Caught!

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As I walked down the hallway this week, Taylor and Elysia sped past me going the opposite direction.  “Ladies,” I said, “thanks for not running in the hall!”  “You’re welcome!” they called back as they continued on their way – speed walking as before.

It’s important to catch kids doing the right thing – and then to comment on it.  We raised our kids with the philosophy: the behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated.  But you have to teach the desired behavior instead of focusing on the undesired behavior.  It’s easier to teach what to do than what to not do.  When I see kids running in the hall, I say, “Walk, please” instead of “No running!”  I’ve also told them it’s okay to SPEED walk – a tip these two girls took to heart.

Our Life Skills class planted flower seeds this spring; last week they brought their baby plants into the classroom so they could take them home.  When Dirk moved his from one side of the table to the other, he left a trail of dirt behind.  Without prompting, he grabbed the trash can and brushed the dirt into it.  When I thanked him for doing the right thing and not brushing it onto the floor, he grinned in appreciation.

Tell your kids what behavior you expect from them, and then when you catch them doing it – speak up!

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Eggs Over Medium – and Hold the Phone

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We were out to breakfast one morning when I noticed two 12-ish girls sitting at their own table, near but not with their family.  As they chatted and giggled I realized what was unusual – neither had an electronic device in her hand!

When we go out to eat, most of the kids I see are either using their own phones, or – if they’re really little – their parents’ phones.  Or they’re playing on a Nintendo DS.  To see two girls looking each other in the eye while they talked and laughed was a nice change.

This may be one of the hardest skills for parents to model, because we’ve become so addicted to our smartphones that we check them every few minutes.  But table manners and restaurant etiquette can’t be taught just by talking about them; they have to be practiced.

The next time you take your family to a restaurant, try coming to an agreement before you leave.  Maybe phones are okay until the food comes.  Or maybe no phones out until after the meal.  Or turn it into a competition. . .

Have you heard about how college students will pile their phones in the middle of the table, and the first to give in and look has to pay the bill?  In a family, it might be whoever looks first has to do the others’ chores or put money into a family fund.  Awareness of the problem is the first step; agreeing on a solution is the second.

The bottom line:  technology should never be an excuse for being antisocial.

I’m Still Seeing Attitude

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I expected it:  some parents got defensive after the last post (All That Attitude).  “But,” they said, “what if I’m speaking in a calm and reasonable tone and I still get attitude?”

That’s when you use “The One,” which is simply your index finger pointed up, as in “Wait.”  Don’t comment on the attitude and don’t reply to what’s being said (it’s probably just to bait you anyway); instead, say, “Wow.  I don’t feel very respected by your tone (or words).  Could you try that again, but more respectfully, please?”  As lame as it may sound, I have almost 100 percent success with this.

If the comment is repeated in a nicer tone, then respond pleasantly or with empathy, depending on what is said.  For example, your reply to “Why do I have to do all the work around here?” might be, “It feels like it sometimes, doesn’t it?  I can totally relate.”

If it’s out of line no matter the tone, as in, “I said, ‘I hate my brother,'” don’t overreact.  You can deflect attitude by being neutral – try shrugging and saying, “Seems like everybody feels that way once in awhile.”  No need to lecture on using “hate” or other strong language; by middle school, they’ve heard it.  Again,  you’re being baited.

If the comment isn’t repeated because the speaker knows it’s over the line, or because not repeating it is a power ploy (“Just forget it”), then let it go.  End the conversation.  Change the subject.  Avoid getting sucked into a battle that isn’t related to anything else.

It takes patience and willpower to head off an Incident, and you may need to phone a friend to vent afterward, but stick with it and you’ll see the dreaded Attitude diminish.

(Just be sure you’re not the one who invites it back.)