Saturday, October 31, 2009

Does God Allow "STILLS"?

When my youngest child was three-years-old, he enjoyed engaging in debates that could possibly (hopefully – in his mind!) lead to the delaying of his assigned tasks. i.e., putting away his toys, helping to clean the table after dinner, etc. No matter the assigned task, he would always come back with another, more desirable thing that he would "need" to complete BEFORE he could complete the assigned task.

For example, if I were to tell him to put away his toys, he would come back with a retort of, “I will, but first I have to watch a television show” or “I will, but I have to finish this game first”. When I would remind him that putting way his toys would take 30 seconds and that he could have them put away before the beginning of the alleged television show, his response would be, “Yeah, but STILL”. When I would tell him that his game would be there on the table after he completed his assigned task, he would say, “Yeah, but STILL”.

Yeah, but STILL!!! How many times did I hear that expression from him? Oh, approximately 1,205,984,208 times before his 4th birthday!!

His “Yeah, but STILL(s)” would often lead to issues that needed to be resolved. Essentially, as a three-year-old, he was seeking to take control of the situation from his favorite dad! If he could do anything first before the assigned task, he could view it as an achieved victory over dad. And, if his chosen task could take long enough, maybe he would never get to the task that had been assigned (ah, yes, his master plan)!!

So, since the point of assigning small tasks was to teach responsibility, it did no good to allow him to control the situation with the infamous “Yeah, but STILL”.

As his constant postponing of tasks and his constant attempts at negotiating were doing more harm than good toward his learning of responsibility, I decided to take it a step further – I decided to eliminate his “STILLS”!

One day, after assigning him a task; being met with an alternative task; telling him no; and then hearing the “Yeah, but STILL”, I said the following:

“Kids are not allowed to have STILLS!!” He laughed and wanted me to explain the reason that kids could not have “STILLS”. I simply told him that kids are just not allowed to have “STILLS”. One needed to be at least 30-years-old to have “STILLS”. Even though he knew that I was full of baloney (hmmmm, takes one to know one?), he laughed and went along with it …. at least for a few months.

For a few short months, he stopped with the “Yeah, but STILL(s)” and engaged in the assigned tasks without delay. A few months later, he was back to his old tricks and the “Yeah, but STILL(s)” had made their triumphant return!

Since the overall goal was to get him to learn a sense of responsibility and since we had raised him with the love of the Lord in the church, I finally brought out the big guns. The next time that a task was assigned and he came back with a “Yeah, but STILL”, I told him the following:

“God does not allow kids to have STILL(S)”. For one, brief shining moment, my son looked at me, seemingly stunned, and quickly began to engage in the task at hand! For the next few weeks, each time he said “Yeah, but STILL”, I reminded him that ‘God does not allow kids to have STILL(S)’. Each time, he quickly disengaged from the conversation and began to engage in the task at hand with a determined vigor to get it done right away!

Then one day, as I fully expected, he asked me how it was that I knew that ‘God does not allow kids to have STILLS’. I told him that I just knew the deal. He then turned around, looked up toward Heaven and said, “God, is that true? Are kids not allowed to have STILLS?”

Expecting more nonsense and attempts to disengage from the tasks, my son turned back toward me and said, “Dad, I guess you’re right – God DOES NOT allow kids to have STILLS”!!

And, just like that, with some quick thinking on my part and some help from the Lord, my son believed that kids were not allowed to have "STILLS" and he began to quickly complete all of his assigned tasks as quickly as they were assigned! To this day, several years later, my son willfully engages in tasks around the house – sometimes before they are assigned! Had I allowed him to get away with the "STILLS", it is doubtful that he would have had a sense of responsibility ingrained into him.

Although the story is a bit dramatic (although every word is true!), the main point is this: Your children need to learn a sense of responsibility at an early age, so that they develop that skill for later in life. Whether it’s taking out the trash, helping with yard work, helping with the dishes, putting away toys, etc., it is important that they learn to help out and even complete some tasks on their own, so that they don’t grow up to be a student, parent, spouse, professional, career person who does not have a sense of personal responsibility for the situations in which they exist.

How about you? What techniques (or tricks!!) have you used to instill a meaningful sense of responsibility in to the hearts and souls of your own kids? Let me know!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Games - A Happy Ending!

I am reminded of an 8th grade student, named Tony. One day before school in the gymnasium, a student reported to me that Tony had picked up a smaller child named Steve and body slammed him to the hard gym floor. As the Principal, I should have immediately high-tailed it to the gym. But, considering the source of the report (it was from a less-than-reputable student) and the difficult-to-believe nature of the story, I intensively questioned the student for a few more seconds.

When I decided that there might be some credence to his story, (although I still imagined that it was just a rumor), I quickly went to the gym, whereupon I saw Steve on the floor, holding his neck. After we attended to Steve (fortunately, he was not severely injured), I asked Tony what had happened.

To my disbelief, he indicated that he had picked up Steve and body-slammed him to the gym floor. He had been practicing that move for a few weeks after he had studied it on one of his video games. He also noticed that the victim on the game always got right back up and continued fighting. He wanted to see if it happened that way in real life, too! Well, Tony, in real life – people don’t get right back up and sometimes they don’t get back up at all after being body-slammed to the gym floor!

Tony was not a fool or a child with severe learning disabilities. He was an above-average student who, under ordinary circumstances, would have never tried that move in real life. However, due to video game addiction, Tony’s judgment became clouded enough that he actually began to believe that a child in real life might react in similar fashion to a video game person after becoming a victim of violence. Yes, Tony actually believed that Steve would just hop right up!

Unfortunately, Tony’s parents (separated pending an upcoming divorce) were nothing like Ben’s parents (I wrote about Ben and his parents in a previous post) who had quickly interceded on their son’s behalf. No, Tony’s parents scolded him for hurting another child and then they let him continue with his video game playing despite numerous pleas from me. To the surprise of nobody, Tony was later often suspended from high school and he became a dropout at age sixteen. Does this scenario sound familiar amongst your child's circle of friends? I hope not, but it occurs more often than you might think.

The happy ending is that we gathered a team of experts, Psychologist, Social Worker, and a Clinical Counselor, as well as some of Tony’s friends, his parents and I, and we performed an intervention. We confronted Tony about his violent behavior and his path to destruction and his journey to “loser-dom”. After nearly an hour of people telling Tony how much they cared about him, Tough-Guy Tony broke down and cried and admitted that he did not know how to deal with people, including his friends, without getting violent.

After about 6 months of intensive therapy, Tony and his Therapist concluded that his addiction to the violence on the video games had clouded his judgment and, yes, Tony had come to believe that there was no difference between the violence in video games and the violence in real life. Ouch!

Fast forwarding a few years, Tony went back to high school and graduated before venturing off to college to become a ..... yes, a Therapist! Today, he maintains a successful practice which is geared toward helping children with addictions, including the ever-growing actions to video games! Finally, a happy ending to a troubled youth!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Does 'Sissy' Want?

From the time of my oldest son's birth (he is the middle of three children) through about the time that he was two years old or so, he always copied his “sissy”. Whatever “sissy” did, he wanted to do, as well.

While some of this was cute and while all of it was done in a loving manner, it was also decided that he need to stop copying "sissy" and make his own way in the world. For example, as he always placed his restaurant order after “sissy” ordered hers, his meal order was always identical. In fact, when we asked him what he wanted to eat, he would always respond by saying, “What does sissy want?”

The first order of business was to get him to order his own meal and to be his own man! Before we left for the restaurant, I told him that he would be ordering first; he was to get whatever he wanted; and that “sissy” would place her order after he was done. I also coached him on being his own man, making his own decisions, and doing what he believed to be best for himself. After all, all people were different and, as such, there was no point in copying others just for the sake of copying.

After being seated at the restaurant, the waitress asked my son for his order. He proudly ordered spaghetti and salad with Italian dressing! Wow, quite an order for a 2-year-old to place and a gigantic leap for not copying “sissy”!!

Of course, after “sissy” placed her order for steak and a baked potato, my son considered changing his order. We told him absolutely not. He had ordered spaghetti and salad, because it was his favorite. Copying “sissy” would serve no purpose.

We quickly noticed a sense of empowerment and a sense of relief, as my son had now stepped out into the world and had made his first meal decision!!

The send of empowerment made sense. The sense of relief, I believe, came from the fact that he had entered a brave, new world and all was still O.K.!! He had learned that he could make his own decision with a stranger (the waitress) and everything would still be just fine.

From that day forward, he began to make his own decisions for his life’s direction. For example, when “sissy” chose to explore dancing, he chose to play guitar. When she chose to play clarinet, he chose to play the sax. When she chose dolls and makeup, he chose baseball and basketball.

Ah yes, an independent young man – completely prepared for the harsh realities of life! The independent decision-making, started when he was 2-years-old at a Bill Knapps’ Restaurant, has stayed with my son since that time.

However, while in high school, he decided that hew wanted to get a job to tuck away a few bucks and to earn some money for some of life’s simple pleasures. He wasn’t sure where to get his first job to work with/for people who did not love him or care for him, so ……… he asked “sissy” if she could get him a job at her place of work!

Yes, some habits, while put away neatly for several years, never quite die completely! “Sissy” came to the rescue and got him a job at her place of work.

As our two young adult children, formerly 2- and 5-years-old, walked out of the house on his first night of work, dressed in matching polo shirts and khaki pants, we couldn’t help but think back to when they were little and my son repeatedly said, “What does ‘sissy’ want?”

Yes, our oldest son has become quite independent and a young man who is capable of making his own decisions for his life. But, when a little trepidation sets in on an issue, such as getting his first job, it’s nice to know that he still turns to “sissy” and she triumphantly comes through!

Several years from now, I can just imagine this conversation:
Dad: “Well, my oldest son, to which nursing home are you sending me?”
Oldest Son: Well, what does sissy want?”

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!! Parenting – gotta love it!

How about you? Does one of your siblings copy off of another one? Have you experienced good or poor results? Have you attempted to have the copier make his/her own decisions? Write back and let me know!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Holding Out on My Son?

As I have shared in other forums, I had the opportunity to become a professional musician while I was still in high school. Through some very good and helpful folks, I had a fairly lengthy career, ripe with many opportunities for advancement.

However, around the time that I became a school Principal and my 3rd child was born, I decided to scale the music performance dates way back. I’ve kept up with the practicing over the years and I've even had the opportunity to play some concerts and clinics and even record two CD's (yes, my children have each CD in their collections and on their iPods!), but the weekly performance dates had to go.

One of my best breaks in music was that I got a chance to study with one of the greatest people, greatest teachers, and greatest musicians in the world while I was at Wayne State University. I always admired my private lesson and small group instruction teacher, as he had all of the professional and personal traits that I admired.

However, he once told me that he would never teach me everything that he knew, because he did not ever want to have to compete for a job with somebody who knew as much as he did! Although he said it with a smile, I believed that he was serious! To this day, I still believe that he was not joking!

I have told that story to my kids several times over the years. Of course, as they have progressed through their music lessons and free and professional performances, I have always told them that I would NEVER hold back with my knowledge and that I would always share everything that I knew – as long as they were prepared to learn.

Well, a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to give a public performance. This performance was special for a few reasons, one of which is that all of my children got the chance to see me perform live in front of an audience. In fact, for my two boys, it marked the first time that they had ever witnessed one of my live performances!

As we were driving home from the performance, I asked my kids for their views on what they had just heard. My daughter thought that I had played well and my older son concurred. However, my younger son (he plays the percussion instruments – just like his dad!) was silent …. most unusual behavior from him!

Finally, he said the following: “So, you ARE just like your teacher. I see that you HAVE been holding out on me”! The comment was serious and there was not even a hint of humor. I asked him to explain his comment.

He told me that, as much as I had taught him, it was clear that I had left quite a bit of information out of our lessons together, as he heard me play notes and passages that I had never taught to him and ....... he was right!

However, I was not holding out on him. I just wanted to be sure that he was ready for the lessons that would lead to him being able to perform at a higher level. He had determined that the moment had already arrived.

So, guess what we did when we got home and again on the next evening? YES, my son got the lesson on an advanced technique of percussion performance; he practiced quite hard; and he nearly mastered the concept within two days!

No, I didn’t misjudge his ability. I was merely saving the concepts for another time. But, this scenario taught me another lesson: Don’t withhold information from your kids, particularly if it can help them to excel in their various endeavors!

My son, who initially thought that I was holding out on him in a perfect imitation of my admired teacher from college, came to understand that I was only doing what I thought was best. But, as I shared with him, from now on, my best will be to teach him everything!!

Any stories from you on waiting for the “perfect” moment to forward information to your children, only to learn that your kids believed that the moment had arrived much earlier?

Ah, parenting – gotta love it!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Weekends and "Dadhood"

Ah, the weekend is finally here! Of course, before I had kids, my weekends consisted of the following:

1) Staying up really late
2) Watching sports or mindless television shows or movies
3) Spending time with friends
4) Catching up at/with work
5) Reading
6) And just about anything else that I wanted to do!

1) Sleeping in as late as I desired
2) Finish some household chores (if I so desired!)
3) Play basketball or racquetball
4) Relax with friends
5) Go to a movie or concert
6) And just about anything else that I wanted to do!

1) Going to church
2) Taking a nap
3) Working around the house (if I so desired!)
4) Spending time with friends and family
5) Playing basketball, softball, and/or racquetball
6) And just about anything else that I wanted to do!

Now, with three kids in the fold, my weekends consist of the following:

1) Getting home from work right away - fully armed with pizza for everybody!
2) Spending the evening with my kids, usually at home, working on homework, listening to and playing music, playing pool, exercising, etc.
3) Maybe watch a movie with everybody
4) Get to bed at a reasonable hour - certainly no later than 11:00 p.m.

1) Get up early
2) Drive one child 25 miles one way to an Art lesson
3) Take him to lunch and get him home
4) Take another child to his guitar lesson about 10 miles way
5) Get home about 6:00 p.m. and spend some time with the 3rd child
6) Use the evening for family time - books, movie, maybe go out with my kids for a few hours, etc.
7) Get to bed at a reasonable hour - certainly no later than
11:00 p.m.

1) Get up earlier than I used to for church
2) Get the boys' suits ready, shirts ironed, ties straightened
3) Ensure that my daughter is properly dressed and ready to go
4) Take the kids to church
5) Go out for a hearty meal and spend more time together
6) Get home and take a short nap
7) Prepare dinner
8) Spend time with each child on homework, listening to and playing music, pool, etc.
9) Get a few chores done (trash, cleaning, fixing a few things, etc.)
10) Get to bed at a reasonable hour - certainly no later than 11:00 p.m. - after all, work awaits in the morning and ...... I'm really tired!!!!!!!

O.K., for the uninitiated, the BC (Before Children) life might seem to be a whole lot more fun. But, for those experienced in "dadhood", once you get over the shock of not having as much time to yourself as you used to have, there is nothing better than a weekend that is not devoted to you, but to the blessings that you helped to bring into this world!!

Enjoy the weekends dads - after all, you'll have plenty of time for your former life when your kids move out - then you'll wish that your kids would return! In the meantime, spend as much time with your kids as you can, especially on your free days (weekends for me). Your kids need your time and love!

So, how about you? How are your weekends different with your "dadhood" days as opposed to your "BC" days? Write back and let me know!

Paul W. Reeves