News & Views
from   The Parenting Center at Abington

. A Life is Worth a Lotta Pairs of Socks

   It was a warm day in late fall. My husband was waxing our van while I was shopping with our daughter. Our middle school aged son was inside "hanging out." Boredom must have set in at some point in the afternoon because he walked to the window to check on his dad. Startled by what he saw, he bolted out the door, sprinting to my husband who was sprawled out flat on the driveway.

   Returning home a few hours later, I heard the story, complete with a positive ending. My husband failed to see the camper hitch directly behind him when he reached the rear of the van. He backed into it, lost his balance, and gravity took over. My son finished the story. "He was just lying there not movin'. I thought he might be dead. So I raced out to check him. He was O.K. And Mom, I didn't put my shoes on, 'cause a life is worth a lotta socks."

   I had to agree. (Though in my head I could hear echoes of my last hundred commands not to go out of doors in your socks.) A life is worth a lotta pairs of socks. I was relieved that my husband was O.K. And grateful that my pre-adolescent son had been home. But the whole incident and his profound response caused me to pause.

   Many children, mine included, struggle with responsibility. Keeping up with required tasks, assignments, chores, even the basics, seem to frequently elude them. Do you, like me, find yourself repeating parts of this familiar 'song?" "Pick up your shoes, wash your hands, hang up your towel, put your clothes away, dishes in the dishwasher, do your homework, practice your instrument, AND don't walk outside in your socks!!!"

   I began to ponder the importance of towels, dishes, and socks. Yes, it is my job to help my son develop good living habits. (I envision the gratitude on the face of my future daughter-in-law!) But at what expense? Endless reminders have little effect. At best I become irritable and tired. He feels annoyed and incompetent. Perhaps, in his mind, I am reducing life to a pair of socks.

   Digging into my parenting resources, I uncovered some helpful tools. The following is a summary of my findings.

1. Lower your expectations. Kids are "in progress." They're supposed to be impulsive, ego-centric and have poor judgment. Expect this kind of behavior on a daily basis!! (Or more often!!)

2. Let it go!! Select what is most important to you and let the rest go. Pick your battles. If we continue to demand perfection, kids can become resentful. Relationships will suffer. I decided his room was his to keep as he wanted so long as it wasn't a health hazard!

3. Focus on the positive. Notice and express appreciation for the times they do show responsibility. Catch 'em doing good and let 'em have it!!

4. Use humor!! "Those socks are starting to walk towards the door." "The dishes look sad sitting on the table all yucky." "You win the prize for the dirtiest hands before supper. The prize - sink, soap, and towel!!!" (Parental warning: add a smile, hold the sarcasm.)

5. Write lists or make a chart. Lists don't get louder. Kids often feel a sense of satisfaction as they cross off accomplished tasks or attach a sticker. Include fun stuff too, i.e. have a snack, hug your Mom, sing a song!

6. Try problem exploration. Approach kids calmly with your feelings and ask for their suggestions in working through a persistent problem. Brainstorm a list of options and then come to an agreement all can live with.

7. Do something fun together. Plan a date night or time just for the two of you to talk, exercise, shop or play, away from the "have tos" of home. My son & I recently had lunch at Friendly's on an afternoon he had a scheduled early dismissal at school. Renew your relationship with your child(ren).

Dozens more ideas exist. Talk with other parents. Attend parenting workshops. Read recommended resources. Spring clean your imagination! But, remember a life, a relationship, a family, is worth a lotta pairs of socks!!!

Pam Nicholson, Certified Parenting Educator

Resources: Withour Spanking or Spoiling - Elizabeth Crary
How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids Will Talk - Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
Kids Are Worth It! - Barbara Coloroso
May 1999
Volume 1/No. 7

A publication from The Parenting Center at AbingtonP.O. Box 596, Abington, PA 19001 (215) 576-0586

Printing of this newsletter is courtesy of the Abington Memorial Hospital.

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