There is no shortage of parenting advice out there. Its quality varies, and its application varies.
I’ve also figured out that many of the pieces that are excellent are applicable to all humans, not just little ones.
Avoid saying “be careful.”
Give specifics. What do you actually want them to watch out for?
For example: be careful crossing the street.
Instead: Cross the street at the corner. Remember to look both ways before you cross, wait for cars to go before you go, and walk.
Yeah, that’s a lot of directions. If they don’t have those in place already, maybe they’re not ready to take that one on alone.
Much of the time, when we tell someone to be careful, it’s not because we think they need the reminder but because we’re trying to do something with our own anxiety about their safety.
So instead of telling them to be careful, tell yourself to be calm, give useful directions if needed, and on we go.
When a sentence has two parts—the first part positive and the second part negative—the conjunction makes a big difference in how the complete sentence is received.
“You played that song really well, but this note should be two beats.”
“You played that song really well, and this note should be two beats.”
“You played that song really well. Next time, play this note two beats.”
Those sentences feel different as the receiver.
“But” in the middle negates the first half of the sentence.
“And” in the middle leaves both parts of the sentence intact.
This trick (that is easy to do
but and hard to remember) improves message reception in nearly any context: work, spouse, kids, friends, teammates.
Of course—there is a boundary on your responsibility for your message being received as intended. And there’s context. Simply using and instead of but doesn’t change those variables.
Someone who is programmed to reject praise and focus on negative isn’t going to hear the goodness up front, regardless what follows. (That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.)
Someone whose work is never good enough or who has been pounded with criticism perhaps should be offered only the compliment, with the second half saved for just before the next attempt. (“Remember when you do this to include xyz detail.”)
And, because I have a child who is That Age, I can’t write a post with that many “but”s in it without thinking “chicken butt!”
The Kid had big plans for his birthday party, including a large cardboard rocket that two kids could ride in at a time. (That was talked down from one rocket per child.)
One of his other plans was a jet pack for each (to make up for not everyone having a rocket). I was going to borrow some small hurdles for the jet packs (I had borrowed them last year for an obstacle course and the kids ended up using them as jet packs), but they weren’t available. At the relative last minute. (Because I didn’t ask until the relative last minute.)
I suggested we make coupons, and as each friend arrived, they would receive a coupon to be traded in for a “powerful, invisible jet pack.”
And so it was.
As kids arrived, I gave them a coupon (about which they were confused). Once most had arrived, I opened the “jet pack station,” where each child was fitted for a powerful, invisible jet pack and given instructions on how to use it.
They ran around the yard, flying all over the universe.
What delighted me even more was feedback I got from parents afterwards.
“[My child] showed me how to put it on!”
“I’ve been hearing about it for three days!”
“[My child] is worried that he left his broken jet pack on the ground and The Kid is going to step on it.”
So much better than tangible pretend jet packs. Mission (somewhat accidentally) accomplished.
The Kid doesn’t like movies with scary parts. He’s a sensitive kid and scary things linger. (I relate to that.) We can occasionally do movies in the park, maybe because the sound is less intense, but even those are a crap shoot.
So we don’t watch many movies.
Now, I’m not a movie person, but the last G-rated movie I’m aware of was the Peanuts Movie a few years ago. We went to see it, and he was happy.
What happened to just nice, fun, sweet movies for kids?
Maybe I’m just more aware of this now than I have been, but it seems like Halloween is getting scarier, too. Stuff that used to be reserved for slasher movies and maybe haunted houses is out on people’s lawns. Halloween was fun and had an element of spooky to it, but not so much gruesome. Or at least, that’s my recollection of it.
We need more nice things. Clean things. Funny things (not at the expense of marginalized people). Beautiful things.
Scary things have their place, no doubt, but … can we leave space for nice, too?
It’s my birthday today!
Except that mostly, it doesn’t matter. Work, chores, appointments, etc. all happen regardless. Which is fine (and reasonable).
The number changing doesn’t make me feel any different. I know quite a few people on both sides of that fence—some who don’t care about the number turning over and some who react pretty severely.
Where are you on that spectrum? What’s your thinking behind it? I’m curious if people with the same result as me have the same process. And if my guesses are truth for people who are different than I am.
I like to celebrate my birthday, but for reasons unrelated to my age. (More about that on another day.) Again, I know people all over the spectrum on that, from “I don’t like/need/want to acknowledge my birthday at all” to “I like to celebrate all month!”
Where are you on that spectrum? What’s your thinking behind it? I’m sure these answers will be all over the map, and I’m very interested to know where those points are.
For people who celebrate both birthdays and Christmas, Christmas is usually a bigger deal (for a lot of reasons that make some sense) but I would rather do more presents, bigger celebration, etc. for birthday. It’s a day to celebrate the person, that they were born, that they’re part of our lives. Reason to celebrate indeed!
I’m a little sad that I didn’t start any great birthday traditions with The Kid before he got old enough for them to be unpalatable. We’ll see what I can come up with, maybe starting now (his birthday is soon) and going forward. Hopefully something that The Climbing Daddy would like, too, and that they would put in place for me.
I’m in a conversational kind of mood today. Leave a comment and answer one or more of those questions. Especially the first two.