Two weekends ago I attended the Hearts at Home conference in Rochester, MN. I highly recommend it and if you're a friend, family member, acquaintance, or co-worker of mine, be prepared for me to drag you with me next year. You might as well mark your calendar now: November 13-14. I am also excited to be the newest Hearts at Home blogger, so watch for Third Thursday Thoughts! While I was there, I opted to attend Dr. Debbie Cherry's talk on Intentional Parenting and decided to put what she calls the "parenting power tools" into practice: attention and ignoring.
After posting For Everything There is a Season, I spoke with my employer about cutting back to allow me to have more time at home. They generously allowed me to take an entire week off to see what that looked like... did I want to be done completely? Did I want to be part-time? Part time from home? I took them up on their offer last week and decided to take time off not just from work, but from blogging and TV as well. I also put the cell phone and computer away and only used them while Finn was sleeping (no wonder he's obsessed with them, I am too!). I wanted to put some serious energy into the things I learned at the conference and see if being an intentional parent really could make a difference.
For the last few months, Finn has become extremely whiny whenever I am around. It's annoying. Dr. Cherry's theory is that whether we are giving our children positive attention or negative attention, attention reinforces what they are doing. Kids desire your attention, even if comes through yelling. It dawned on me that I give Finn way more negative attention than positive attention. I am ALWAYS trying to do a hundred things at once and it results in him trying to get me to focus on him (cue the whining). There are a lot of comments like, "Finn, you're fine, I'll be there in two minutes." (I know you can hear the tone of voice in your head, and it's not a happy-sing-song sort of voice.)
Part two is that kids do not like being ignored. Ever. My natural reaction when Finn is whining is to talk and try to and appease him, but this week I started ignoring it. The first couple of days were rough. I would literally wait for the split second between his whines and say, "I love it when you play so nicely with your toys." It took two full days, but he started to catch on. I didn't give him any negative attention all week, only positive attention. Unless he was doing something that was going to seriously harm him, I ignored all of his whining.
You guys, by the end of the week I had a different household. Even the dog was happier. I was skeptical that this whole positive and negative attention thing was really that big of a deal, but it is. Try it for a week. The first few days will be hard, but kids catch-on so fast. It was a week of re-learning for both of us, but it paid off.
In Tony Evan's book, "Raising Kingdom Kids," he talks about today's culture having a mindset of kids being a burden rather than a blessing. My week off showed me how quickly I am sucked into the burden mindset when my life has no margin. The margin I gained last week provided me with the energy, patience and time to be an intentional parent, and what a difference it made. What does margin look like for you? One speaker, a single mom, said she gave up matching the socks. It just wasn't going to happen. We all have something we can give up to gain time with our family. It's a short-term loss for a long-term gain, they are worth the investment and you might just start to see them with new eyes.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows."