First of all, G I A N T disclaimer:
My kids are imperfect.
(Sometimes VERY imperfect.)
We have plenty of our own behavior struggles and I think I have kids bordering on the feistier/more active side, so I certainly cannot stand up as a model of How To Parent To Make It All Easy! or some BS like that.
But, some things do work for us and some things don’t, so I figured I would share a few things since they had been requested/asked about.
So far, the kids continue to be motivated by this list of things. They are earning ‘smiles’ at a ~75% rate which seems just tenuous enough that it does seem to improve their behavior a bit.
They do have a lot to do. Our local public school is (unfortunately) not light on HW. I’d like the kids to get it done in the after school program where they go 3 days/week, but Cameron needs more individualized guidance and Annabel’s work is at least 50% of the time on the computer (various required programs including iReady, Reflex Math, and new this year, Newsela).
(How I feel about this = another post perhaps, but it is what it is.)
They also have to practice piano (for like 5-10 minutes; I am not Tiger Mom over here), clean up their toys, read (mandated by the teachers), and be reasonably nice (mostly to each other; basic human decency requirement!). I think the list helps them see each individual task as part of an achievable goal and seems to make the whole thing less overwhelming. So far, anyway.
It’s true, there isn’t a ton of time for free play on the weekdays 🙁 They do get some, though. The school day ends at 2 pm and 3 days/week they go to an after school program which has unstructured playground/play gym time, an art room, etc. While there are counselors present, it sounds mostly like a free-for-all. Each day they are there, they have one structured activity period (Annabel: Art, Soccer, Drama; Cameron: Soccer, Lego Robotics – which he loves, Basketball).
I did this because a) otherwise 2p – 6p is a large swathe of time and b) picking them up would splinter G’s nap into nothingness (and currently she needs one good nap/day). I would have happily signed them up for a shorter activity period at the school (this was an option at our Miami Beach elementary school) but they don’t have those kinds of after school activities here.
I think it’s a balance. They do get a good amount of unstructured ‘free play’ time on weekends and we try to makes sure at least some portion of that is outside. (We are currently in our ‘gross weather’ phase here — which lasts from May to the end of October — and I cannot wait for it to end!)
So Josh loves video games. Including Minecraft. We finally bought the kids their own tablets this year (cheap Lenovo ones) and are very specific about when they are allowed to be used. Our current policy is that they lie dormant during the week and come out on weekends only when parents have deemed it ‘okay’.
Because Josh loves playing with them, there has been a tendency for the time spent on them to expand to fill an entire weekend afternoon on occasion, and then everyone acts terrible. I came up with 2 hrs as a reasonable goal for ‘total time spent on iPads’ for the weekend, so we’re trying that out. It worked fairly well last weekend.
We allow them to watch a movie on Friday nights and other small snippets of screen time on weekends (rarely during the week unless they are sick). G does get to watch Mickey on occasion we need her to be occupied and MAN DOES SHE LOVE IT. We definitely are more liberal and less afraid of screens than we were with A, but . . . probably still more uptight than average.
I’m Making All of this Up As I Go Along
Whenever I meet parents of kids older than mine are (especially if they have 3 with a similar age/gender spacing!) I assume they have some superpower that I will acquire with time. Thus far, I have been disappointed that my superpowers have not arrived yet. Parenthood for me has been all about trying things, changing things, trying more things, adjusting, and living with imperfection sometimes (or a lot).
It’s about taking a failed summer vacation once in a while and then not traveling for 6 months. It’s about signing your kids up for nothing for an entire semester, and then maybe doing a little more than is ideal. You keep adjusting, you watch, you learn; every time you master a given phase your kids change and you need a new plan. But I think if your heart is in the right place and you pay attention to what’s happening, it works out okay. At least it has so far 🙂
WELL. Deep thoughts for a Tuesday! Off to run. I feel 937534 times better than I did yesterday morning!
Tomorrow – more planner-related content 🙂