It Ain’t Always Easy

I would like for you to believe that The Bug and I are having a glorious summer full of play, learning, and creating memories.  While it is true that we have had some wonderful moments this summer, it’s possible that I may have left some stories out that were less than wonderful. Because… I don’t really enjoy airing out our dirty laundry for the Internet to read.

A couple weeks ago, I was losing sleep because I couldn’t get The Bug to do ANYTHING.  The Summer of Learning fell by the wayside due to lack of interest.  Doing chores was like a major battle.  Even things that she loves to do — like reading — took some major maneuvering to accomplish. And don’t even get me started on the home improvement projects that I was going to tackle this summer.  I was starting to feel like a failure Daddy when I talked to my wife. She’s so smart.

Here is the plan we created.

  • It’s all about earning stickers.  If she wants to earn stickers, she can help around the house, do chores, do learning activities, and other great stuff.  If she doesn’t want to earn stickers, she can be a slug in her room.
  • Each morning and some afternoons, we create at a list of 3 things she needs to do to earn a sticker.  These are consolidated from the original schedule we started the summer with, but these are the super important items.
  • With each sticker, she can pick a fun activity like go to a park, swim in a neighbor’s pool, or eat candy.
  • At the 10 sticker mark, the prizes go big!! Visit the zoo, go to a park where we can play in water areas, go to a friend’s house to play, or go out for ice cream.

These papers are hanging on our fridge for quick reference.

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I’d like to tell you that it’s a stunning success, that I have a different girl who nails her work early in the day, but that’s not the case.  What it’s done for me is takes all the burden of getting work done off my back and it puts it on her. She knows the consequences of inactivity and chooses to live with them.  I no longer have to get super stressed, impatient, or lose my temper.  I just remind her of her sticker chart and her goal for the week and let her decide what she wants to do.  Sometimes I have to put my foot down.  Like, today, I told her that she had 2o more minutes of iPod time before I took it away.  She had to get work done.  I also don’t let her have screen time till her morning list is done, but in general, she lives by the consequences of her choices.

This also makes time for some fun things. Remember that mug she painted?  She earned that outing by getting 10 stickers. We also got her a book at Barnes and Noble when she hit her second round of 10 stickers.  Next up, I think we’re going to get to enjoy some Kona Ice real soon.  I’m pretty excited about that!

All done with the paint! It took a long time and patient work, but it looks great!

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Here are some pro tips I’ve picked up along the way.

  • Lots of praise!  Always praise your kid for making good choices! It’s a lot more fun to give praise and hugs than to be a nag.
  • Don’t be stingy! Give out those stickers whenever possible.
  • Try to maintain structure in some way.  If I had this summer to do all over again, I would have still tried to stick to a schedule. Too much unscheduled free play isn’t good for my Bug, even when we try to give her independence.
  • Bring her into the process. One of the best things I did was have her help me brainstorm one- and ten-sticker rewards.  That way I knew she was shooting for things she wanted to attain.

How are you helping your kid through the summer doldrums?

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