Friday, November 25, 2011

Simple Traditions

As a family we, of course, have many simple traditions. 3 or 4 years ago we started walking to the Taco Bell about a mile from the house. Initially, I pushed Cole & Emma in the stroller but one day, Cole got out and wanted to walk. After that, I found myself pushing am empty stroller so we left it at home. At first we went was once every couple months. Then it was about once a month. Then I started to take them to get donuts when they got up early on Saturday morning. So Saturdays have become walking days. Since we moved a year ago, the walk is now 1.5 miles each way.

This time has been invaluable bonding time. It give us opportunity to step on bigs, walk on the ledge, stop & look at the lake, laugh about mistakes, kick pine combs, toss magnolia hand grenades, test dads commitment (the lagging game), and much much more. We talk about everything. This mornings topics were bugs and planets. (Not uncommon topics with Cole).

How we do it:
The key is that every word and action from dad has to be a positive one. Some days take lots of encouragement: "good job!" "you're my good girl" "I love you." "I can see the donut shop!" Even discipline needs to be positive: "come hold my hand :)" Three miles is a long way if child thinks dad is disappointed, mad or even distracted but a joy when you are having a good time.  Whats more is that children need to feel that they are doing good.  I can recall my dad telling me that I had done a good job and how wonderful it felt.  Even as an older child.  I don't think there is a better medicine to help kids overcome their insecurities than a positive comment from a parent.

The other thing that really helps is to have a goal in mind that is sufficient to motivate the kids.  For my kids, donuts are generally plenty of motivation.  It may be the park that they are looking forward to.  It could be a party or the school or whatever.

The pitfalls:
There are 3 things I don't do. First, I don't carry them while we walk. If somebody needs attention, I stop; pick them up; love and encourage; laugh and play, and put them down when they're ready to go forward.  After the first few times walking, they have not asked for me to carry them.

Second, I don't put a time limit on the trip. If we need to stop every 15 minutes to talk, rest, pout or whatever, we stop.  (I try to limit my pouting, but sometimes, the walk just gets the better of me.) If the kids want to play at the park, we play. If it gets late, we may call for a ride home.  I want this to be a good experience for them and us.

Finally, I don't hear whining. I do what I can to prevent it using the techniques above. I have a good example. I have a sweet 4-year-old granddaughter who was so excited to walk. She had ridden in the stroller part way on the first round or 2 but ended up walking most of the way the last trip. So we knew she could comfortably do it.  If not, she would have ridden in the stroller until both she & I & her mom felt she was ready. Before we left on the next round, she agreed to walk the whole way. Part way through she started to fuss to her mom to carry her.  She did fine for a while but after a bit, her mom gave in and carried her for 20 yards till we arrived at our destination.  While we were eating, I told my daughter about something I had learned for parrot training.  When a parrot screeches it is often asking for attention.  The 2 best things you can do to prevent an annoying parrot from screeching are: give it lots of dedicated attention when it is not screeching.  When it is screeching, leave the room and completely ignore it until it stops.  If you come back in after an hour of screeching, it just learned that it takes an hour of screeching to get your attention.  If you wait for 2 hours, it learns that it takes 2 hours of screeching.  The same thing applies to kids.  Make sure the child has sufficient attention, love and concern when the child is happy.   When the child begins to whine, and you have checked and know that the child is OK, ignore the wine but continue to pay attention to the child's needs with positive encouragement as appropriate. Don't over do it but don't ignore if there is a real need.  Completely ignore the wining until the wining has been gone for at least 5 min.  Then start with positive feedback about progress.  If the wining starts again, ignore it again.  We tried it on the way home.  She fussed a bit to be held as soon as we left for home.  Mom ignored it.  At one point she said she had a sore on her foot, so mom took the shoe off and checked.  The foot was fine but mom allowed her to walk without the shoe on and then encouraged her to walk in the grass to let the grass tickle her feet.  She thought that was a cool idea and she took off in the grass.  Shortly, she had completely forgotten about the whining and walked the rest of the way home.  After that one trip she never whined again and she often bragged that she could do the whole walk without being carried!

We certainly enjoy walking.  On occasion, we do hear a grumble or 2 but it seems that they almost always want to walk, especially once we get started.  These simple traditions abound in our home and are most often initiated by Mom.  However, they are particularly key for adopted children who have likely lived in less than optimal conditions as orphins. They may have never been told they are doing a good job, have not been held, cuddled and loved sufficient, or who have been put down, abused or neglected in other ways.  They all have wonderful spirits that can fill your soul with love if you set the right example for them and spend time and effort with them.

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