Independence Day P.E.T.-Style
As we celebrate July 4th, here's a snapshot of how my eldest child Harrison took a big step towards independence one day.
That's a pretty shared aspiration, right? In the first P.E.T. session, independent always makes the list as parents call out their dreams for their children by age 18. And in the course, we regularly turn to this visual to evaluate whether our parenting decisions actually further this long-term goal:
I used this inquiry a lot in examining my approach to homework. Like most parents, I care deeply about this hot topic but it's so hard because homework is always competing with a big, bad, three letter word: F-U-N. Course participants lament this fact and it becomes something of a running joke when we are discussing our children's needs -- " Yup, of course, here we go again! Play, fun and relaxation are always major needs!"
So one Saturday about a year and a half ago, Harrison was to be home alone all day for the first time. My husband and I had to leave right after breakfast to take Jake and Claudia to their back to back basketball tournaments. They were going to get a good physical workout; I was going to work out my self-control since I had resolved NOT to micromanage Harrison's day.
There truly was no need for me to say or do anything. Harrison well knew my value around trying hard in school. Over and over, I had gone against Thomas Gordon's advice that parents share their values -- get this, are you ready? -- ONE TIME:
The successful consultant shares rather than preaches, offers rather than imposes, suggests rather than demands. Even more critical, the successful consultant shares, offers, and suggests usually no more than once.
-- italics in original, page 304 of Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children
(Thank goodness for master trainer Kathryn Tonges' guidance on Values Collisions. Kathryn gently reminds us that it can be okay to share our values again as kids grow into different developmental stages. She points out that it's really just the daily hassling where they tune us out that we are worried about. And, oh yes, I was worried.)
So here's how I did that day:
Upon leaving the house, I kept my mouth shut and did not mention homework in any way, shape or form nor did I discuss League of Legends (you may remember from last week that L.O.L. was his siren call). I simply nonchalantly waved “Buh-bye!” to Harrison, who was still in his pajamas. Under my breath I repeated that day's mantras: "His homework is not my problem" and "I can choose to be a new kind of mom!"
I called once mid-day to say hi and to lie through my teeth, “Hey there, honey. Just wanted to check that you are ok!” Yeah, right. I was dying to know HOW he was spending the day. But the muzzle worked.
Arriving home at dinnertime, almost ten hours after leaving Harrison to his devices, I was still determined not to interrogate him on that day's schoolwork to L.O.L. ratio.
It turned out there was no need to psych myself up that way. As soon as I entered the front door, Harrison bounded up to me like Marmaduke. “Mom, Mom, Mom -- I only played two hours of L.O.L.! I used it as breaks because I had so much homework to do,” he said with a wide grin, like he had read my mind and knew I needed sweet relief.
Well, knock me over with a feather. I had put Harrison in charge of his unstructured day and he came out so pleased with himself! If I had even said one thing like “So what’s your plan for balancing your workload today?” I would have taken away from his fully owning that show of self-discipline and balance.
His personal victory was mine too. For a day, I had pulled free of that nagging self I so wanted to shake. It was a happy P.E.T. Independence Day for us both.
Wishing you and yours some P.E.T.-style freedom too!
Credits: Marmaduke - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marmaduke; fireworks - http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2011/07/03/weekend-diversion-the-physics/.