Here’s my December 20th entry in my “Giving Good Attention to Kids” Observation Journal (referenced in my Dec 15th, 2013 post).
Morning routine before school.
WHAT WAS HAPPENING:
Charlie and Ian are arguing. Charlie is just digging into him and talking in a voice with an overtone of “You are so stupid for thinking that.”
WHAT I DID:
I find myself starting to do the same thing as Charlie pretty much. I start at her, the way she’s been at Ian. She’s annoying me because: a.) She’s digging into Ian and anything that makes Ian more fragile before school stresses me out because (I am realizing as I write this) I am borderline jumpy that he’s going to give me a problem… which probably causes problems… Doh! and b.) She’s always late for her ride in the morning and she should be focusing on getting her shit ready and not worrying about anyone else. (Heh. She is basically showcasing two of my worst qualities that she learned from me.)
I say to Charlie (in an annoyed tone) something like, “You need to be focusing on getting your own stuff done and stop fighting with Ian. Your ride is coming and you’re not ready.”
Charlie starts crying and says in an angry voice, “And YOU said you’d cut up some peppers for me! And YOU haven’t done that yet.”
I say that I will do that and they’ll be ready before she needs to leave. I cut the peppers. They are ready. But she hasn’t done anything else for her lunch. Now her ride is here. She’s still in her bare feet. No coat. No socks. No boots. Backpack still unzipped. No lunch ready.
I say: “Your ride is here. And you’re not ready.” My tone of voice is irritated, though if I enjoyed being in denial, I could probably argue that it’s not.
We’re both stressed.
Then she realized that she had no lunch. Just the peppers I had cut up. She wailed that she had asked me to make the whole thing. She’s very stressed. I said, “Well, here you can take a crêpe.” She said, “But last time I didn’t like the crêpe.” I said, “We’re running out of time, so I think yeh gotta just make due.”
Then something clicked in me. And I realized what we were doing.
My tone just softened, and my whole body relaxed. I became calm. I said in a caring voice, “Charlie. It’s going to be OK. You only have a half day today. You have enough to hold you over and then you’ll be home.” She didn’t know she had a 1/2 day today, so that was pleasant news. I said, “Have a good breakfast with Leo [a friend who had invited her out before school, hence the even bigger rush to get ready] and I’ll see you at 11 for your Winter Solstice celebration.” And I gave her a kiss. I could see her body relax a little.
After this, I went to the bathroom and read one page of the Dale Carnegie book I’m reading. It was about how Charles Schwabb got better performance out of people by being VERY spare with any constructive feedback and being lavish about noticing the good things that people did. The genuine good things. He wouldn’t praise crappy work to make someone feel good. But he would trouble to notice the thing or things that legitimately were good (no matter how small) and praise them.
I decided that I was going to try only speaking praise of real things that deserved it (no matter how small) for the rest of the dwindling morning. And no correcting.
I saw Ian and he was all ready in his snow pants and coat and boots and it’s 15 min before the music starts. (I should probably explain that as a strategy to get kids out the door on time, I play the same 5-minute song when we’re within 5 minutes of leaving. Our track of choice? Star Wars: The Throne Room. It’s epic, inspiring, and gets ya going!).
I said, “Wow Ian! You’re in your snow pants and boots and coat!”… I couldn’t resist asking, “Did you already brush your teeth too?” Yes! he smiled. I exclaimed, “That was fast! You did all that in 2 minutes!”
At the bus stop, Ian noticed he’d forgotten his mittens. I didn’t say, “You should have got them before you left the house.” Instead I said, “You wait here. Tell Louise (bus driver) I’m just getting your mittens. I have time to zip home and get them.” And I did that… though I realized that I was solving his problem for him. But it felt like the right thing to do. And I wanted to do it. So I did.