Monday, December 20, 2010

Values and Rules

Through Success Magazine, Erik and I have been introduced to two incredible parents. They are not new to the parenting scene, but we have only just discovered them. Linda and Richard Eyre are best selling authors, have an incredible website, give lectures around the world on parenting and are just the people we were looking for when we decided it was time to gain some order around teaching our children values. You hope as a parent you model what you want your kids to learn, but there is so much more that can be done to actually teach them about values and healthy living. I am currently reading Three Steps to a Strong Family and Teaching Your Children Values. You have to be ready to do some work, prepared to accept teeny tiny baby steps forward as progress, and then just have fun with it.

Taking the Eyre's advice, we have involved the kids in coming up with "family rules". When I have one of them alone, I do this work, because usually when they are together, the exercise quickly deteriorates. They have come up with so many great rules for our family and I have written them all down. At some point, I am going to stick them into 5 categories, and then post them on the wall. Things like, "when you are speaking no one else should speak and then they should say excuse me when they want to speak" from Izzy (say scuse me to speak and Ales no speak when Izzy speak) and "no spilling coffee or juice on purpose, only by accident" from Alex. Great rules.

We are also slowly working through the values section. After explaining what the value means, you give the kids examples and let them come up with some of their own so that they really get the concept. You can then role play. Izzy doesn't quite follow it all, but she tunes in every once in a while and it will surely sink in as she approaches her third birthday. A 3 year old is totally ready for these exercises! We have so far worked through honesty, courage and peacefulness. Alex loves hearing scenarios of what it means to be each of those, and how one can act to reinforce these values. We role play and he loves it.

The punishment for breaking the rules (or the peace of the house) are as follows, thank you Eyres: If you hurt someone else, you sit on the repenting bench (we aren't religious, but we kept the name) until you can explain exactly what it is you did wrong, apologize and then hug. We force the hug. Izzy only hugs on her own terms, so she ends up on the repenting bench at times when she won't let Alex hug her. Once she repents, they hug nicely. Forced hugs, like forcing a smile-feelings often follow actions, and it seems to be working so we will keep at it. If you are loud, you sit in the quiet chair until you quiet down. Unlike time out, which wasn't working very well for us, these two places for punishment really seem to be working.

We have also been sticking with the weekly family meetings where we discuss our week, our goals for the week, our activities and any problems, concerns, etc. The kids love these meetings. They also get their salary at these meetings from Daddy's piggy bank into theirs--one quarter for every star on their weekly start chart. You get a star for cleaning up your toys, your room, for being polite and nice, and using your left hand (even Izzy!).

Sounds like a lot of work, and it is, sort of. Once you get the hang of it, you can often do much of the work while doing something else. We tend to travel a lot with our kids, so we hold family discussions in the car, which is usually a very quiet place to talk. We run scenarios and explain values. My weekly star chart is usually the back of an envelop or other stationary which I quickly scribble the days of the week on, and I usually only remember to write a star onto the chart 2 or 3 times a week--you do the best you can. Taking the time in the beginning to get yourself organized will save lots of time later on.

Part of our reason for establishing these rules and values are obvious, to create a system of order and punishment that is fair, consistent and effective. But the second part of our effort has to do with how the rules and values engender self-esteem. Alex and Izzy feel part of the process, as integral people in the family, with responsibilities to uphold and jobs to do. They see the fruits of their labors, whether it is a happy parent or a quarter, and in the process they learn very adult concepts. Through this process, they are building self-esteem.

Ski Bums

This weekend, we got Alex and Izzy on skis for the first time. We had no idea how we were going to approach teaching them how to ski, something our parents never did for us but which we figured out how to do later in life. We just happened to be going by a ski store on our way to the farm this weekend, and we stopped in to see about buying skis, which are very expensive to rent. You hate to actually buy skis, kind of like buying ice skates, which you know your kids are going to use a few times and grow out of by the next season. Alex and Izzy are the same size now, so no chance of passing anything down to Iz next season.

We happened to be served by a very experienced snow instructor who explained the process of teaching 2-3 year olds how to ski. He recommended these skis called "Lucky Bums", which look like skis but attach gently to the child's snow boot. The most frustrating thing about skiing for most people is the ski boot, its awkwardness, the difficulty one finds when standing up in them, etc. Kids hate them. I witnessed my nephew have countless meltdowns within minutes of putting them during his first two seasons learning to ski. This instructor said that once the kids get used to wearing the Lucky Bums, and become comfortable walking and gliding around on almost flat surfaces, we could move on to the ski boot, next season. He said we should then let the kids use the actual ski boot like a snow boot and walk around in it all winter in the snow to get used to it. Once they like it, you can then finally get them on real skis.

I was worried about how the kids would react to being on skis, or maybe just worried about how I was going to feel if they had full blown temper tantrums and refused to try skiing. Erik and I recently started listening to Darren Hardy's Compound Effect (awesome book!). He explains how every goal you want to reach in life, whether to become a multi-millionaire or an elite athlete, takes baby steps, done consistently over time. And so, Erik and I reminded ourselves that our 2 and 3 year olds were not going to zip down the slopes this season, and we needed to do nothing but praise even their small efforts.

Izzy got on her skis first, and took off down the steep driveway with me holding onto her ski jacket. She loved it. She, like her mom, is an adrenaline junkie. We did that a few times and then I tried to interest her in a flat surface and she kicked off both skis and announced she was finished. She lasted about 5 minutes. So, when Alex got into his skis, I expected the same. His first ski session lasted about 15 minutes, and he seemed just fine with the fact that he was unstable on his feet and that we held both of his hands and gripped his waste and kind of pushed him on the flats. We then went sledding. After some indoor playtime, I tried to get Izzy to try again, but she wanted nothing to do with the skis. Alex said he would try. After an hour, without holding my hand or being held, but just walking and gliding around on the driveway, I had to switch off with Grandma because I needed lunch. We simply could not get him to come in. Eventually we bribed him with dessert. But, as soon as he had eaten, he was back out there, shuffling along like an old man, talking and singing and having a grand time. We seem to have found another sport he loves, which makes me very, very happy.