Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's All About Choices

If you're like me, then the one thing you do know about Love and Logic is that it's about choosing. You hear L&L parents saying things like, "Would you rather go to Susie's house, or stay home and play?" It's all about the choices.

At our class, they said, "Every rule you set, your child comes to NEED."

At first, I stumbled over that, not really understanding what they meant.

But then they said, "Set as many rules as necessary, and as few as possible."

Then I began to understand.

Your children should be free to make as many choices for themselves as possible. Letting them make choices, and consequently often fail, while the cost is low, or there's little real risk to the child, sets them up to be able to make good choices when the choices really count.

Whew, how's that for a run-on sentence?

It makes sense if you really think about it. If we are forever setting the rules and our kids willingly obey, what are we really teaching them? To always look to someone else to have the final say, to have a fall-guy, a scape-goat they can blame when their life doesn't go the way they want it to. Worse, not only will they not really have control over their lives, nor accept the blame for their poor turnout, they won't know how to fix it.

However, if they realize that life is full of choices, starting with the easy ones today like, "Would you rather do Math or Language Arts?" Or, "Do you want to do your work at the kitchen table, or at your desk?" they will be equipped to look for the choices in their life and be prepared to make the choice themselves, rather than looking to someone else to choose for them.

The keys to giving good choices to your kids, is to always provide two choices that you are extremely happy with. Two options that you would be thrilled for your kid to do. And don't give more than two choices, either.

My biggest problem in implementing this technique has been creativity. I've been coming up short on choices for them. But, I think with practice, many things will become second nature, at least that's how it sounded from the class.

They gave us some great choices we can provide for our kids regarding school:
  • Math or L.A.?
  • Odds or even? (I have to admit, I'm not sure what is meant here.)
  • Couch or chair?
  • 10 or 15 minute break?
  • Clean up now, or before lunch?
  • Pen or pencil?
  • This book, or that one?
You get the idea.

Another great line they gave us last week was "I love ya too much to nag ya." I LOVE that line! I've used it a ton this past week. So, after your kid has made his or her choice, leave them be. Let them fail, if they're going to fail, because you love them too much to nag them. Nagging is just more of that same old stuff that gives your kid an out. They know they don't have to think for themselves or plan their day, because mom will nag them when they're starting to run out of time, right? 

Just let them make their choices and then let them be. They'll thank you for it one day! And you'll be a lot less stressed now.

Last week I put all this into practice. I provided the boys the list of the required school work for the week and provided them with four hours of "wonderful learning time" as Deslynn put it, (love that!) and then, just did my own thing. 

It was awesome!!

They came to me with questions or for help, which I was happy to give, but otherwise, I let the stress or responsibility of their work just slip right off my shoulders. I got a lot of my own stuff done! I tell ya, it was like a holiday!

And when Saturday came and Charlie still hadn't completed all his work and had to miss out on some cherished friend time because of it, it wasn't me who caused the tears in his eyes. 

He said, "It's all my fault! I should have done my work sooner!" This from the child who is the consummate blamer. Everything bad in his life is someone else's fault and he's often angry at other people for his suffering. 

This week, rather than me nagging saying, "Come on guys! It's time for school already!" (with a big ol' arrrgghhh in my voice,) I'm just going about my business. I let them know I'm in my office now so if they have any questions, I'll be available to help them until such and such a time. Then . . . I let them be.

They are still making choices I don't exactly approve of, choosing to put off their work and so forth. But today, they buckled down and did a number of lessons largely on their own, and I've overheard them talking together about planning their week and how they can get their lessons done and still have time for the things they enjoy.

They're learning! And I'm happy! And relaxed!

Like I said, Love and Logic, is awesome!

If you haven't already done so, check out Deslynn's blog for even more tips on how to implement Love and Logic into your parenting and homeschooling. Also, Deslynn is awesome about helping out if you have questions too. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Energy Drain and Wizard 101

What does an online video game have to do with draining your energy? Or why am I even writing about either of those subjects on a homeschooling blog?

Well, let me tell you! (Step right up!)

OK, so you know I'm taking this Love & Logic class for homeschooling families. Last week's class was especially interesting to me, and I'd like to talk about one of the Love & Logic techniques they taught.

It's called the Energy Drain.

Have you ever had a child bouncing around you, throwing chatter at you like volleys from the enemy, and felt that you could feel yourself getting weaker and more and more exhausted that you just had to go sit down? Or felt your blood boiling inside your veins when your children are bickering for the thousandth time, and you just have to explode, sending them all to their rooms and falling just short of pulling all your hair out?

If you have, then you've experienced the Energy Drain.

It happens any time our children weary us. When they talk incessently without giving us  a second to think. When they don't do what we've asked them to do, though we repeated it a million times. When they fight us on school tasks, home chores or any number of other things that we ask of them. I'm sure you could think of at least a dozen other ways your children weary you.

Here's what Love & Logic suggests you do, when your children are wearing you out:

  • When you (fill in the blank), it really drains the energy out of me. So, instead of allowing the behavior to continue, or getting freakishly angry, state the fact of your being. You're getting worn out, and your children are causing it.
  • Instead of freaking out, yelling and sending people to their rooms, say "It always feels better when (fill in the blank)" and let them know the kind of behavior that makes you happy.
  • If your children insist on complaining to you, or including you in their sibling arguments, ask "Do you really want me to spend my energy on this?" because if you do, you might have less for something else, something more important to them.
  • Post a list of Energy Replacements in a place where your children can see them. These might include chores you don't normally do, but that always need done. Or things your children could do for you that would please you, like pay for a babysitter so you can go out for some alone time, or draw you a bath and give you some uninterrupted time. The list will be unique to you but must include things that would truly be a benefit and blessing to you.
At first when I heard this, I couldn't imagine myself ever using those words "draining my energy," but I thought the concept was interesting and talked with my husband about it. That's where the video game comes in.

We play Wizard 101 together as a family. My husband travels a lot, but while he's away, we get online together every night and play this game together. We each have our own avatars in the game, and we can talk to each other, like instant messaging, but in live time right in the game. So it's like we're there having a conversation together. We play games together, battle bad guys together. We feel connected in this way.

In the game, there is a spell wizards can cast called the Fire Elf. It's an annoying little spell that has a tiny red elf bouncing around giggling until he pounds you with a small explosion and then continues to run around you for three more rounds, each round hitting you with increasingly damaging explosions.

David doesnt' hesitate to equate Xander's incessant chatter to the Fire Elf. He thinks "energy drain" is like the snow-globe filled with red liquid that represents our wizards' health in the game, their energy.

We talked for a long while about how we could relate the things the boys do in real life to spells we cast in Wizard 101. And how the draining of energy in real life is very much like the draining of health from the red globe in the game.

So now over the past few days we've been using the Energy Drain and relating it to the game. The boys laugh, but totally get it because they have the visual in their heads, they understand

It's been a fun and light-hearted way for us to introduce this new technique into our family. So far, we've been benefitting greatly from this class and from the Love & Logic techniques. I'm glad I am taking it!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Never Let Them See You Sweat

The Washington Online School is offering a Love & Logic class this winter and I signed up for it. It's through Elluminate so I can take the class from the comfort of my own home, and it's geared specifically toward homeschoolers, which is primarily why I signed up for the class. 

The first class was this past Thursday. The instructors are Deslynn and Dave Mecham; you can visit their new blog here, plus I'm going to add it to the sidebar for future reference.

I realized that I already follow many of the Love & Logic teachings. I learned them when our older son was living at home and we were challenged to parent him; Love & Logic didn't work with him because he was incapable of being motivated by love OR logic. However, the techniques produce excellent results with healthy children.

But, I did need a good reminder of things I'd forgotten, and the one that hit me like a smack upside the head was, never let them see you sweat.

When I've struggled with the boys during school time, when things haven't worked out the way I planned them, I've responded with frustration and disappointment. My dear, sweet, loving boys, though nearly perfect, do like to take advantage of me if I appear weak or vulnerable.

No matter their goodness at heart, children are not dissimilar to pack animals who sense a weak member of their pack - they'll turn on you in an instant.

So, listening to the class, I realized that I've been shooting myself in the foot by allowing the boys to see my frustration when school didn't go smoothly.

Love & Logic teaches that I should put all the responsibility on the days' school accomplishments squarely on the boys' shoulders. If they spend all day goofing off in their room instead of getting down to do their work, then it's their problem, not mine. I cannot allow it to be mine. 

I have my jobs in the family, and the boys have theirs. Out of love for them, I need to let them be responsible for themselves. Using logic, they will learn to manage themselves and we will all be happier.

So I'm going to practice keeping my cool this week. Don't mistake me, I'm not a freak-out kind of mom, but I do get disappointed in myself when things don't go smoothly, and the boys know I'm willing to put the blame in myself rather than on them. But no more, my friends! I am going to give the boys clear instructions on what is expected of them each day and the time during which I am available to help them. The rest, is up to them.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Happy New Attitude

Well, it's 2009 and everything's gonna be just fine.


At least, that's the plan. 

I'm kind of nervous and excited to start the new school year. 

I'm nervous because I'd planned to do some school during this past week because we're a little behind, but that didn't happen. But, I'm trying to not to be hard on myself. It's a new year, a new day, and it's onward, and upward! So, I'm a little worried that we won't be able to get the necessary amount of work done in order for the boys to advance to the next grade. I'll need to talk to our teacher about that.

I'm excited because the last several weeks of school I was really starting to get a better handle on the how of this homeschooling thing. I began to figure out how I needed to organize myself in order to manage the day of leessons. I'm starting to see what organization tools I'm missing that will help me run our 'classroom' better. I'm getting a feel for how the K12 online tools work so I'm moving more quickly through them, which helps a tons.

There's a lot to be happy about. And the things I'm nervous about, well, we'll work through that and everything will be okay. Now that we're getting better at running our days, I think we can start adding a class or two to each day in order to get caught up.

Happy New Year!