Stop Talking to the Wall

If you’re talking and no one is listening, you might be a parent. Maybe your voice becomes louder with each successive ‘time for bed’ announcement. You’re at the point of shouting after your daughter ignores your third warning. She continues to play, with toys scattered about the floor. She has tuned you out. She has made it a nightly habit to push her limits for bedtime. This has become a battle of wills, and she is winning.

This kind of behavior is no surprise. She has been watching, listening, and learning from the first day of her life. She knows you’ll have to get to the frustration point and make some empty threats before she has to stop and go to bed. She’s only playing the game by the rules as she knows them.

This is a problem that will only get worse as the child gets older. It’s up to mom and dad to learn a better way of parenting. In order for the child’s behavior to change, first the parent has to change his behavior. To some, this may sound absurd, but it’s true. When a parent changes the way he interacts with a child, the child reacts in a different way.

One of the most ineffective discipline methods a parent can use to promote behavior change is to make a threat that is never followed through. Most parents are aware of this, but at the same time, many are guilty of doing it. It’s easy to tell a child, “If I step on one more Lego, I’m going to give every last one of them away.”

Of course, when tomorrow dawns, Legos are strewn everywhere, and your foot makes contact with one. You shake your head and yell for the child to pick them up. Giving the Legos away was never the real intention, and the child knew it as soon as the words left your lips. From past experience, the little darling recognized that you were only talking to the wall. This has to change. Kids must be taught that your words are not just so much hot air.

When making an ultimatum statement, first be sure it fits the offense. Some infractions are big, some are small. Second, be sure you are 100% committed to following through with the punishment that was stated. Otherwise, your words are meaningless. Your child’s behavior will not change, in fact, it will become worse, unless he knows you mean what you say.

So what about the child who doesn’t pay attention to mom or dad when asked multiple times to get ready for bed or complete some other task? Remember, the parent’s behavior must change. Look in the child’s eyes, and be sure she’s listening. Without raising your voice, tell her in a matter of fact tone the time she is expected to be in bed. Restrain yourself from giving multiple reminders. For every minute she is late getting into bed, she will have to make those minutes up somewhere. Follow through by taking the same number of minutes she was late getting into bed from something she enjoys, maybe TV time or game time. Let her know that by making an even exchange the debt is paid. Remind her this is only fair. Do this by saying as little as possible about the matter. Avoid letting the child draw you into a long discussion or argument. Make it clear that bedtime is not negotiable. Do the same for other tasks.

Use kindness when working with your child. A parent can be firm without being mean or harsh. Discipline is not about the control of another person, but about the guidance of a child. The goal is not to boss around the child so that he obeys your commands like a robot. Instead, we want to teach the child to have self-control and to think about the consequences of his actions. Children feel safe when they live with order and know what to expect from their parents. Both the parent and child feel frustrated when limits are not defined.

One way to avoid situations where meaningless threats are made is to keep anger in check. Anger is a parent’s adversary and is an enemy of clear thinking. When tempers boil out of control, parents may make threats they never intend to follow through on. Parents can stay in control by remaining calm. Anger weakens a parent’s power. Take a breather and think before speaking. You can’t teach your child better behavior when you have no control over your own behavior.

When your actions are consistent, your child will feel more secure. She will know what the outcome of her behavior will be. Reminding your daughter of her bedtime will be just that, a reminder. There will be no need to threaten, to get angry, or to tell her twice.

Although it’s best to start your child off at a young age by being consistent with your words and actions, never feel it’s too late to start. An older child will have some bad habits to unlearn, but with firmness and patience, better behaviors can be taught. The key is to say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Keep in mind, you’re the parent. Guiding your child’s behavior is part of your job description. Behavior can’t be changed in a day, so don’t get discouraged. If you’re willing to change your own behavior, a change in your child’s behavior will follow. Talk to your child, not to the wall.




What I've Been Reading

Pax by Sara Pennypacker 
     This middle-grade book is about the love between Peter and his pet fox, Pax. When his father enlists in the military, Peter is forced not only to release Pax into the wild, he must also move hundreds of miles away to live with his grandfather. Peter soon realizes he cannot be separated from Pax, so he sets out on foot to find the fox. In the meantime, Pax waits for Peter to return for him, but he must learn to survive. Each of them learn to depend on others along the way. All the while, the war closes in around them.

Insane City by Dave Barry
     This book was chosen by my book club, and I might not have found it had it not been on the reading list. It lives up to its name. Everything that happens to Seth on his way to marry Tina verges on insanity. Seemingly, no human could have worse luck, but all the horrible things that happen to Seth might be for the best. With all that he learns about himself, Tina, and her family, Seth is able to live happily ever after.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
     Wishtree was recommended to me by a librarian friend, and it is another middle-grade story. I taught children from this age range, and I love reading their books. This book is about an old tree that serves as a home for many animals. The people of the neighborhood have also used the tree branches to hang their wishes, written on scraps of paper or cloth. When a new family moves into the neighborhood, someone uses the wishtree to send them a hateful message. The animals and the tree are a perfect example of living in harmony despite differences. This book will help children understand the importance of treating others with respect.

Dangerous Instincts by Mary Ellen O'Toole
     This non-fiction book is written by a former FBI profiler. I wanted to read it because I wanted to know more about recognizing potentially harmful situations. O'Toole discusses how to size up people in many circumstances. She advises not to rely on the sense of fear alone. Some harmful people do not look or act the part until it's too late. In today's world, it pays to be constantly wary of those around us.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah    
     This was another of my book club reads. It is a story of the French Resistance in WWII, written as historical fiction. This book revealed the role women played in the war effort, and how they managed to live and survive with the German occupation. The hardships were unspeakable, but there were heroines among the women. Some risked their lives, over and over, to help others. This book kept me up way past my bedtime to finish it.




A Few Words About Books

At a friend's invitation, I joined a new book club today. I've been a member of another group for some time, but a person can never belong to too many book clubs, I always say. Book club meetings always remind me of book reports, one of my favorite assignments in school.

This club chooses books a few months ahead, so they gave me the book list for the upcoming meetings. I wanted to get the new books as soon as possible. The bookmobile might have the books I wanted, but it always makes me sad when I have to return a good book. Sometimes I want to read them a second or third time. I decided to make a beeline for the bookstore. Booksellers must love bookworms like me. I like books I can call my own.

I browsed up and down amid the bookshelves. By the time I finished I had selected an armload. I needed my book bag to carry them. At the check-out counter, I added several bookmarks to my purchase. Is it just me, or are people who fold book pages a special kind of barbaric?

Upon returning home, I stacked the new titles between my bookends, being careful not to crease any of the book jackets. My books are almost like friends. I treat them with respect and care. I expect anyone who borrows my books to do the same. In fact, these are my top five rules for loaning out books:

1. Use a bookmark, no bent or creased pages.
2. The borrowed book is not allowed in the bathroom.
3. Please do not use the book as a drink coaster.
4. Do not write or underline in the book.
5. And last of all, please return the book.

Writing tip: Proofread your essays. Be careful not to use the same words over and over, or before you know it you can use the same word 28 times in one article.



Monday, Monday

This morning as I scanned social media, I noted a number of people bracing themselves for the start of another work week. In fact, Monday was getting bashed with words that ranged from mild dread to outright hatred.

Geez, Louise, someone needs to defend Monday.

Waking up is no harder for me on Monday than any other day. My bed is warm and comfy seven days a week. If not for alarms, my bed and I might never separate. Anyway, until I've had my coffee, I don't know what day it is.

I started loving Mondays when I was a classroom teacher. For reasons I never fully understood, the students worked harder and were more cooperative on Mondays. I have no documented proof of that, but it's true. I began to look forward to Mondays.

There's something exciting about a Monday. It's like a new beginning. The week stretches ahead with blanks to fill in. To-do lists, full of hope, are made. New projects are undertaken. Anything seems possible on Monday.

So, here we are, Monday, my friend. Let's do something great this week.



Lists, Technology, and Time

Thanks to the reign of technology, I no longer lose my grocery list. Ever since my iPhone became the equivalent of another body part, the list goes with me everywhere. I might add or delete items from the list at any time of day, at whatever moment a thought wanders through my brain. Then, when shopping day arrives, the list is up-to-date and in my hand at the store.

I remember days past when I'd get to the grocery store, fumble through my purse, and realize my paper list wasn't with me. A bewildered panic would seize my body as I wandered up and down the aisles, racking my brain to remember what I'd written on the missing list. My only option was to fill the cart with familiar items, hoping some of the things might be what I needed. All the while, I couldn't shake that nagging feeling something was being forgotten.

Of course, something was forgotten. I'd discover what it was much later when the list popped up somewhere at home, taunting me. I could either return to the store or do without.

The present generation can't relate to such an experience. The days of the paper list are over. In fact, why use a list at all? Groceries can be ordered online for pick-up or for home delivery. It's as easy as clicking 'Add to cart'. The process saves so much time and frustration.

At least, it's supposed to. I seem to have less time than ever. I don't know where all the time goes that I'm supposed to be saving. I still meet myself coming and going, and I often work into the wee hours. I have too many appointments, too many unfinished projects, and too many meetings. I'm baffled as to why there's not more free time. I wonder if it would help if I made a list.



Recent Reads 2018

My reading selections in January were a mixed lot. I chose one novel, three middle grade novels, and one writing craft book.

Bear Town by Fredrik Backman
     I'm a fan of Backman, having read many of his other books. His stories don't always lead where I think they are going, but they lead to the right place. Bear Town is a story of family dysfunction. It's also a story of small town camaraderie and survival with lots of truth and heartbreak.

How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor
     This is a story of how a homeless child hatches a plan to get enough money to move her family out of their car and into a house.

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
     I'm not sure how I ended up reading so much about this topic in one month, but Crenshaw is also about the struggle of childhood homelessness. An old imaginary friend shows up, uninvited, to help the child through a tough time.

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
     This is a must read for elementary students. It's a story of a child with cerebral palsy who is frustrated because she understands words, but she can't respond or communicate with others. Life changes for her when she receives a computer that allows her to communicate, but not everyone is ready to accept that a handicapped child can be "normal".

On Writing by Stephen King
     King intertwines his memoir with writing advice in this book. It was an entertaining and useful read.



Marking the Days

Sometimes I get excited over the smallest things. When the bookmarks arrived for my upcoming book, The Legend of Sassafras House, I couldn't tear into the box fast enough. It was love at first sight.

New bookmarks have always been a treasure for me, but none so much as these. Nothing could be more beautiful, except the actual book itself, which will be released soon. I keep reminding myself to be patient. Publishing takes time. In the meantime, as I wait to hold my own book in my hands, I'll be marking all my current reads with these beauties.

The Legend of Sassafras House is my debut middle grade novel. While I anticipate seeing the The Legend of Sassafras House in print, I'm diligently working on my next book. But right now, I think I'll spend a little time staring at my new bookmarks.