I feel like I need to write.
But I don't know what I need to write about.
Tonight I am feeling such love for my little family. Sometimes I look at my kids and I just can't believe how amazingly precious they are. Jake looks at me all the time and says, " I just love them so much!"
I feel like i have come such a long long way in the past few years in my parenting. I feel like the real turning point was after Kate was born. I don't know what it was about her- maybe how unbelievably cute she was (and is), maybe it was the crazy pregnancy I went through, or maybe it was God using Kate to really open my eyes and really show me that my kids are a gift from Him and not just a "job".
I hate to say it, but before Kate was born, I got annoyed by my kids all the time. I feel like I was in a bad mood a lot and sometimes I felt like they were more of a burden than a joy. Don't get me wrong, I loved them to pieces and we had lots of fun happy days, I am just saying that I didn't have the right perspective or attitude. Then Kate was born, and they way I viewed my 3 kids really changed. It wasn't an overnight change though. It was more that I could see the mom I wanted to be, and knew that there needed to be a change, and I have been working each and every day since then to really make that change.
Now, looking back, I can really see that things are so much better. Our little family is so much happier, my kids behave better, they respect me, they listen to me now (for the most part :) ), and I am happier and feel more confident as a mom and a person.
Some key things that I am learning that are really making a difference in our lives are:
- Attitude: If I am having a grouchy day, it really rubs off on the kids and they whole house is just a grumpy mess. I have a hard time letting go of my bad moods, but I have had to try hard to just let go and turn my mood around. When I succeed at this, our day is always much much better. I got a small piece of advice from a friend the other day when we were having a rough morning. She suggested turning on some fun Christian music and honestly, that helped so much, that every single morning since then I have been playing the kids' bible songs and we all LOVE it! It puts us all in a good mood.
- Discipline and Positive reinforcement: Before Lily started preschool (age 3), I knew when Lily needed to be disciplined, but wasn't sure what the right approach was, so I was inconsistent in how I would discipline. We were really bad about just letting something go when she did something wrong. Sometimes I feel like she would do something wrong, and we would be upset about and be "punishing" her all day long. Sorry Lily, we were still learning! Once she started school, her teacher told me about 1-2-3 magic. We have been using this method ever since. Basically, you do something wrong (not listening, disobeying, breaking rule X....), they get a 1. Do it again, get a 2. And again, a 3. Once they have a 3, write it on a white board, piece of paper, whatever. The next time they ask to do something (arts and crafts, have a treat, juice, watch a show...), say "Look at the board, do you have any 3's?" If they do have a 3, they don't get to do that thing for the rest of the day. I do not carry over any 1, 2 or 3's to the next day, unless it is a 3 they earned right at bedtime (which doesn't happen very often). This way, they see the 3, they know that they deserve it (they had 3 chances), and they know their punishment and it's over. Not drawn out. But, aside from the 1-2-3, they also get to earn stars/stickers for things they do well. If they did something helpful, listened the first time, were good when we went out, or countless other things, they earn a star/sticker (Lily does stickers and Jonah stars). Once they earn 10, they get to pick something to do together as a family. This has been a great system for us because it doesn't focus on the punishment, but it is great for giving them positive reinforcement. And the kids love it. They love picking something to do all together as a family and working at earning their 10 stars. We have gone on train rides, gone out to breakfast or the bakery, out to dinner, to the beach, out to ice cream, to the playground, out for a family hike, and lots of other fun things. The only rules are that it doesn't cost too much and it has to be something we can all do together. It has been great having one method that we use each and every time and mostly that we are being consistent. The kids know exactly what to expect and what the consequences are.
Say "Yes" as often as possible: I still struggle with this one a bit. I don't know why, but sometimes I just like to say no. Why is that? Maybe because I like to prove that I am in charge? I don't know, but I am really working on letting go and find myself having to stop and think about what the kids are asking me for and make and effort to say, "Yes, you can do that". I am working on only saying "No" what it's really something that they can not do, whether it's for safety reasons, or time restraints or something like that. If they really want to go outside and play in the mud, then I need to just get over that the kitchen and their clothes are going to get muddy. Because really, who cares? It's mud. If they want to drag all of their bedding out to the living room to pretend to be "mommy, daddy and kid" then okay, the living room will be messy for a while and I will have to deal with it. Like I said though, this is something I am still working on.
Give them freedom: This is something I think that I have always been pretty good at. I am not a "helicopter parent". My kids are really good at going off and playing either by themselves or with each other for long periods of time. (They don't play by themselves all the time, I play with them lots of times too!) I let them go outside by themselves to explore, dig, run, climb, get dirty, whatever. Of course, I watch from the window, but the don't know that! I give them room to breathe and figure things out for themselves. If they need help with something and they ask me for help, I ask them if they have tried to do it themselves first. I tell them that I won't help them until they have tried to solve the problem on their own first. If they can't do it after they have tried, like Jonah zipping up his coat or Lily with her shoes, then of course I will help them. But I really encourage them to try it first. Another way we encourage their freedom is through the toys we give them. I would say that 98% of their toys do not have batteries. I want them to use their imaginations when playing!
Working on these 4 things has really changed the way that Jake and I parent. We are still working on these things every day, along with other things we want to work on, but I feel like these 4 are the biggest.
Well, Jake just got home from training. I guess I found something to write about tonight :)
I will leave you with this sweet picture of my 4 favorite people- they are pretty much the greatest!