Push and Pull

November 6, 2010 at 10:11 pm (AJ, Family, MJ, Parenthood, PJ) (, )

One might have predicted this.

Back in my partying days, I had a friend who smoked (and drank) way too much.  His girlfriend, also my friend, took the tactic of forbidding it.  It’s the Camels or me, an ultimatum.  My approach was different.  Forbidding them just seemed so… well, harsh.  (Or perhaps I knew that since I wasn’t having sex with him, threatening to withhold it wasn’t going to get me anywhere.)  I would try to coddle him along with less smoking, hiding his cigarettes so that his next one would be delayed.  But if he really looked pissed, like he needed one, I’d give in.  Trying to explain it one day, I told my friend, “I don’t do Tough Love.”  That oft-repeated quote, it explains a lot about my parenting style.

I don’t mean I’m permissive.  Though my husband might disagree.  I make them clean their room and do their chores and homework.  I get my fair share of “you’re so mean”s.  (Recently I found a piece of paper that Auden wrote on: “I hat my mom”.  Good writing for him, but I won’t pretend it didn’t make me sad.  When I asked him about it, he didn’t even remember writing it and claimed it was Parker.  I know it wasn’t, as Parker still only writes lower-case a’s if forced.)

I mean that I don’t see the point in being forceful and demanding when trying to get the children to do something.  Recently it’s come up with reading. The boys are just on the cusp of reading.  They can sound out words if they’re short and use short vowels.  I find it incredibly exciting, because I remember the way the world opened when I learned to read.  Mark tries to get the boys to sound out parts of their bedtime reading.  My feeling is bedtime reading is for relaxation, and learning to love reading at bedtime.  Not for frustration.  I don’t want to push them so hard they start to hate books.  I’d rather “pull” them along by encouraging sounding out at other times, and by reading books at bedtime that demonstrate how great books are.  Books that capture their interests, and that I enjoy also: If You Find a Rock, Henry and Ribsy, Y is for Yowl. Thursday night the boys and their dad had a giant blow-up over bedtime reading. He made them read “baby books”, with short words, and practice reading.  They’ve all gotten over it, but I still think it was a set back in reading and parental relations.  His way might get them reading faster, or it might not. Not if they learn that reading is a hateful chore.

Reading came up again last night. I found Junior Pictionary for $2.99 at Goodwill (score!) and we played it, the boys and Mark and I, after Greta went to bed. Loads of fun, it was.  I enjoyed both seeing how they guess and watching what they’d draw.  It was the most fun I’ve had in quite a while.  No, really, it was.

It took them a while to get the concept of drawing objects around the object you are having somebody guess.  Auden’s “tooth” looked like a plain ol’ rectangle, for instance, until I suggested he draw a few more and the mouth around it.  It didn’t take long though- Auden drew our specific fridge complete with crap cartoons from the Economist and magnets from places my MIL has visited and artwork from 2008 and notices for museums events last summer stuck on the doors (OK, not quite that detailed) and an arrow to the ice machine for “ice”.

The pushing them to read came up again, though.  I’d have them look at the word to draw and see if they knew it.  But if they couldn’t sound it out pretty quickly, I read it to them.  I didn’t want to hear any whining about not wanting to try, spoiling the fun.  Mark, however, did his thing, spending a while each time working with either kid on “banana” or “vacuum” or whatever it was.  They did balk a little bit and I was starting to get a little annoyed (without saying so).  But after a few turns they just expected it.  This night the pushing was effective, looking back on it, because they were so excited to play the game.  It worked because of the fun, not spoiling it.

[Sidenote story: Auden misheard/read “sand” as “send” and tried to draw that.  How would you draw “send”?  I think a lot of people born before, say 1990, would draw somebody sending a letter.  Auden made a valiant attempt to depict sending an email, but I never got to send.]

Are you a pusher or a puller with your children (if you have them)?  We probably have to accept that we can change some, but our natural tendencies are going to come out in this aspect of parenting.  Our kids are lucky enough to have both.

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