Saturday, August 8, 2015

Clouds Over LegoLand

My friend from our homeschool co-op, Nikki George, writes beautiful devotionals on her blog. I am always uplifted by her words and they often seem to come at the perfect time. She wrote one a few weeks ago about her children's behavior. She said she saw a direct correlation between her kids' behavior and how much time she spends actually playing with them. She recommended taking twenty minutes a day (per child) and focusing that time on one kid. They pick the activity and you just roll with the punches. No sibling interruptions allowed.

It was a sweet thought, although I figured I already spent a bunch of time with them. I stay home with them, right? But I have seen my middle and youngest display some attention getting behaviors (screaming, throwing, crying, etc.) so I decided to observe for a few days and see what I could discover.

It turns out that I am not spending as much time interacting with them as I thought. We do school projects together but they are not choosing most of the projects. I watch them swim or race their cars or build their Legos but I was only actively playing with them for tiny snippets of time, if at all. When we did play, we played together which often ended up with some conflict I would have to resolve. I had (have!) a habit of sneaking out of the room once they are engaged in a game to get some things done. Nothing wrong with that - A girl has got to get things done - But I wondered if their behavior would change with a little more investment on my part.  I decided to try Nikki's plan.

Day 1 - Disaster.
My three year old wanted to play baseball but his sister kept stealing the baseball and running away with it. Lots of tears.

My oldest wanted to do a bead project and his sister grabbed the bucket of 1,000 beads and dumped them all out on the floor.

My baby girl wanted to go down her little slide and the boys continuously pushed her out of the way to do "cool tricks".

I was discouraged. I would rather fold laundry then deal with all of this turmoil, but I soldiered on.

Day 2 - Consequences.
"Any one who interrupts special time loses theirs. Got it?" I announced as we wrapped up our school work.
"Baby girl, that goes for you, too," my oldest said.
"Yeah! You too!" my three year old echoed.

I encouraged the boys to give her a little grace (she's only one after all) but I set up their special time during her nap time to minimize destruction and distraction.

And you know what? It was beautiful. My three year old and I played baseball and cheered for his "home runs". We laughed and I really had fun. He hugged me over and over again and said, "Mommy this is great. I really like this."

When I asked my six year old what he wanted to do, he rolled around the floor with a dreamy smile on his face. "I want to make some clouds."
"Clouds? Um...okay. Any ideas on how to do that?"
At this, he straightened up and started waving his hands wildly. "We could, you know, get that stuff that you put in pillows to make the fluffy and then we could, you know, stretch it out and make it really fluffy."
"I'm game. Where are these clouds going to go?"
"Over LegoLand, Mommy" he said as if I had momentarily lost my mind.
"Of course. And where is LegoLand?"
"IN MY ROOM!"
"Okay. Let's hang some clouds over LegoLand."

We made the clouds and used thread to tie them to the ceiling fan. My son had set up an entire town of Lego cars and buildings on a car mat (hence LegoLand) and we turned on the ceiling fan to see the results of our creation. As the clouds spun around the sky, he leaned back and said, "Pretty cool, huh?" And it was.

The behavior has improved and I can honestly say that I enjoy them more. When I give them their time, they repay me with their calm hearts. I connect with them in a doable way (who doesn't have ten or twenty minutes to spare?) and I feel closer to them after our time together. Everybody wins.

Are you seeing negative attention getting behaviors in your children? Take a day or two to analyze how much time you spend one on one with them. Set aside 10 minutes today to let them lead. See what happens.





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