Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rules and Limits

Parental rules and limits are made to be broken! Well, whether you agree with that thesis or not, your kids WILL attempt to break, tweak, or otherwise circumvent the limits and rules that you have established for them.

When a child willfully breaks a rule and gets caught, he/she will often attempt to place the onus of guilt on … YOU, as in “YOUR rules are too strict”; “YOU are ruining their lives”; “YOU just don’t understand kids today”; “WHY can’t YOU be cool like the other kids’ parents”? OUCH!!

It is often at those times in which self-guilt and questioning begins to enter the scenario. You might often ask yourself, “Am I too strict?”, “Am I hindering my child’s development?”, or “Is my child right – I’m just not in step with the other parents”? The answers are NO, NO and NO!

At some point in the past, during moments of calmness and devoid of emotional outbursts, the rules were established with love and care to protect your children. As long as you stick to your long-term plan toward helping your child grow into a responsible and successful adult, you will be just fine.

However, when parents change their rules and limits on the fly, while being led toward guilt their by children, the result is that usually the parents end up regretting the changing of their established rules/limits.

Of course, if a parent wishes to revisit his/her rules/limits during future moments of calmness, then go for it, as long as the parent is far removed from the emotions of the moment.

When my daughter was 12-years-old, she asked to go to a school dance. Long ago, it had been established that she would not be able to attend any school dances until the age of 13. Despite her pleadings and the usual attempts to guilt us into changing the rules/limits on the fly, we stuck to our guns and told her that the age for attending school dances is still 13 and to try again next year.

Of course, this brought forth some more pleadings and guilt attempts, but they were for naught, as the established limits/rules were not going to change. I am sure that her friends heard the horror stories about the terrible parents that my daughter had been given (of course, what she does not know, is that several parents called to thank me for the rule, as it allowed them to enforce the rule in their own homes!).

A year later, when she turned 13, she asked to go to her first school dance. She told me that the time of the dance was from 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. I didn’t like the idea of my 13-year-old daughter carousing until 10:00 p.m. on a Friday night, so I told her that she could stay until 9:00 p.m. She begged and pleaded to stay until 10:00 p.m. A long discussion ensued and, since 9:00 p.m. was not an established rule, I cut a deal: I would arrive by 9:00 p.m. She would need to come to the car no later than 9:00 p.m. I would then make a judgment about the final hour at that time.

Well, 9:00 p.m. came and went and no daughter. 9:05 p.m. came and went and no daughter. Finally, at about 9:10 p.m., my daughter made her grand appearance at the car!

I told my daughter to get in the car, as we would be going home. She began to cry, asked for mercy, and begged to stay until 10:00 p.m. I reminded her that she had failed to arrive by 9:00p.m. Since she did not follow the established rules/limits, the party was over for the evening.

Here was the crucial moment: Had I allowed her to stay at the dance after breaking a minor rule, I would have been inviting her to break more rules in the future, perhaps bigger and bigger rules, until her life could have spun out of control. I have seen this happen countless times throughout my career.

Although I felt bad that she had to leave the dance (I really did!!), I had to stick with the rules/limits, so that she would understand that rules/limits are to be taken seriously at all times.

So, despite my own self-imposed guilty feelings, as well as the guilty feelings that were imposed on me by my daughter, we headed home for the evening, armed with the knowledge that my daughter was safe and that she had (hopefully) learned a valuable lesson.

Was she ever late again for anything when a time limit was given? NO! Has she understood that established rules/limits have purpose and meaning? YES! Has she grown up to be a successful young lady with life, career, education plans and a strong work ethic? YES!

How about you? While I know that it is difficult to stick with established rules/limits in times of emotional outbursts, tell me about a time that you stuck to your guns!

As always, remember to take care of your kids 24/7, establish the rules/limits that will keep them safe, and stay with the rules/limits when under fire from your own kids (believe me – those times will come)!!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Slurpees From 7-11

For more years than I care to confess, long before I had children, I often stopped at 7-11 on the way home from work on Friday afternoons for a delicious Coke Slurpee. Ah, the ice-cold taste of the Coke Slurpee was quite relaxing, as it took the edge off of a busy week.

Starting when my daughter was about 9 months old, one of my enjoyable daily tasks was to pick her up on the way home from work. Even when she was quite young, I continued the Friday tradition of the Slurpee run before I picked her up. The Slurpee would not be finished before I arrived at the babysitter’s house, so I still had more to enjoy after I put her in the car.

As you might have guessed, as she got older, she began to get quite curious about dad’s Slurpee every Friday. Eventually, she asked for a taste, and just like her dad, she loved it!

After it became age-appropriate, my stops on Friday afternoons led me to purchase TWO Slurpee drinks, my usual one and one for my favorite daughter. We would then spend the entire ride home enjoying our Friday afternoon treats.

This Friday Slurpee tradition continued for a few years, even after my first son was born. Of course, he eventually became ensnared in the Slurpee game and I was soon purchasing THREE Slurpee drinks after work on every Friday afternoon.

As you might have guessed, after my 2nd son was born, I was soon purchasing FOUR Slurpee drinks every Friday. Is there any better way to end the work week and start the weekend than to enjoy a Slurpee with your kids?

Eventually, as my kids entered school and I no longer picked them up from the babysitter’s house, I stopped arriving with FOUR Slurpees. However, after we were home for a few hours, we often hopped in the car and traveled to … you guessed it, 7-11 for another round of Slurpees!!

Although the Slurpee brigade eventually tailed off as my kids got older, to this day we will often stop at a 7-11 while we are on our way to other places, just so that we can relive the memories that my kids can remember since their very early days. Additionally, sometimes while on my way home, I will call home and ask anybody if they want a Slurpee. Of course, the answers are always affirmative!!

So, what is the lesson as my kids and I continue to enjoy Slurpees? I believe that the answer can be found under the topic of Family Tradition. Kids like to relive childhood memories that were positive, consistent, and brought about some level of bonding with their parents.

It’s the same reason that many adults take vacations at the same destinations that they frequented when they were children; it’s the same reason that many folks feel good when they put on music that their parents played in the house when they were tots; and it’s the same reason that adults like to revisit their old neighborhoods, even after their parents have moved out.

Yes, positive childhood memories, whether it’s friends, family love, the neighborhood, or even Slurpees with dad, are great to live over and over again. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting a taste for a delicious Coke Slurpee!!

How about you? Do you have any memories or activities to share from when your kids were little - the types of memories that are fun to relive over and over again? Thank you!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Kids As Teachers

O.K., when did it actually happen? When did this first take place? Of course, I am talking about the exact moment that my children became the teachers and I became the student!

After all, since their birth, I have been one of their most involved teachers, as I taught them to ride bikes, listen to quality music, appreciate the right things in life, how to clean the garage, how to rake leaves (well, O.K., their skills have dwindled in those last two areas!!), how to eat and drink, how to get rid of the diapers forever, how to drive a car (starting with their toy “Barbie” and “Corvette” cars), and, well, just about everything else that comes to mind.

Yes, as one of their first teachers, I have spent several thousand days as their instructor! But, it was noted that it all recently changed.

For starters, my kids convinced me to get my own iPod, instead of borrowing theirs or getting a new CD player for the car. I had already decided that I would never succumb to purchasing such a highly developed technological device, irrespective of the convenience that it would bring to me! After all, my turntables and 8-Track players still work just fine!

But, shortly after this past Christmas, my kids finally convinced me that it was time for their dad to take the plunge. My daughter even arranged a deal in which it would only cost me $30.00 for a used iPod Classic! Even I had to admit that the deal was too good to pass up!

So, after laying out the cash for the iPod and armed with a bevy of jazz music, classical music, and pastoral sermons on CD’s (yes, I was kidding about the 8-Tracks!), I was all set to place all of them on my iPod. I could already picture the multitude of uses, including listening with extreme ease to anything while driving or running, instead of digging for a CD that had fallen under the driver’s seat! There was only one problem: I had no clue how to put the CD’s on my iPod!

So, my kids, anxious to become my teacher and appearing to enjoy the role way too much, sat down at the computer with me to take me through the steps. The first step, as they explained it, was to create my own Playlist, not so much to help me, but so that my music and sermons would not somehow land on their Playlists (apparently, that would be considered to be highly embarrassing to whippersnappers of today!).

After creating my very own Playlist, they told me to enter a CD in the disc drive. They calmly and methodically took me through the remainder of the steps, including exiting the “Download” screen and entering the “Music” screen, naming each track, listing the artist, the name of the album, and categorizing each CD. Although it took nearly 5 minutes to pour through the naming of each sermon CD, my kids assured me that they are now named forever.

Well, O.K., I can handle that! I told them that I would be fine for the next several hours, as I would not need any help from this point forward. After all, I was the dad and the “Master Teacher” in the family!!!

After my first CD was loaded, named, and transferred to my very own Playlist, they moved to other activities in house, leaving me alone to put several CD’s on my Playlist. Trying to remember the steps, I loaded the CD, named each track, named each artist, categorized each one, and then attempted to transfer them to my iPod. BIG PROBLEM! When I transferred the tracks to my iPod, they were not titled; they had no artists named; and they were not categorized. How could this happen?

Well, I did what any good and conscientious student would do – I called my teachers and asked them to help me! After I calmly and methodically explained the steps that had led to my predicament, all of them exploded into laughter!!!!! Through their laughter, they explained that I had to get out of the “Download” list and into the “Music” list before naming the tracks, artists, category, etc. THEN I could transfer everything into my own Playlist … an embarrassing “Ah-Ha” moment!

I reminded them that I had not laughed at them when they fell off of their bikes, spilled milk all over themselves, etc., so why did they laugh at me? Through their continued laughter, I thought that I heard words like, “You can tell that dad is over 30”, “Well, you always told us to follow instructions exactly as they were given and you did not follow your own advice”, and “Sorry dad, it’s just hilarious”!!

Oh sure, it’s hilarious all right! Apparently, it’s quite funny when the “Teacher” becomes the “Student” and, well, the student misses one important part of the lesson that he used to teach with gusto to his students!

But, it certainly cemented a reminder for all of us: Always listen to your teachers (as my kids have always listened to me - well, mostly!) and do exactly what they say! Leaving out a step in the process can lead to .... iPod frustration and laughter from your former and still-current students turned teachers!!!!!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, September 5, 2009

BIG WORDS for Kids!!

Everybody says “Awwwwww” when they hear a child say such words as “mama” “dada”, “lookee”, “potty”, etc. Yes, while it is certainly cute to hear a little voice say those words, have you ever heard a little child speak with proper grammar, more adult-like English, and proper language inflections? When you hear a child speak like that, the “Awwwwww” becomes “WOW”!!!

Shortly before our first child was born, we decided that all of our upcoming kids would learn to speak properly from the beginning and that we would not allow “baby-like” and “cute” substitutes for words that they would have to discard later upon entering elementary school. After all, what is the point of teaching words that can never be used again after a few years? Why not teach the words that kids will actually use when they get older – all the way into adulthood?

So, when my daughter was born, we continually used “grown-up” language around her. We encouraged her to learn to speak properly when addressing others.

After she became quite conversant with everybody (she could hold complete conversations with adults without utilizing “baby-talk”), I decided that it was time to exponentially expand her vocabulary. Note to wives: This is one lesson as to why you should never leave your husbands alone with the kids!!!!!

At any rate, one day when my daughter and I were alone, I started using BIG WORDS to describe various aspects of life around the house. Of course, she asked me for the meaning of the words, we practiced them, and she began to properly use them in sentences.

One of the first words that we used was “Plethora” (Definition: An excessive amount or number; an abundance). I started talking about the plethora of newspapers in the rack, the plethora of leaves on the trees in the backyard, the plethora of ice cubes that were in the freezer, etc.

My daughter, never one to miss a chance to expand her vocabulary (she was a ham from the beginning!), started going around the house pointing out where a plethora of something either did or did not exist. For example, she said, “There is a plethora of ties in your closet, dad” or “There is not a plethora of trash in the garage”. Very early in the lesson on the word, she had clearly gained an understanding of the use of the word “Plethora”.

These types of informal conversations/lessons continued on an almost daily basis. Again, when speaking to adults, our 18-month-old sounded like she fit right in with her complete sentences, proper grammar, proper use of the language, and, yes, using BIG WORDS that somebody-who-shall-remain-nameless had taught to her!

One day, while attending an extended-family birthday party in the presence of nearly 20 adults, my daughter loudly and gleefully announced, “There is a plethora of birthday gifts on the table”.

Before that moment, I never believed that it was possible for an entire room of adult conversations to instantly come to a close; have all heads turn in one person’s direction; and then have a few folks say things such as, “WOW, did you hear that?”, “She just said, ‘There is a plethora of birthday gifts on the table’”, and “Where did she learn that word?”.

Then somebody, not quite believing what he had just heard, asked my daughter, “What does that word mean”. My daughter, the ham, proudly announced, “It means an overwhelming amount”. The silent room became even more silent!! My daughter beamed from ear-to-ear at her obviously impressive performance and, of course, it encouraged her to learn tons more BIG WORDS in the future.

Today, she and my two sons regularly engage in chatter that is filled with BIG WORDS, proper grammar, and proper use of the English language, as they converse with their friends, teachers, and family members.

Yes, teaching toddlers BIG WORDS might seem to be a little bit pompous. However, it instilled in my kids the notion that words do matter and, when they speak properly with some BIG WORDS, people listen more carefully and with greater attentiveness, as the more intelligent conversation level opens more doors with more people.

Now, can my kids still converse like kids? Oh, yes, they can! How about this for a sample, “Yeah, I know dude, that is really cool, I mean like, you know, it is awesome”. Yes, those types of sentences make dads cringe, but at least they’ve learned to fit in with their peers when they see it as a necessity!

So, yes, teach your kids the BIG WORDS, proper English, proper grammar, don’t accept anything less, and they’ll grow up to be smart, but they’ll still talk like a kid when the need arises!!

Have a remarkably stupendous, phenomenal, overwhelming, breathtaking, and colossal time with your kids!! And, oh yes, be sure to spend a plethora of time with them!!

Paul W. Reeves