Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dealing with Ignoring

This was another requested post.

I mentioned in the "Whinese" post my strong feelings about being ignored.  I have to share that this is one topic I work with everyday.  It's a continual battle with this many children.  As I explain, I hope you'll see why.

We did really well with our first few children, but we eventually got tired and lazy (this is key.  Don't let this happen to you.  Please learn from my bad example).  I think we took for granted that our children didn't ignore us until we trained one to do it.  Yes, you read that right, we trained a child to ignore us--the very thing I hate.

As you already know, with little kids, you pretty much have to start from day one to help them learn what you expect.  Even if it takes you getting up and helping them learn what it feels like to be obedient.  For example, today I asked #7 to put her diaper, that I'd just changed, into the garbage.  She headed for the front door.  I realized that I had just gone with her yesterday, as we were leaving, to take a poopy one outside to the garbage can.  Remember this picture?

#6 in 2008 - Just about to take his diaper out to the garbage.
Well, turn that little boy into a girl, and you've got the idea.  We've been through all of this before.  In this case with #7, outside is not where I wanted her to go.  It's not that she's ignoring or being defiant, she is just confused, so in this case, I got up, took her by the hand, and led her to the garbage can I wanted her to throw the diaper in.  I simply trained her.

Let me take you back a couple days.  #7 threw something on the floor, and I asked her to pick it up.  She stood and stared at me.  I was pretty sure she knew what I was asking because she's done similar things before, but I wasn't sure just what was going on here.  So, what do I do?  Do I let it go?  Is it not that big of a deal?  Or, do I step in, as in the case above, take her by the hand, and lead her to do the right thing?

Let me just tell you, if it's a big enough of a deal that I ask her to do it, then it's a big enough deal for her to obey.  If I'm not willing to teach her to obey my words, I'd better not use any.

Let me just tell you, we let that previous child I was talking about in the first part of this post, get away with just standing and staring blankly at us a little too often.  This is how we trained the ignoring into said child.

How we trained our first couple kids was just what I did with #7 on that day.  I got up, took her by the hand to the thing she had dropped, I said, "Hey, let's put this away" in my best, sing-songy voice so it would sound like a really fun thing I was asking, and helped her pick it up with her hands--very gently and lovingly--giving her the benefit of the doubt that she had heard me and wanted to be obedient but for some reason didn't understand.  I helped her walk to the place where it was supposed to be put, helped her place it there, gave her a squeeze and told her, "Good job.  Way to be obedient."  No, she's 22 months, she doesn't know what that means but eventually she will, and she'll know it's a good thing because now she's feeling good about herself for doing what made her mom so happy.

First you make the request, and then you enforce it.  It's just a matter of being willing (and able) to get up and do something about it when you're being ignored.  I think I've said this before, but to my mind, it feels like so much of parenting is just unteaching bad habits and teaching the right habits to replace them.  Sometimes it's just getting a child so used to doing something that it seems natural to them after awhile.  They can't remember ever doing anything different.  Thus it is with obedience.  If we can just know that when we make a request of our kids that it might require some follow through on our part and be willing to do it, we can help them build a new habit.

The other thing I like to think is that I don't want to lie to my kids.  If I say something, darn it, I'm going to do it.  My children should know that I am one person on this planet that they can trust.  Sometimes, though, in a moment of stress, I've said things that I haven't been able to enforce.  Yikes!  This is bad news.  Again, learn from my bad example.

Years ago, we had some good friends who were newly married come to visit.  Before they left, they commented about our funny parenting style--especially in regard to how we enforced the things we said to our kids and the consequences we applied to our kids' wrong actions.  We try very hard to make things logical.  For example, if you jump on the bed, you sleep on the floor that night.  If you wake a sleeping baby, you get to go finish the baby's nap with some time in bed (yes, I know you can't make a child sleep, but my kids HATE being taken out of the action, so this is awful.  Nobody wants to wake the baby around here).

Ignoring kind of goes in cycles around here.  The kids can see when I'm busy and have learned to watch for the signs.  They've gotten pretty wise.  It's also pretty silly to take a 14-year-old by the hand to have him put something away, but I guess you could see how this goes--might embarrass him into always putting stuff away immediately when asked.  So, this is the new thing.  I have shared with my children this statement:  "The first time I ask you to do something it's a freebie.  Every time thereafter, you get an extra job to do for me."  I got four extra jobs out of the way today, and I didn't even have to lift a finger.  I know that Jim Fay (of Love and Logic fame)'d be shaking his head at me right now if he knew I asked more than once.  They say you only ask one time.  I agree with this.  Here's something I have to work on.

Even better than what I'm doing, and what I think I'm going to use in place of this is the Love and Logic idea of "energy drain."  I've used it in the past, and it's remarkable.  If something is an inconvenience for me and drains my energy (like asking for something to be done and no one moving), the child has to do something to replace that energy.  It's fabulous!  Don't tell me you've never felt the energy drain right out of you before because of something one of your children has done.  I think every mother's felt this.  I wish my mom had known about this.  There are probably times she would have been sitting around with her feet up, eating bonbons because of the rotten things us kids did that drained her energy.  That woman was a SAINT!

You simply say, "Oh wow, that really drained my energy, and because I have no energy left, I'm going to need you to replace some of it for me by...(place your job here)...."

When I used this in the past, all my kids had to hear was "drain" and "energy" and you'd hear "Oh no!"  My kids also learned the things that usually led to this drain and would eventually avoid doing them.  I wonder why I stopped doing this.  Well, no matter, it's time to pick up again.

I love it when people ask me to post about certain topics.  It makes my brain start working again and helps me put things back in perspective.  Thank you!

So, the key to overcoming ignoring is consistent follow through.  If you say it, you'd better do it, or your kids'll learn pretty quickly that you don't mean what you say, and they can do what they want anyway.  On the other hand, if you're good to your word, they learn that they can't get away with ignoring you.  You won't allow it.  This goes right back to the idea of respecting yourself as the mom.  They learn to trust you and that bond will build over the years.  One other point I want to share is the idea that when a child learns to do the right thing, he/she learns self-respect and feels good about him/herself, and who doesn't want this for their child?  I would venture to say that disobedience never feels good, but obedience is oh so very satisfying.

Here is a link to what "Love and Logic" has to say on the topic.  Hope this helps.


John said...

This is a great post. I will have to put some of these things in effect. I think we fail to follow through too often when I hand out a chore. But, like you, if I say I am going to do something, I really try to do it, because I want my kids to trust what I say.

Oyama Family said...

I really do love all these tips you are giving lately. Can I pre-order your parenting tips book? BTW- I am totally NOT joking here Julie!

Lena Baron said...

Ahhh, Yes! This is all very helpful for me right now. I HAVE to read the Love and Logic books! Today I was so weary of my home schooler waisting (my time) by being distracted. I finally set a timer and told him he would pay me 1 penny for every minute he waisted. Today he paid me 3 cents out of his own money. It worked. He stayed on task after the first round. Love and Logic? Really, I don't know. But it worked for me and I thought I'd share.

Wonder Woman said...

Well, I was right! you are a wealth of information!! Thanks for THIS post, too!!!!! Great ideas and tips.

Jen said...

Parenting is so difficult. We learn from our mistakes just like the kids learn from theirs. Each child is different. One way of discipline works for one, but not the other. I have one very responsible, high achiever, and the other is a free spirit, fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants child. Thanks for sharing some of your insight. I need to get back into some of those same patterns I have gotten lax on.

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