Friday, February 16, 2018

Not catching your kids when they fall

When our children are little, we are at the end of the playground slide, catching them when they reach the bottom. We are there, standing behind them as they tentatively cross the monkey bars. And we are the first to offer a steadying finger when they try to stay balanced when walking across a low curb.

Because we love them, and we want to catch them when they fall.

As they get older, they may not need our fingers anymore, so we find other ways to support them. Like when they have bad days at school. Or have a fight with a friend.

There comes a time when our children know what they are supposed to do, and they need to do it. They need to do it without us reminding them, or prodding them or (yikes!) doing the task for them.

I know lots of parents who still help their high school age children with homework and dictate their time management schedules for them and still treat them like they did when those kids first entered elementary school.

So when is the best time to ease off the overly supportive parenting behavior?

According to one study: Third grade.

Of course, the study is small, and it really only studies Moms (why is it always only Moms?). But it is worth a look to remind us that there is going to be a time when we need to back off on our levels of emotional support for our children - probably long before we are ready to do so.

You know - the same way we backed away from the slide long before we really wanted to let them do it on their own.

Do you feel like you give your child the right level of emotional support? Why or why not? Share with me in the comments.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Now I know what that book was about

This is how I know my Mother reads my blog:
Last month I wrote about our inability to remember the content that we binge - especially books. Last week she sent me a link about how to fix that.

Thanks, Mom!

The answer is deceptively simple because it suggests you to take breaks and reflect upon what you've just read. That's it. Just read; pause; think; repeat.

There are other tips as well, like reading while we are rested and taking notes, but the main tip is still the easiest to implement. If you are going to read, take moments to think about what you are reading.

While that is good to know, I wonder how I can help my son build this habit into his reading time, without me asking him a ton of questions and interrupting him as he devours another book. Ideally, he will eventually be able to do this for himself, but I have to start somewhere.

So I made a list:
  • Modeling good behavior. I'm going to let him see me thinking over what I just read when we read together. (Parents love to model good behavior, so this should be easy.)
  • Check in on him when he reads with one of those lists of questions that makes me feel like I am giving him a reading assignment. (What's the main character doing that you like? How would you change the story? What is the best moment so far?)
  • Keep him focused on one thing at a time. We don't read while we do any other visual activities. We even have a special reading spot and cozy blanket to keep ourselves calm and quiet. I just have to keep in mind that this spot - while distraction free - can work too well and hours will pass before I leave it.
So, I will try these tricks and see which ones I can get my son to adopt. After all, parents have such little free time for things like reading - shouldn't we remember what the point of the story was?

What are your tips for better reading comprehension? Share them in the comments where I will read and reflect upon them. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Why parents put up with stepping on LEGOs

Me to son: Did you pick up all the LEGOs off your floor?
Son to me: Yes.
Me to son: Really?
Son to me: Yes.
Me to son: Did you double-check for the clear ones?
Son to me: Yes, Mom. Jeez. There are no LEGOs on the floor.
Me to son: Because I don't want to go into your room and step on any LEGOs.
Son to me: I know, I know.
Me to son: Because they hurt.
Son to me: The floor is clean.
Me to son: ...
Son to me: ...
Me to son: I'm getting the vacuum.

And that sums up parenting in our household these days.

Oh, wait. It doesn't. There's more.

No matter how many times I've stepped on one of those LEGOs and felt the dagger-level pains that have shot up through my foot and into my spine, I've always been pleasantly surprised at what my son was building. Sometimes, it is a house. Once it was an entire amusement park - complete with rides. Usually, it is a space vehicle that has lots of bombs.

The good news is that he is building without instructions. Or rather - as he would say it - he is building using the designs he can see in his head. Which means LEGOs are doing their job - those bricks are actually great for improving spatial relationship thinking. All those four count by two count or three count by eight count bricks help children understand how structures can be connected or coexist peacefully upon the same flat gray baseplate.

So, LEGOs are good. Except when you step on them. So I am still going to vacuum his room when he is done.

What was your favorite childhood toy? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, February 9, 2018

We're going to talk about our day now

Every night at dinner, I ask my family about their day. I do this for many reasons:
  1. I genuinely want to know. I haven't been with you all day, and maybe you had something interesting/funny/crazy happen to you but it momentarily slipped your mind, but my asking you questions made you remember and we can talk about it.
  2. This conversation style is teaching my son to be a grown-up. One day he will be eating at someone else's table and he will need to know how to carry on a conversation and ask other people questions. If we don't model this behavior at home, he will think it is perfectly fine to say whatever weird randomness pops into his head and that it suffices as conversation.
  3. While I understand that every day is not monumental, over the course of the week's conversations, I can get a general sense of where his mood is overall.
  4. I am tired. Asking about your day is a way for us to all talk about our days without having to come up with new conversational topics on the spot. 
  5. I like dinner conversation; I don't want us to eat in silence as we all stare at each other or at our food.
So, it made me laugh when my wonderful husband sent me this link of a woman ranting to parents who ask their child about their day. (I'm not being mean here, the article is actually filed under "rants.") She thinks it's not a good idea to ask a child about their day because it is either too prying or it is turning them into people pleasers.

Or, maybe it is just turning them into people who always have a social crutch to fall back on when they don't know what else to say.

Like it or not, most of us will spend our lives talking with other people. And small talk is still a part of that - the chit chat that happens before a work meeting starts, or the lady that talks to you in line at the post office, or the parent you end up next to at the children's birthday party. "Tell me about your day" is an easy way to break the ice and you might end up learning something along the way.

So, yeah, I'm still going to ask how everyone's day was at dinner for all of the above reasons, and so that we might continue learning about each other as we go.

What does your family like to talk about at the dinner table? Tell me in the comments.