The Freezer Solution

I asked Ben if I could tell a story about an interactions he had with the kids yesterday.  He took a few moments to think about it, and then he said, “Ok, but don’t make me look stupid.”

So I am going to start by saying that my husband is so amazing.  He plays hard and often with our kids, he rocks the housecleaning, he supports me in all that I do.  He is naturally the parent that I work hard to be.

Okay.

So yesterday we had a bunch of kids in our backyard.  Our two and a couple other neighborhood kids.  It's summer and actually kinda warm out up here in the PNW…  One of us suggested that the kids could have popsicles. 

You know what happens when you mention popsicle to a group of kids – they run like  a swarm to the garage and to get their cold treat…

A few minutes roll by and it is quiet as the kids slurp away at their drippy pops.   Then I hear Ben say, “Hey guys, who left the freezer open?”

“Wasn’t me, I got mine out first.”

“Not me.”

“I didn’t do it…”

You know what it sounds like, the chorus of denials…..

A few minutes later, my husband walks into my office space and says, all proud of himself, “I told the kids I would be glad to turn the sprinklers back on as soon as someone owned up to leaving the freezer open.”  He didn’t say “HA!” but I could hear it.

“Hmmm,” I said, carefully choosing my words so as not to offend him, “so you think one of the kids in the backyard is willing to move past their embarrassment and shame of being the kid who left the freezer open, approach you, a grown up they know as “Ian’s Dad,” and own up?”

I could see him reconsidering this perspective….

“What if,” I started, “you tell the kids that there is probably going to be a lot of popsicle action this summer, and that you wondered what they could do to help themselves remember to shut the freezer?”

Bingo, I hit my mark.  Ben then approached the kids with that exact statement and immediately my son responded with, “We could make a sign!”  Ian worked with the other kid still left in the backyard to make the sign.  Its not fancy, no glitter or rainbows of colors, but it works.  At least it works so far.

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And when it stops working, we will ask the kids again to find a way to help themselves do better – because that is really what we are going for, right?

It is really amazing how ofter grownups, myself included, look for blame rather than solutions when it comes to the mischief our kids get into.   If the goal is to help our kids do better  why do we think that will happen when we make them feel bad first?

Children do better when they feel better.
 
- Jane Nelsen, author of Positive Discipline

Really what gets in the way of thoughtful parenting is the emotional turmoil our kids behavior can stir up in us.  I mean, sometimes I just want my kids to feel bad, you know?  They have hurt me or someone else, been negligent and ruined something they didn't buy, seem so damn UNGRATEFUL and we flip!  

Ugh.  Don't you just hate yourself after one of those moments?   

So what can we do?  Well, we can change the culture of our family and decide to LOOK FOR SOLUTIONS INSTEAD OF BLAME.  Turn this into your family motto, visit it on a regular basis.   Use this statement throughout the day and hold it as a value.  Teach this to your kids and ask them to remind you of it when you slip down the slope of looking for blame....

And yes, we for sure want to teach our kids to own their behavior.  But how much more inviting will it be if they know that owning up will lead to solving the problem, rather than paying for the mistake?