Parenting Q&A (part 4)

More responses to my parenting survey.
Take it yourself.  I may answer your questions here. It’ll help me focus my book either way.

Response #8

Where is the line drawn for learning the hard way and guidance needed to prepare for life?

The line is way closer to “the hard way” than any of us would like. Experience is the best teacher, and may in fact be the ONLY real teacher. We have to protect our kids from long term damage and let them make mistakes. Then after the mistakes are made the real work begins. You have to get their mind to connect their actions to the consequences (both natural consequences and parentally imposed), and you need to provide a safe (judgement free) discussion of what the better options are for next time.

Why is it so difficult to get a 12 year old to think before he speaks? Are there tricks to help?

Is this a 360 problem, or a parent-child problem?

If he runs his mouth to everyone, then the best trick is to do a post-mortem analysis of what he said and his tone, and the consequences. Explain how the what he said made people judge him poorly.

If he mouths off to you specifically…

There’s a certain amount of rebellion around puberty that is unavoidable. Deep in our gut we realize that we are supposed to be on our own. So children naturally begin to push their parents away as they age. The more independence they had as little kids, the less harsh this transition tends to be, but everyone is different. Regardless of whether it’s natural or not, you have to maintain respect. A little lip every now and then is ok, but keep that steely tone in your back pocket, use his middle name, snatch his phone out of his hand, etc.

I know you can’t teach a child to have effort, but are there ways you can lead them to their own discovery?

First I’m going to call back to Carol Dweck and the difference between the fixed and growth mindsets.

We think we should praise what we want to get more of, but this often misses the mark. When you reward outcomes, often people don’t feel like they had much control of how things turned out. The right move is to reward the effort. Catch him working hard on something and, regardless of the results, tell him you’re proud of him for the work. It doesn’t have to be school work either. Catch them working hard on a drawing and tell him you’re proud of the focus he’s showing. Or catch him putting a lot of effort into the castle he lives in on minecraft and praise that. The key is to connect the effort to a serotonin release, and a successful outcome. If they learn to set a goal and work hard on it, it doesn’t really matter what the goal is, the life outcome will be greatly improved.

Describe a situation with your kids that you regularly struggle with.

Homework, of course.

Structure the habits, so there is a set time everyday to work on it. Hold something hostage until he gets the work done.

He lies about everything…

Don’t corner him and try and force a confession. “Did you do this?!” Instead the discussion should start from the assumption he did it. “Look at this! Get a mop.” In my house a kid caught lying results in yelling. A kid caught doing the same thing but being honest about it results in a calm discussion of consequences.

…even when it doesn’t matter.

Aw hell. If this is a real pathological thing you might be beyond advice of strangers and moved on to psychologists.

My advice here is to call him out on it without anger, and have frequent discussions of how liars are perceived by others. It’s hard to like a liar and stupid to trust one.

Describe a time you handled a situation with your child very well.

Two days ago he had a paper due that he said he turned in. I got an email that evening that said he was missing it. I got him up as if he was getting on the bus. After he was dressed I explained to him I was taking him to school and he was writing the paper. He tried to argue and fuss and complain. I dismissed it immediately and didn’t allow it to continue. I already had paper, pencil and breakfast ready. I told him I am here if you need me, but I will not interfere. I held up my part and he wrote a 5 paragraph paper. It was a wonderful story that I barely helped on. He went to school in a happy mood. It was extra good because we spent 2 hours the night before doing 10 math problems!

This is a great story. Isn’t it amazing how when we’re mentally prepared it doesn’t matter if they try to fuss and argue we can shut it down, but when we’re tired and they behave the same way we often cave in or blow up?

Describe in detail an interaction with your kid that went badly.

Well, the math homework the night before is a great example. It was cold and raining so I wouldn’t let him ride his bike and that started the attitude. Did I mention it was COLD and RAINING. lol My fault for not diffusing the pouting first. I had checked and worked out all of the problems the night before so I would understand them and be able to teach. Math is difficult for him and backwards from the way I learned. After a few “I can’t do its,” “You are being too pickys” and “we haven’t learned that yets” I got frustrated. At one point I had told him to multiply 1.5 x 2 and 1.5 x 3 three different times. He said I didn’t say that. I raised my voice, which I don’t normally do, and said, “The 1st time I pointed to the numbers, the 2nd time I explained why, (then whack! I hit him with my paperback notebook on the back of the arm) and the fourth time I hit you with my book!!!

It’s kind of funny reading it back, but he definitely wasn’t learning math.

Emotional detachment is one of the keys to handling people. When we get frustrated we lose the ability to smoothly redirect them back on task. The key is learning to see those tells in yourself before you lose control (do you clench your jaw or your fist? Does your face get hot?) and pump the brakes then before you get upset.


Response #9

How the hell do you make your kids better than yourself while facing your own brazen hypocrisy? I want them to be more hopeful, more empathetic, more ambitious, more perfectionistic, more self-motivated…. Of course wanting those things for them makes me better as I try to model those qualities, but still, the hypocrisy! And they are smart enough that they see the hypocrisy too.

Here’s my take on it. If you are TRYING to model the qualities that you want your kids to embody, then that is not hypocritical. It’s human imperfection. If they call you out on your “hypocrisy”, THANK them for helping you get better. If you can do that with sincerity they will not think less of you for it, and it will ease the amount they bristle against the standards you’re trying to set.

There’s another thing though… you tried to sneak “perfectionism” into your list of virtues, and this is a point I must dispute. Unhappiness is a result of the failure to meat our expectations of ourselves. Setting expectations too high will inevitably result in stress and frustration. What you need to do is replace perfection with improvement as a goal. Improvement is a realistic expectation which can still lead to greatness, without the stress and burnout and why-should-I-even-bother-trying-ism of the skill gap.

Describe a situation with your kids that you regularly struggle with.

Doing their daily chores/responsibilities. It is ALWAYS a surprise.

Clear standards and consistent enforcement is what’s needed here. Maybe a rigid schedule. Maybe some privileges are withheld until the work is complete. We want our kids to do things themselves, but telling them once is not a realistic expectation, you have to ride them like a jockey at first, then ease off to a more monitoring position later. And hopefully one day it will all be on autopilot.

And my co-parent doesn’t exactly back me up. He is a sucker and gives in to the kids’ whining. So if I’m at work, things don’t get done or get done half-assed.

Alrighty then. I see 2 options. The ideal is that you have a discussion with your spouse in which you explain the reasoning behind your standards and he is deeply moved as he realizes how important it is to you, but also explains why your expectations seem so alien and hard to reach from his point of view, then a compromise is reached and the 2 of you set up a harmonized enforcement system.

The less good (but livable) option is that everyone accepts that there are different standards on different days. We all accept that Grandparents and teachers and babysitters all treat our children differently than we would ourselves. In many households that includes differences between mothers and fathers. There’s nothing wrong with that.

but what you are doing now is not serving any of the parties well.

Describe a time you handled a situation with your child very well.

I think the times I have stepped away before conflict erupts… and then presented my eldest with an article to back up my point… that seems to work.

This is good. Stepping back and controlling your side is essential. Conflict can’t always be avoided, and we as parents have to be the ones making and enforcing rules, but de-escalating conflicts without losing site of the big picture makes for a much smoother life.

Describe in detail an interaction with your kid that went badly.

Last night ended up in full melt-down because I waited until she was tired and hungry to try to force the chores issue. In my defense she should have already done them because I’d been reminding her for approx 8 hrs at that point, but the final meltdown was because I chose to put my foot down late and I had no sympathy at that point.

Yeah. Sometimes I’ve messed up and pushed my kids to melt-down. And I empathize with their plight. I’ll hug them, and soothe them and get them calmed down. And then very calmly say “alright, let’s get finished” and help them get their work done. The real problem isn’t holding fast at the end, it’s in the 8 hours of mis-used time. As up above, make the standards clear, and ride them like a jockey.


Parenting Q&A (part 3)

More responses to my parenting survey.
Take it yourself.  I may answer your questions here. It’ll help me focus my book either way.

Respondent 6

What makes you feel like you have the appropriate credentials to provide guidance to parents?

Solid question. I like it. There are certifications you can get as a parenting coach, but I don’t have one, have no intention of getting one, and am skeptical of their value.

I was on vacation, and spent a solid week at a friend’s house in Florida. She watched me deal with my kids, and with hers, and towards the end of that period she started asking me questions about how to handle some things. She’s the one that said I should be a parenting coach. It kind of struck me because she’s significantly more “together” and “successful” than I am.

I don’t see myself actually selling my services as a parenting coach. I live in rural Arkansas where customers would be scarce, and I make good money in my current position. And since  I work shift-work it would be difficult to work out as a side-gig. I am going to publish a book. Maybe more to come after, maybe not.

I also am humble enough to realize there’s more than one right way to do things, and that what works for me and my kids might not work for you and yours. Furthermore, my oldest is 12, so there are many challenges I haven’t faced yet. And since the goal of parenting is to produce effective, balanced, and happy adults, I have at least another decade before I can claim to have proof of that.

That being said, I do have insights that I am sure will be of value to most parents.

Describe a situation with your kids that you regularly struggle with.

Trying to get my hippie son to cut his hair. He looks like a fool and will never get a real job looking like a homeless person.

Let me say that I’m a long-haired hippy, so my heart is not really in this answer.

First, don’t attack. It’s probable that the long hair is an act of rebellion, so there’s nothing worse you can do than seeming pissed off about it.

Second, understand his point of view. Set aside any ideas of “Right” or “Wrong” and really talk to him about why he wants to look this way. Listen. As long as he feels you don’t get why he’s doing it, then anything you say can be rejected out of hand.

Third, explain that (fair or not) people are judged by their looks. Grooming and fashion choices will affect every interaction he has every day.

Fourth, after a job interview ask him how it went. Listen intently. Be supportive. (don’t mention the hair) After he hears back that he didn’t get the job ask him (no more than once per interview! Do not nag!) if he thinks that maybe they judged him unfairly because of his hair cut.

Long hair that was cut by a professional and is washed and brushed doesn’t look bad. Consider this as a compromise position.

Good luck.

Describe a time you handled a situation with your child very well.

When my son tried to get involved with a project he had no skills or experience with. We talked him into learning and experiencing more on the subject prior to starting his journey on his own.

Excellent work

Describe in detail an interaction with your kid that went badly.

When he tried to steal a car.

Hmmm. Well this is an example of him doing something bad, but not an example of an interaction at all.

Response 7

What questions do you have for a parenting coach?

Usually, “how can I X?” questions. I’m struggling with teenagers who think they know everything WAY better than you.

Here’s my technique to getting a kid to value your perspective. Ask them what advice they would give to someone younger than them. “What would you tell someone who’s just starting 7thgrade?” Let them put out the information. Listen. Lap it up. Then say “When I give you advice, this is what it’s like. It’s like looking back on a path from 100ft up. Things are obvious from here that you can’t see when they’re in your face. I know you’re not going to make every decision the exact same way I would. It’s your life and you have to own it. But please, consider my opinions. They’re based on experience and they intend to make your life better.”

Describe a situation with your kids that you regularly struggle with.

Theft of my property and no remorse for the theft.

I assume that you’ve explained property rights and what’s yours and that didn’t get through. The next step is to steal their stuff. Don’t be sneaky. Get caught. Let them get upset. If they don’t you didn’t steal something important enough. Ask them how it feels. Tell them property rights is a 2 way street. If you feel like you made your point you can return their stuff in a week. If not accelerate the game until the point is made.

Respect issues occasionally.

It’s best to be both loved and feared, but if you can only choose one, fear is more reliable.
Put them in their place. Let them see that you are not to be fucked with.

Describe a time you handled a situation with your child very well.

I have been known to hold my anger down, speak calmly, slowly and reasonably so we can come to a decision on why a thing was done, what the punishment is and why that punishment is fitting. My son does not get his phone after 8pm. He had it past bed time while I was out one night. I caught him with it. I didn’t speak to him when I caught him, I just took the phone and went to bed. We talked about the poor decision later the next day.

This is perfect. Calm reasoning is the most effective and least stressful method of dealing with kids. There are times it doesn’t work and it’s necessary to let your kids see your anger for impact, but a part of you has to stay detached from it so you can measure its impact on them. I call this “performance anger” and it is a valuable tool, but genuine anger clouds your perceptions and you no longer know (or care) what they’re getting out of it.

Describe in detail an interaction with your kid that went badly.

Something was stolen and I just lost my cool and started screaming. It scared him into silence, and didn’t solve anything. Just made it worse.

We all lose our cool sometimes. And I don’t think him being scared is necessarily a bad thing. Afterwards you need to convey the “why” of your blow up. You need to listen to his side of things and convey understanding. You need to make sure that we condemn the action of theft and not the boy as a thief. But every close relationship faces anger and has to overcome it.

Parenting Q&A (part 2)

More responses to my parenting survey.
Take it yourself.  I may answer your questions here. It’ll help me focus my book either way.

Response 4

How do I get my 5 yr old to follow directions at school without me being there?

Several possible answers to this one:

a) it’s not your problem, let it get worked out between your kid and the teacher. It’s the teacher’s job to deal with kids, and your kid has to learn to deal with different people.

b) develop a rapport with the teacher, communicate to the teacher how your child works best.

c) become the teachers enforcer. Have the teacher tell on the kid everyday and you punish/admonish at home

d) align your kid with the right behavior. explain the reasons for the rules. Explain how much chaos there would be if all the kids acted that way at once. Explain that the behavior reflects badly on both of you.

Describe a situation with your kids that you regularly struggle with.

Her not wanting to follow directions at school. She is okay when she gets started but the transitions are hard for her.

This is a little bit woo-woo, but I would recommend a taking a few minutes of visualization in the morning. Deep breaths and centering and then describing what a good day at school would look like.

Describe a time you handled a situation with your child very well.

I am not sure that i handle any of them well we just get through them.

After you get through a situation, ask yourself what about that went well? What went poorly? What do I want to try different next time?

Describe in detail an interaction with your kid that went badly.

Recently when things don’t go my daughter’s way her response has been I want to get dead.

If you feel that this is a serious suicidal ideation, then this situation needs a counselor, not advice from the internet.

More likely, she stumbled across a button that gets a dramatic reaction out of you and enjoys pushing it, because if she’s not happy she doesn’t want you to be happy either. Ignore it when she does it.

Bring it up later when neither of you are hot. Tell her it makes you sad to think she feels that way. Explain that all of life will have trials and joys and you have to face one to get the other and quitting just isn’t an option for any of us. Be present. Listen to her responses with empathy. This needs to be a conversation to work, not a lecture.

Response 5

How to deal with whining?

Ignore it. or mock it. or act mad for a second to snap’em out of it. Explain that people who whine are looked down on as weak and annoying and therefore less likely to get their way than people that speak their needs clearly and assertively.

How do I help my kids feel secure after divorce when they are going back and forth to their Dad’s house and I am working long hours?

You can’t control Dad’s house. Do your best to keep your home stable, and make time every evening to make your kids feel loved. 10 minutes of presence is worth 2hrs watching TV together.

How do I motivate and help a child with learning disabilities, when I’m working a stressful full time job as a single parent?

Don’t focus on grades. Focus on study habits and on progress. The table “Learning Disabled” may become part of their identity and hold them back. Make sure you instill a “growth mindset” by praising the effort they can control and focus less on the results.

Read Mindset, by Carol Dweck.

Know that it will get better. My son barely spoke until after we got him in speech therapy at 3 and a half. At the end of third grade he was reading on a first grade level. We got him a tutor in the “Barton” method for dyslexics, and it made a world of difference. 3 years later and he’s less than a year behind, and there’s a chance we’ll get him out of “co-teach” and into the mainstream next year.

And big picture, being a couple of years behind isn’t the end of the world. Most people quit learning when they’re 22. If you’re 4 years behind but never quit learning, then when you’re 35 you’ll be way ahead of most people with half your life ahead of you.

Describe a situation with your kids that you regularly struggle with.

Getting out of the house in the morning.

A routine is key to getting out of the house in the morning. Plan the routine. Discuss it in the evening before. Stage shoes and school things in the same place every day. If you need more time, wake ‘em up earlier, even if that means putting them to bed earlier. Explain that if they don’t get better at this you’ll be putting them to bed earlier, not as punishment, but as a necessary step to success.

That’s the usual answer. Do ya want the crazy answer?

Drill on the weekend. With a stop watch make them get up, get dressed, brush their teeth, eat breakfast, put up the dishes, get their school things, and get in the car. If it took too long, make them get back in the PJs and get in bed and do it again.

See, normal people never practice it when they’re not tired, so it’s hard to analyze the problem in the morning.

Describe a time you handled a situation with your child very well.

I set up a checklist for my learning disabled child to help make sure she did her morning & evening tasks & rewarded her for achievements.

Most kids do better in an environment of structure than one of chaos. You have to have enough room for chaos that they can be themselves, but a clear and structured path to success is an excellent tool.

Describe in detail an interaction with your kid that went badly.

I had a terrible time dealing with whining. It was a vicious cycle – she desperately wanted attention so got it negatively by whining until I got angry or frustrated and paid attention. I tried everything to shift the pattern, but nothing worked.

Pay attention earlier. Make sure she knows she’s going to get the attention eventually. Ignore the whining.

Parenting Q&A

I’m writing a book on parenting. I’ve never written anything longer than about a 5 page paper, and that was 20 years ago, but I’m doing it anyway.

As part of my thought gathering I put out a SURVEY to try and assess what kinds of things parents need to hear about. Hopefully with concrete examples I can address in the book.

(BTW the survey is still open, and you are welcome to TAKE IT)

So now I have a handful of submissions, and realize that I have things to say to THESE SPECIFIC (and anonymous) PEOPLE which I think will help them.

So here’s my responses to some of the questions:

Response 1

How do I keep myself from thinking negative thoughts about my parenting ability?

We’re all human. We are not perfect. We can get over-emotional. We don’t know everything. We are capable of learning. We are capable of changing.

You are on an endless path of self improvement, climbing an mountain without a top to become a more perfect you. This has always been true, but now the perfect version of you is also the perfect parent.

Parenting is a skill and you are getting better at it. In our minds we make the stakes so high (“my son’s entire future rests upon these decisions!”) but honestly kids are resilient. And humankind is resilient, if we weren’t there wouldn’t be so many of us. Everyone wishes they were better, but you are good enough. Parents today devote far more time and effort to their kids than any generation before. It will never be perfect, but if your child is secure in the knowledge that he is loved, then it’s good enough.

 Is it right to carve out time for myself if the kids are awake?

GOD YES! Not only do you deserve time for yourself, you NEED time for yourself. When you get it you will be calmer and happier, and therefore a better parent, and a better husband (and also calmer and happier!)

Like the stewardess says: “Put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping others”

Describe a situation with your kids that you regularly struggle with.

Bedtime routines with my son get longer and longer as time goes on. He’s very good at slowly making the routines longer and longer until they become almost impossible to carry out in a timely fashion. Over time, he grows attached to every second of this routine, and he doesn’t want to let go of any of it.

You are the parent, and he is the kid. You decide how long a bedtime routine will take, not him. Your child has manipulated you, and you know it, and you are letting it continue. You need to explain the way the routine is going to go, and how long it’s going to take, and then execute the plan precisely, and leave him alone. And this manipulative little bastard is going to cry and whine and whimper and test your resolve. And it’s not an act. He really will be upset. And he really will get over it.

Decide the pattern. Communicate the pattern. Stick to the pattern no matter what. Things will renormalize and you will be much happier for it.

Describe a time you handled a situation with your child very well.

I seem to be good at explaining things to him in a basic manner, i.e. using tools, how things work, etc. I guess my particular gift is explaining things to her four-year-old like a four-year-old

 I think you sound a little dismissive of your superpower. The ability to take ideas out of your head, and accurately get your child to understand them is the basis of all education and will allow him to build a successful life. Bravo.

Describe in detail an interaction with your kid that went badly.

I have never struck or spank my children, even in anger. However, I have wanted to. And I have raise my voice further than I would have liked. I honestly don’t remember any details, I think because I don’t want to, but I hate it when I lose my cool around my kids. It’s not how I would want them to handle situations that frustrate them.

 I am not anti-spanking, but I am highly concerned at the part of the sentence that goes “even in anger.” When I am angry is the time I am LEAST likely to use any kind of physical punishment on my kid. Spanking is an incredibly quick and visceral way to convey into a child’s brain that they screwed up. But you are waaaaaay stronger than that kid, and you need to respect that size difference.

Spanking is not necessary, but respect of your authority is, and spanking a small child is not a bad shortcut to that authority that you MUST have in place. And if you don’t get that respect while they’re little, it’ll be 5x as hard when they’re older.

It’s better to remain calm in control of our feelings. This will let us pay more attention to how they are reacting to what we do, so we can more effectively modify their behavior… which is our job as parents. That being said, the PERFORMANCE of anger can be a very useful tool for getting your child to realize that what you are saying right now should have more impact than at other times.

 Response 2

I am not a parent but I would ask how I can tell if a child CAN’T do what is being asked of them versus is being stubborn and refusing to.

Communicate to the kid that you don’t care about whether they can or cannot complete the task, but you care very much that they TRY. Praise effort, not results. Whenever a child does well, don’t tell them about how wonderful a job they did, without linking that praise back to the effort they put in to get that result. I realize that this doesn’t quite answer your question… we still don’t know how to “tell” if the child can or can’t, but it kind of doesn’t matter. Whether than can or they can’t, make them try. The harder they work, the prouder you act, regardless of the outcome.

Describe a situation with your kids that you regularly struggle with.

I work in a school. I hate it when kids try to tell adults what they can and can’t do.

They are testing your authority. Act confident, they can smell weakness and will try to exploit you. Maybe confidence for you looks like ignoring stupid comments and doing what needs to be done. Maybe confidence looks like winning the verbal repartee to put him in his place.

(I’m really good with kids, but might not be so good with bureaucracies. lol)

Describe a time you handled a situation with your child very well.

As a former teacher I had a kid cheat because I had to leave the room during a test and a bully harassed him. I put the class to work and talked to him alone. I explained that if he does this he will fail classes. I keep up with this kid on Facebook and 7 years later he is an adult and he appreciates me.

This is perfect. You maintained your authority, and explained the natural consequences of the kids behavior in a way that he understood. He respected, listened, and learned (a lesson more important than what is on the curriculum). Well done

Describe in detail an interaction with your kid that went badly.

As volunteer with a teacher I had the class from hell..and I was constantly telling out of frustration.

As a parent I don’t have much experience dealing with kids more than 4 at a time. That being said, anger is one of the tools in your tool box, but the yelling should more for performance than for catharsis. You have to keep emotionally detached enough to mentally step back and observe the reactions to your performance. If it’s not working, try something else. If you don’t know what else to try, observe/ask the teachers that work.

After saying that I realize it’s limits. You need to observe someone establishing authority of this flavor of group of kids, and the teachers probably already have it. This means that the kids will react differently to the teacher than they do to you.

Hmmmm… Ask the teacher to role-play with you. You act like the bad kid and they act like a teacher in control of a class and see if that helps.


Response 3 

How do you get twins on the same sleep schedule?

Warning: No actual experience with twins.

If they’re babies, you may be screwed. This might just be your life for a year or so.

If they’re sleeping most the night, you need to establish a bed time routine. A repeated path from bath to dressed to bedtime story to cuddle to bed. Follow it like a machine.

Describe a situation with your kids that you regularly struggle with.

Sibling rivalry there isn’t much but I loath it when it’s happening.

When it’s happening, I recommend distraction to stop it.

After it happens have individual discussions with the kids. Explain that in life we need team mates for the hard times and their sibs will turn out to be their most loyal team mates… if they don’t screw it up now.

Describe a time you handled a situation with your child very well.

Her many medical needs, I quickly became her greatest advocate medically and academically.

Way to step up! Doctors and Teachers can both use their authority to short-circuit our brains into accepting what they say. Good job weighing their opinions with your own knowledge of the situation and making sure your kids are treated right.

Describe in detail an interaction with your kid that went badly.

I blamed her for something she didn’t do and found out later it was her brother and he let her take the rap for it. It went very poorly for him following that encounter.

This will happen with multiple kids. The closer their ages the harder to tell who did what, and twins is the logical limit of that.

There are several ways to handle this, the “fairest” is to do a full investigation of every event, and never punish without sufficient evidence. This is a ridiculously high standard which is impractical.

The most practical technique is to question both quickly, and in the absence of sufficient evidence, punish both. Hopefully one will confess. Then you praise the honesty and express pride in the honorable behavior, and then mete out the exact same consequences they were getting in the first place, because actions must have consequences.

The mistake you made was inevitable, but you still have to live with it. It sounds like your son recieved appropriately stacked punishment for the original infraction as well as for his dishonesty. That’s good. I hope you also had a conversation with your daughter in which you apologized for the injustice.

Parenting and “Stuff”

Joule loses things.  She picks things up that she has no use for, just because she’s near them, and then puts them down somewhere else without ever being conscious of it.  She does this in my wife’s craft room, while I’m on the computer, and she’s talking to me.  My daughter and I both get in trouble for it.

I’m sympathetic. When I first got a cell phone, I managed to lose it within a month.  Used the insurance to get it replaced.  The girl at the call center was awesome and promised to name a new WoW character “Shadrach” for me. After the replacement came I lost it 2 weeks later. While desperately searching the submarine for it, I was completely stressed out. My friend Amrani asked what’s the matter, and I replied “I’m an idiot.”

“What makes you say that?”

“I lost 2 cell phones in 6 weeks.”

“Aw man, you’re not an idiot.  You’re just not… good with ‘stuff.’”

This made me laugh and break the tension, and then I decided that I must learn to be good with stuff.

I’m sympathetic to my daughter’s plight, but this does not mean that I go easy on her. I don’t want her to get to be 28 before she learns the value of keeping up with stuff…

The other day my daughter lost a shoe.  We were in memphis (an hour from home) working on the (currently empty) condo we rent out.  After 4 people spent 15 minutes searching an unfurnished house we gave up and took her out to dinner with only one shoe on. There were some boxes that had been given away to charity and we posited that the shoe disappeared with them. We threw out the 2nd shoe the next day because there was no point in keeping it. I explained to her the amount of time she would save if she always kept them together. I explained that there was nothing to gain by putting them in separate places. I applied all the logic I could to the situation. I gave her practical advice.  I told her whenever she puts something down she should ask herself “is this the right place?” and if it’s not don’t put it there.

I had a flashback to 32 years ago when my parents were working on a rental property (which ended up becoming dad’s house a couple of years later when they divorced) and everyone had to spend a long time looking for my other shoe. When I finally “found it” I realized we had found both shoes over 5 minutes ago, and I just thought it was the same shoe over and over again.  I was VERY “not good with stuff”.

Today I find one shoe in the hall by the dining room table right before dinner.

“JOULE! Why is there one shoe here?!”

“Oh, Sorry.” *pick up shoe and haul ass to my bedroom. return with zero shoes*

Where Logos has failed Pathos may find traction.

I got down on my knees. I grabbed her by both shoulders and held her at arms length.  I stared enraged into her eyes and let my arms tremble with the frustration of hundreds of hours spent searching for things and thousands of dollars of lost items throughout my life. Through clenched teeth I said (not loud, but intense) “Joule! Do Better!” and let her go to the table. I take 2 Deep Breaths as an emotional reset before going to the dinner table myself and heard my wonderful co-parent making sure the emotion connected to the relevant context;

“Why was Papa mad?”

“Cause I didn’t keep up with my shoes.”

Was this a failure to detach my emotions and properly relate to my daughter? No. This was a deliberately display of emotion for behavior modifying  impact.

Was this hypocrisy to expect things of my daughter at 6 that I hadn’t mastered at 10?(28?)  Maybe, but I don’t care. My goal is to make her life better than mine, not equal to it.

Chess: The next generation

The gifted and talented program for my 5th grade son (1hr on Fridays) has taught him chess.  We played a couple of games in which I would go easy on him and then win.  The third of these games he starts crying.  I explain that I’ve been playing chess 30 years more than he has and that he should not expect to win a single game against me this year.  Which he took as a challenge to beat me before his 12th birthday.

I was trying to get him to quit playing chess games and to try something different.  Pawns only games. 2 Rooks vs King. 3 pawns vs 2 pawns. Something with chess basics, but simplified.  He’s actually started asking for drills.  He’s started asking to play the weak side of the drill so he could figure out what to try different.

We also play Fischer random chess.

As we play I point out mistakes of his and let him take moves back.  Sometimes he’ll take a long time to move and then say “I don’t see anything to do” and I’ll break down the pros and cons of 2 or 3 different options.  Sometimes I get sloppy and lose a piece.  Sometimes that happens late in the game. 3 days ago it happened and I couldn’t recover and he won the game.  I did my best to be a gracious loser.  To not make excuses.  To not express my frustration with myself (especially not as anger with him).

2 days ago we played again. “Do you think I’m going to win again this time?” he asked.

“No. I’m going to focus and play hard and crush you. When you won it hurt me a little in the feelings, and this game will be rough for you.”

And I did.

And he was trying not to cry when I made him shake hands and told him it was a good game.  Then we played some drills where we would see how many moves it takes him to mate K+Q vs K… and he relaxed and enjoyed himself.