Friday, December 7, 2007

Not Like Nancy Regan

Just say no is the theme of David Walsh's new book, No: Why Kids -- of All Ages--Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It. This Minneapolis based educator and psychologist has long been a hero to many, particularly since penning Selling Out America's Children.

I love that Walsh is going to hold my hand. He's got Parent Tool Kits and chapters like "How to Curb the Gimmes." There are questions to answers, lists to check off.

This book, along with Boys Adrift, has moved to the top of the stack by my bed.

I'm about fifty pages into No but am already thoroughly depressed. Not defeated, but . . . when he describes how children develop self-discipline through parental rules, it pretty much looks like the opposite of our household.

Some days after school, I actually carry in their backpacks (now boots and snowpants) so they can scramble to the basement without missing a minute of Malcolm in the Middle. Sometimes I have to make two trips. While they watch TV.

Lotsa calcium in that back bone, huh?

Discipline and respect have come to the forefront in our household because they've gone missing. The past few weeks, Merrick has taken to screaming commands rather than requesting: "WHERE'S MY BWEAKFAST?!!"

Scarlett has mastered the art of the eye roll. Well-delivered, this can communicate every shade of disdain.

Stryker? He's why I'm buying the books.

Last week, we took baby steps in a better direction by instituting a 'family work time.' This replaces 'chores.'

The problem with chores was that they seemed to be inconvenient or contrived. Some days we had no time at all for chores. Others, Scarlett was slated to dust or Stryker was supposed to fold laundry when all the shelves looked shiny and every cloth, clean.

The family work time is 20 minutes to half an hour a day of combined, communal labor on whatever needs to be done. Work time can be right after school (uh, after Malcom), before bed or at 7:30 or whenever. We don't dream up jobs but look around the house. Bedrooms in dissarray? That's today. Or someone cleans a bathroom while two people vacuum and dust. There is always something that needs cleaning or mending or putting away--or walking.

So far this flexible family package is working -- oh, and the best part! Participating in family work time is the only way to earn your hour of screens for the next day.

We would still make David Walsh cringe, but we're trying. Expect a continuing theme.

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