My children are 10 years old and 7 years old. They are turning out to be wonderful humans so far. I say this as I pat myself on the back. HOWEVER, I do realize that they are young and we are soooo far from being out of the woods.
My mom raised four kids and babysat probably over 100 kids while I was growing up, so when she has something to say about being a parent, I tend to listen closely. She’s not perfect, no one is, but she’s pretty close. Love you mah. She’s given me some gems. I’ve already shared one of her gems: You can find that here. Im going to share another big one that she shared with me that I use with much success.
“Honey, you need to make sure you set them up for success.”
This advice first struck a chord in me when I struggled with the dinner situation. We would load our kid’s plates up with food and set the plate in front of them. Then the whining and moaning and dissent game ensued. The game ended in one of a few ways: a large chunk of time would pass and they would begrudgingly eat their food, anger reared its head and we came up with some form of punishment, or we gave up and the kids won this particular round. On a fun-o-meter, I give this game a zero. It is so not fun for so many parents. It leads to frustration and a feeling of failure within everyone.
“Set them up for success? What does this even mean, mom?”
She grabbed two plates, told me to have a seat, and loaded the plates for my children that night. When I looked at their plates, I told her that we were feeding children, not birds. The amount of food was minuscule, only a couple bites of each thing! She told me to wait and watch…
My mom sat the plates in front of my kids. The kids dove into their plates and gobbled up every bite, even the stuff that they didn’t love. They looked up with big eyes “Can I have more!?” She looked at them with her scripted “surprised” look on her face: “Oh, wow! you finished ALL of your food! You must have been so hungry, let me get you more. Great job eating everything.” My mom was able to accomplish our goal of simply getting them to eat, but she did this while making them feel like they were winning! There was no bribery involved, no cajoling, no begging, no negative consequences. She had effectively set them up for success.
This was years ago, and I find it useful in many areas of our life at this point. Set them up for success. When they are being introduced to a new concept or idea, start with a small plate.
Swimming: “Just try to put your mouth under the water today and then come right back up…” one tiny step in the right direction equals big success and a statement about how they are winning by doing better today than they did yesterday. “Great job!”
Reading: Trading off “you read a sentence, then I will read a sentence…” one tiny step at a time and a statement about how they are winning by doing better today than they did yesterday. “Great job!”
Math: Starting with the easiest example and gradually increasing the difficulty within the concept. “let’s try 1+1, and then we can try 1+2…” one tiny sept at a time and a statement about how they are winning by doing better today than they did yesterday. “Great job!”
To some, this advice is totally common sense, but sometimes we forget. My wish is to impart this wisdom to all who have just embarked upon this journey of parenthood, or who are actively seeking for more tools to put in their toolbox.
I do appreciate listening to people who have been through it, and I welcome your advice, tidbits, and ideas. I can use all the help I can get, so feel free to respond to this article with your own set of common-sense lessons.
Previously published on “A Parent Is Born”, a Medium publication.
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