Monday, June 4, 2018

Chicken or Egg?

The number one lesson they tell new parents is that your kids will learn from you; what you do, what you say, how you react, etc. Your emotional aptitude is ever on display and your sponge-esque children will soak it all up. And that sucks.

I can't recall how long it has been circulating around our house, where it started, who started it, what caused its creation, but it is definitely deeply ingrained in our family and it now lies with every member. When someone tells someone else something they don't like, an audible grunt of displeasure is released.

My wife: Gunner, can you please put your shoes away in your room?
Gunner: (teeth together angry face) Ahhh!

Me: Gray, no toys at the table.
Gray: (scrunches up mad face) Uhh!

I know these sound like fairly typically toddler kid reactions but imagine it about everything, all day long, every day. And they aren't tantrums. No fireworks or high drama. They are more just stanky moments of protest, "I'll put my shoes away, but I don't like that I have to stop playing to do it" or "I know I'm not supposed to have toys at the table but I was enjoying it".

And they are very common place now. They happen often. And I have noticed my wife and I doing them also.

Gunner: Dad, can move your arm so I can see the radio?
Me: (aggravated I have to move my arm holding my coffee from its very comfortable resting position) Ah!

Gray: Can I have a granola bar?
My wife: (after telling her no to that question 3 minutes before) Uh!

So who started this anger grunt of displeasure? The parents or the kids? No one knows. But in our house, everyone knows when someone is not okay with something.

Looking good from our Super Bowl fiasco....
 Sibling In Sync for sure....



 Some Louisiana Philharmonic at City Park....yes please. Seating was tight apparently....
 Official Dance Class photos....

 Fried Shrimp at Jazz Fest....

 And our first Jazz Fest stop always is....

 Cousins at the Yatch Club....
 Needing to plant our Magnolia tree....














 When your sister is somewhat crazy....

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Sweeping Declaration

Oh the humility...the moments where our past indiscretions take us like Moses up the mountain up, to walk down with our epiphany, our commandments, our newfound awareness to make a bold declaration. "I'm never getting that drunk again." "Last time I eat 3 day old nachos." "I'm never flying United Airlines again," then my wife adds, "And Spirit also!" Our lives are filled with these declarations that we use for the most part to learn and adapt behavior even though they err on the playful overly dramatic side.

But as a parent, I find myself making these declarations fairly regularly. "I need to get my son eating more vegetables." "I need to get my daughter to stop waking me up at 3am every night to help her pee when she can obviously do it by herself." It is quite natural with problem solving, 1) state problem, 2) state goals for problem, 3) find the method to resolve, 4) test, 5) study results, 6) repeat making adjustments as necessary.

7 days ago, I made a declaration of epic proportions, "I will no longer use threat of punishment or promise of reward to the modify behavior of my kids." This isn't all that dissimilar to some of my past declarations. "I will be nicer to my kids." "I will not put either kid in timeout today." "Today is going to an Only Fun Day." Much like New Years Resolutions, they were broken before they were even started.

Now toddlers are tough. They are active, noisy, smart enough to know right and wrong and the rules but not smart enough to control their emotional responses every time. This makes all day every day very testing for the patience and positivity of us parents. I've said to my wife numerous times "How can they not give themselves headaches? They literally never stop making noise or just sit quietly. Maybe they're deaf and we should get their ears checked." Not deaf. They just don't stop until they fall asleep.

And with this constant barrage of toddler energy and chaos, I found myself all day long, day after day, dangling the carrot of punishments and rewards to get my kids to act appropriately. And it works. But what I am teaching them? Good moral character is doing right because it is right, the age old Kantian view. I believe as parents, that's the ultimate goal for our kids, to know right and WANT to do right. But I had the sneaking suspicion that I have been teaching my kids that doing right comes with rewards and wrong with punishments, so as they are getting older, if there is no reward or an adequate reward or no punishment or a marginal punishment, then they can cost benefit whether to do right in that situation. That is no bueno! I just felt I couldn't wait til the moment my son looked at me after I ask him to put his shoes in his room and he says "what's in it for me?" If he says that, I just may hang him upside down from the dining room chandelier and make a pinata out of him. Even now, I often get the "I just poohed, can I get a jelly bean?" to which I must reply, "No. That was 2 years ago when you were learning how to pooh on the potty. Now you are a big kid and know how to pooh on the potty every time." to which he replies, "aw." See, these types of interactions were happening way too often so I knew I needed to modify my behavior in order to modify theirs, thus the declaration.

So first, I had to stop myself saying the "If or when and then". "If you're nice, then...." "When you're not listening, then..." "If you want, then...." It was hard but doable. I did much better the first 3 days and then started slipping a little over the weekend. I had to catch myself mid-sentence a bunch and just start over with it reworded. What I found was that in instead making offers and ultimatums at nauseam, I was making statements and then either answering questions like the target of a FBI Probe or asking questions constantly like a Mafia Don, and these conversations were long and exhausting.

1) Old converstation: "If you want to watch a movie before bed, then you need to eat all your dinner."
2) New conversation: Me: "I need you guys eating all your dinner." G: " Then can we watch a movie?" Me: "We can talk about the movie later. For now, let's eat." G: "But I don't want to eat chicken nuggets." Me: "I made them because you asked for them. How many can we eat?" G: "None." Me: "So you don't want anything for dinner? Sounds like you'll be hungry later." G: "Maybe I can get a snack later." Me: "Or maybe we can just eat dinner now." G: "Then can we watch a movie?" Son of a!

1) Old conversation: "Gray, if you snatch another toy from G, you'll need to go take a timeout. That is not playing nice."
2) New conversation: Me: "Gray, did you just snatch a toy from G?" Gray: "Yes." Me: "Was that nice?" Gray: "No." Me: "Do you like it when other kids snatch toys from you?" Gray: "No." Me: "What can we do differently next time?" Gray: "Not snatch the toy." Me: "That's right. Now go play but make sure you're playing nice." 5 seconds later, she snatches a toy again. Son of a!

Like I said, very testing of our patience and positivity. But kids need to learn and grow up in a positive environment. Right now, I am far from a perfect dad and remind myself many times every day about the importance of that positive environment. My wife likes to remind me to let them be kids sometimes. I admit that is harder than it sounds. We all want well-behaved kids, especially out in public. But I guess it's better to have little a-holes now than have them being big a-holes when they are grown.

Our little boy turned 4....
 New MLB season upon us....Go Yanks!
 Big kid bike getting ready....
 A little beach fun....
 Our little girl turned 3...
 Inside joke....
 Willy Wonka fans....or more like Willy Wonka obsessed....
 Willy Wonka Birthday Party to celebrate....

 What do you do after a Willy Wonka Birthday? Make sure everyone survived, of course....
 Spring Break in Cancun, Mexico.....
 
 Soccer fun, G vs. E....
 A fish....
 Showing off their cuteness....

 Gray vs. Gunner, not first battle, not the last, but maybe the most picturesque....
 Her team just got scored on so not sure why she was so excited....

Comfy beach living....
Obviously she had fun in Mexico....
Delta flew us first class there and back without us asking or them even telling us! They are the best!
 Uncle Marc's Birthday happened and we notice growing resemblance of him and his namesake....
 "Dad, I can't play right now. I have to do work on my computer." Solid burn Gunner, solid burn.