Parenting is a game.
You can’t parent all children the same way. Something that works for one will not work at all for the other. You have to learn how to play the game for each and every child you have. It takes time, and a lot of trial and error.
I didn’t know that at first. I thought I could apply the same rules to everybody and expect the same results.
Mornings, for example…
Deflector is an early bird; he’s up singing and slamming kitchen cupboards at least an hour before everyone else. He likes to feel like he’s one of the adults, you know ‘cus he’s not a little kid anymore! He has always been an old soul, people have always told me he’s like a little old man, and it’s true.So to garner his co-operation in the mornings I have to appeal to his inner adult and say ‘hey you know it’s too early for this noise, we need to let the kids sleep a bit longer, so why don’t you go back to your room and read for a bit.” By grouping him with the adults using ‘we’ and referring to his siblings as ‘the kids’ he happily does what I ask without argument.
If I tried this on Actor he would look at me like I was mad and say ‘Mum, you said the kids and I am a kid!’
The Actor is precise; he comes out of his room looking like a shiny new penny every morning. Clean and fresh and smelling lovely. He knows exactly where his homework book is and exactly where his excursion notice is and exactly where he put the ribbon he won 3 years ago at the school sports carnival. Organised is not a big enough word. He is sensitive though, and a perfectionist; he likes everything to be just right. When he comes to me teary and upset because “someone has wrecked his blinds” – yes the blinds on the window in his bedroom are a little skewy – I have to say, “It doesn’t matter, it’s just a blind, we can fix it, not to worry.”
If I tried that on CC it would be an open invitation to wreck as much stuff as possible because I have already said ‘it doesn’t matter’
Captain Clumsy was my first real parenting challenge. He threw tantrums like I had never seen before, he was always into something he shouldn’t be, toothpaste, nail polish, laundry powder. He was always climbing things (we found him on the neighbour’s roof when he was 3), always getting lost and running off and being a little devil. I knew I was a mother when he came along; the game plan had to change for him.
He is always still asleep when I get up in the morning, and getting him to do ANYTHING is a battle of wills. I don’t bother telling him what to do anymore because it’s pointless. I have learned that for CC he needs to feel like he is given a choice. If I want him to get dressed I say”CC what pants are you wearing today, short ones or long ones?”
or, “What are you putting on your sandwich today, cheese or straz?” its a gentle reminder of what he still needs to do, while making him feel like he has a choice. It works 100% more effectively than if I were to simply say, ‘get dressed and make your lunch.’ He needs to feel like he is in control, like he has options, without my input his option is to do it or not do it, and his default setting is to not do it. I give him other options, like staz and cheese; long pants or short.
He falls for it every time.
Princess on the other hand will not buy into any of that.
Princess is like me, not a morning person at all. She wants to sleep late every day, she lays in bed for 5 minutes just taking some time to wake. Once she’s up she wanders aimlessly for 10 minutes rubbing her eyes. Only difference between her and me is that I’m allowed to drink coffee.
She really does spend 90 minutes every morning just wandering about the house. Usually she manages to be ready for school, just. Yesterday though, was a minor nightmare.
I do the countdown everyday so that she knows how much time she has before we leave,
”We’ve got 30 minutes guys…”
”10 minutes to go…”Princess why are you still naked?!””
“5 minutes guys, Princess YOUR UNIFORM, PUT IT ON!”
“Princess you have 2 minutes to get dressed. Whatever you are wearing in two minutes is how you are going to school, now MOVE”
I fudged the countdown a little to give Princess a few more minutes, by T+5minutes she was still BUTT NAKED and I lost it. I told everyone to get in the car, handed Princess her backpack and marched her out to the car without a single stitch of clothing.
Well, I’m surprised that the whole estate didn’t hear her screaming her head off.
Now I have a naked child in the car and 25 minutes before school starts, what to do?
I grab Deflector, appealing to his inner adult again, and hand him Princess’ uniform. I tell him that he is to give it to her, but to let her think that he is the one who is saving her, a Mum-does-not-endorse-this lifeline. He gets to be in on the secret, loving every minute of it as he gives me a little knowing wink, while she thinks that Mum had every intention of sending her to school naked.
As we get to school I tell her that her big brother saved her naked little butt this time, next time she might not be so lucky.
Today she was up and dressed by 7:30am.
So for Princess, a serving of good healthy fear is what gets her motivated. It would not work on any of the others. Deflector would torture me with argument after argument, like Chinese water torture until my head explodes. Captain Clumsy would probably think going to school naked was a great joke, and love every second of it. The Actor would be a walking panic attack and I would be paying for therapy for the next 30 years.
I love the fact that all my kids are so very different, it makes for a wonderful life and a wonderful experience of parenting.
I just need to remember 4 sets of rules to play the game effectively.