Sunday, September 12, 2010

Elements, idyll and correction

This would be a supremely satisfying amalgam of new media and a lifelong favorite. Mmmm.

Boingboing had my number yesterday. In addition to the above, they also featured this very catchy song about, well, being a dickhead hipster doofus. By linking to boingboing I'm sidestepping the appropriate material question. Be advised that if you don't like the word dickhead you don't want to watch a video entitled "Being A Dickhead's Cool".

This evening after potluck I watched the kids playing over by the treehouse as the sun went down. It looked idyllic. Less than fifteen minutes later I was called out to tend to Lexi because she had rolled off the garden cart Katy was trying to give her a ride on. Lexi's outrage and physical discomfort was soothed by bandaids, ice packs and helping me make oatmeal cookies (with choc. chips except for the four for Katy who is our odd chocolate avoider). Katy's upset and moral discomfort (at having done wrong and contributed to her sister's injuries) was red hot and her father's lecture didn't help much. But baths and cookies eventually did their work and everyone got to bed peacefully. Idylls just aren't very long.

Katy reacts to well-grounded complaints about her behavior with outrage or angry/despairing tears. She reacts like I remember reacting. I was used to being the good kid and whenever I transgressed and was called out for it I found it unbearable. I would burst into loud sobs and retreat. So I can empathize but I don't know how to get through to Katy in the heat of the moment. We want to tell her "x is wrong so please remember not to do that again". But all she hears is "you're wrong and bad because you did x". Any suggestions? Now that I've written that out I see I can try to get across that I am addressing the behavior and not her as a person.


amenaneri said...

Well, your dilemma with Katie brings to mind Evan's workplace. They have a practice there of whenever anyone makes a mistake (drops a plate, makes a mistake on a check, etc.) they yell out "Oops--I made a mistake!" And any nearby employee who hears it starts cheering and clapping. I know it sounds a little goofy, but I can tell you, Evan doesn't have a bunch of upset, angry or defensive people to manage--a pretty great thing.

The idea being to break up that whole world of "I'm wrong, oh my god, embarassment, anger, upset, righteousness, defensiveness, guilt, trying to hide it, etc." and replacing it with something fun. People make mistakes. Then if they own up to it, they can correct, or some things just happen, like dropping a plate of food. Doesn't have to lead to upset.

I'm pretty sure from your post that Katie didn't mean to dump Lexi on her head--she made a mistake. Make it into something less significant...

There's my non-parent parenting advice.

So glad to see you back!

Plutarch said...

It took me some time to realize it but I think children are much more perceptive about the feeling of grown-ups than grown-ups believe them to be. They are also more understanding when grown-ups, trained to be diplomatic, react spontaneously to their bad behaviour. They may not admit it but when you are angry they know why you are angry.

Bee said...

Yes, I've always noticed that idylls don't last long! Your description of Katy's response to being "told off" sounded familiar. Neither of my girls take correction with good grace . . . and both of them, with their withdrawal and pouting, somehow manage to make me feel that I've been in the wrong.

Nimble said...

Hi AM, thanks for your words and the nudge to get back here. I am mulling over the restaurant's celebration of mistakes. There is something to it for sure. A good example to share with the kid too, very concrete and understandable.

Plutarch: Yes these kids have insight. I'm mulling how to invoke their good judgment and not self judgment.

Bee: Good to know I'm not the only parent... I think I'm in training for the teen years because Katy has perfected her tight lipped furious retreat already (not quite 9yo).

lauratd said...

Have you read "How to Talk so Kids will listen and Listen so Kid's will Talk" ? It's got some good examples of dealing with tricky situations like these. At school we concentrate on having the injurer help take care of the injured. Gives them something positive to do. Also if it was an accident we acknowledge that they didn't mean to hurt the other child or break the thing or whatever and if they did it on purpose out of anger, we give them some empathy before the lecture, "Sometimes when I'm angry I say or do things that I shouldn't and then I feel bad about it." Then when they are calm enough we go over what they could do differently next time. Usually rather than telling them, we ask- what could you do differently, because they probably know and nothing is more annoying that having someone lecture about something that you know like they think you are too stupid or young or whatever to get it.

Nimble said...

Hey LTD, I need to take that book out again now that the toddler years are over and dialogue is the real parenting deal. Thanks for your thoughts on this.