've always done it. i'm just going to figure it out as i go along.

i do know that getting up out of my chair and going to them should always be the first step. the rest will follow.

(oh. and i slipped the penguin stickers in my purse just.in.case.)


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