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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Be Generous

Not long ago I was asked to be a contributing writer for GetConnectDad, a web site created and written by dad bloggers.  Each week, the GetConnectDad writers write about various character traits and how they try to teach those traits in their homes.  My first assignment was almost late, and it never got published on the site. (I know… Great first impression.) I decided to post the article below in full.  So, without further ado, here is what “Be Generous” looks like in our home. 

And then hop on back to GetConnectDad to check out other great articles. 

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I asked The Bug this afternoon what it means to be generous.  Her answer was… well… kinda spot on.  “Showing that you care.”  Not bad, Bug, not bad.

I thought my next question would nail things down for us.  “How does our family show that we are generous?”  (I had to ask that one a couple times for her to understand what I meant.) “When you helped Pop Pop up when he fell down in the ocean. You showed him you care.”  

So… We have some work to do. (I mean, I did show my dad that I cared when I helped him up, but I think that’s a different character trait.)

A few years back, Audio Adrenaline made a comeback with their signature song “Kings & Queens.” This song quickly became a family favorite, and it their use of the phrase “the least of these” really opened up some conversation points with The Bug.

Every year, our church does a major Thanksgiving Food Drive, when we fill thousands of boxes with Thanksgiving Dinner to spread to the needy in and around the Cincinnati area and even send shipping containers of food to our sister church in South Africa.  Why do we do this?  Because Jesus told us to take care of the least of these.

A little over a year ago, our church challenged each family to support a child from Nicaragua through Compassion International.  We went into the service knowing that our funds were stretched too tightly and we would have to pass this one up.  God knew differently.  We now support a teenage girl in Nicaragua and have her picture up in our kitchen.  Why would we do this? Because Jesus told us to take care of the least of these.

So, teaching The Bug to be generous would be an easy task.  Right?  Well, maybe not.  When you sit down and think about it, these examples I gave are quite abstract for a seven year old.  She helped pack the boxes for the Thanksgiving Food Drive, but it didn’t hurt her wallet. She sees the picture of the girl we sponsor, but she doesn’t have any interaction with her. While these things are generous, I’m not sure they become lifelong generosity lessons.

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What does generosity look like in the day to day world of a seven year old only child living in America?

  • My wife’s hot chocolate had marshmallows and my daughter’s didn’t…not till my wife spooned them into her mug.
  • It was time to pass out cookies, and my daughter offered the plate to each of us before taking her cookie.
  • When Daddy was sick, other people helped out the family with food, doing chores, and helping with babysitting.
  • It’s Daddy putting down his computer to play a game when he really should be writing a blog post about generosity.
  • It’s giving her an allowance and making sure she sets aside 10% for Jesus to put in the box in church.

As I sit here and think about it, teaching about generosity is living a life of being generous in front of our daughter so she can see it in action.  It’s a bunch of little things that show her a really big thing — IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT US.  

So maybe she wasn’t so wrong to begin with.  When I show you I care, I’m generous.  Maybe I’m using my money to show I care, but maybe it’s my food, my strength, or my talents.  But I care about you more than I care about me.  

And I hope that when she is older she can point back to us and say, “I’m generous because they were generous with me.”

Here are some pro tips to help you out.

  • You want a generous kid, you gotta be generous. It’s all in the modeling.
  • Have her take part in the generous acts when possible.  When they participate it sinks in further.
  • Listen to some good music.  Music always makes things better.  Rock out.
  • When in doubt, do some Beans and Rice Week. Donate the money you save to the charity of your choice, but the food selections will make memories for a lifetime.

Let me know how you’ve been teaching your kid generosity because I’d like to learn more.