My two sons are masters of procrastination. (Maybe they should do an e-book … ) The worst offenders are:
- Getting to school.
- Getting to bed.
They kinda need to happen everyday. We kinda battle everyday. We’ve read books, we’ve watched DVDs from gurus in the field, we’ve tried love, coercion, blackmail, reward, indifference, reasoning, and even logic. All lost on them. My 6-year old, the bell has rung, he can hear it, we’re on the sidewalk, is the type who will suddenly take up a scientific study of ladybugs.
I admit it, I’m no match for a ladybug. They are rather fascinating: how do they get those black spots so perfectly equidistant from each other? How does that shell of armor lift up and make room for those wings? They’re miniature feats of engineering (AKA: nature). And I’m no match, I freely admit it. But we need to get to school … so he can learn about ladybugs. Anyway.
Follow Your Own Advice
Dear reader, if you have put 1 and 1 together and read my article of the day before yesterday (100 Posts in 100 Days), I know what you’re saying, “Hey dad, why don’t you try what’s working for you on them?” Brilliant. Yes. Thank you.
On weekends, if left to their own decisions, they’ll want to play Minecraft (on the iPad). I’m not a big fan of video games, but this one isn’t bad. All they really do is build things and create. Hmm, sounds like dad’s job … We have strict rules in the weekends when they’re allowed “screen time” but the time is actually a given, i.e. they just get the time, they don’t have to earn it (they can lose it, though). The boys are getting older and more capable and we’ve been looking for more responsibility in them of late. Just carrying their own weight a bit more. Talking to some parents, they’ll say that most responsibilities should also just be a given: they should just do them as a member of the family. I agree.
But think of ourselves as adults, we should also be doing things that are givens, required reading so to speak, as a member of the family (or society). We can even handle things like logic and rationale. But do we do them? Do we eat well, exercise regularly, vacuum weekly, improve our minds, clean out the gutter, be a good samaritan? Sure, we try our best. What works even better? Challenges. Goals. Rewards.
What do kids love even more than adults? Challenges.
I can already hear some parents (and most kids), “Then they’re going to want reward for every single thing they do.” Yep, I get it. Been there, done that. This is where you have to step in as an adult and draw the line. The fun part about kids who are still young enough is that they still are OK with you making the rules up. Frankly, they just want to play the game, they want to be challenged. For them, it’s a game. I don’t need to spell it out, but kids love games. It’s probably one of the definitions of being a kid.
There are some wonderful tricks I’ve learned from my library of parenting books. Here’s a very simple example of two methods to get your child to put his shoes on.
- Please put your shoes on, dear.
- Let’s see if you can get your shoes on in under 20 seconds! Ready? Go!
Again, I hear the voices (maybe I should have that looked at … ): “But your child should just put on his shoes without you even asking.” I agree. I swear, I’m on your side, that’s my goal too. Maybe my kids are slow. Maybe I’m slow. I can handle the name calling, the labels, I just want what works.
We have now developed an elaborate table (the kids like to see the work in progress) on the chalkboard where they each earn half an hour of screen time for each morning and each evening that they leave for school on time and get in bed on time. If they’re late, they don’t get the time. We add it up at the end of the week and that’s their allotted time for the weekend of Minecraft (or whatever). It’s simple. It’s working. We love it. They love it. Bonus: they’re practicing fractions and decimals!
The Hard Part
The difficult part is actually in our court as parents. We need to keep the challenge, the experiment, the game going. Keep the rules the same, keep it consistent, but keep it rolling. Try to keep it fun, be involved, be on their side. Last night, we did a five-second countdown where my oldest jumped (in superhero-style slow motion) into his bed and hit the pillow with zero seconds to spare. We beat the clock together. It needs to become part of the daily routine, part of the household, it needs to become regular, easy, natural, a habit.
- Possible: be late for school and late to bed.
- Impossible: child logic and reasoning. 😉
- Repossible: challenge them to an experiment.