To Grandma’s House You Go

What special memories do you have of your time with your grandparents?

Our boys are fortunate. They have two sets of very loving grandparents that they will get to visit with this summer. The good news is the grandparents love them and are eager to spend time with them (and thankfully in good health), the bad news is the grandparents live far away. Both sets are across the country.  We decided this year, our boys are old enough to visit both sets of grandparents by themselves. Sending my boys on a plane without us is one of the most stressful things I’ve done, but I know they are going towards people that love them a lot and can’t wait to see them.

While concerned about them while they travel to see their grandparents, I also worry about their behavior (and what it will be) once they get there. Will they be on their best behavior? Will they act up (talk back to Grandma and Grandpa, whine, complain, etc.)? What will Grandma and Grandpa do if (when) this happens?

Grandparents vary, right? Some just want to love on their grandchild(ren) — give them hugs, take them places and maybe buy them things. They are happy to spend time with them in whatever form. There are others that want the time spent together to be more meaningful — teaching values, morals, life lessons, etc. One accepts the grandchild as they are. The other wants (or hopes) to mold the grandchild. Some grandparents are a blend of both, and others nothing like what I’ve mentioned above. Most grandparents though do share one thing in common: they love their grandkids.

In preparation for their first trip, my husband and I, assuming our kids would have their moments (e.g. they would ‘act up’ at some point), gave them some ground rules to help them (and their grandparents) enjoy their time together:

1. Don’t complain — if you don’t like what is being asked of you (wake up at a certain time, help with something, eat a new food, etc.) either a) suggest an alternative politely *or* b) just do what is being asked (arguing will just delay the inevitable and make everyone miserable)

2. Ask upfront for permission on screen time — grandparents want to spend time with you, not your gadgets. Grandparents are not unreasonable, so ask them what screen time they can live with. Determining this upfront will help with heart ache later.

3. Suspend bathroom humor — Grandma and Grandpa will not find it nearly as funny as you do

4. Have fun — there are so many neat things you get to do with Grandma and Grandpa — going fishing, swimming, eating ice cream, etc. — focus on what’s in front of you (the people, the place, the experience), not what you’re missing out on (e.g. another game of Madden Mobile or cartoon you’ve already seen a dozen times).

I am so thankful our boys have both sets of grandparents and can make memories with them. I know my boys will appreciate those memories much more when they are older.

Will my boys behave while their away? I’m not as concerned with them behaving as I am with both my sons and their grandparents appreciating the opportunity they have to share wonderful memories together. I know I treasure memories I had with mine.

What special memories does your child have with their grandparents? How are they creating new memories together?

Change the Label

How were you labeled as a child? Smart? Sweet? Athletic? Witty? Creative? Different? Etc.?

We’ve all experienced others putting labels on us at some point in our life. A positive label is easy to accept as truth. A negative one can be confusing, embarrassing, and make you sad or mad. I’ve yet to meet someone who is happy to be labeled a ‘bad’ person or kids who’s excited to be seen a ‘problem’ or ‘troublemaker.’ Labels can shape who people become and the choices they make, particularly when they don’t feel like they can overcome the label put upon them.

My oldest is experiencing being associated with a negative label first hand. He has struggled with emotional regulation. He can be as sweet as can be, empathetic and compassionate, but if he feels something is unfair or unjust (against him or someone he cares about) his anger rises, quickly. He loves playing football on the playground with some newer friends. These friends, who come from more challenging backgrounds than my son, exhibit behavioral issues (largely in the form of lack of respect to teachers regardless of the consequences) and have gotten themselves labeled the troublemakers. My son is experiencing guilt by association as a result. From my son’s perspective there is nothing wrong with these kids. He likes them and enjoys spending time with them. A teacher, who knows my son and his emotional strengths and weaknesses, has recently being coming down hard on my son for what he believes are trivial things — sliding down a banister at school and having to miss some of recess (my son claims he only slide down the banister two steps; and acknowledges that other kids who slide down the bannister also had to sit out); and asking to go to the bathroom only to go half-way down the hall and turn back around (never using the restroom). This seemed to make the teacher particularly mad. I was unable to understand from my son why, but believe it may be that some of his other friends have done the same thing and the teacher had had it.

My son was very frustrated and shared with me why the teacher was wrong and he was right. While I empathized with my son’s feelings of being wrongly targeted, I had to remind him that he had a role to play. “You shouldn’t be sliding down the banister even if it’s one step. Your teacher’s job is just like mine. Teach you things and keep you safe. If you slide down the banister and they don’t say anything or give you a consequence then other kids may think they can do it and get away with it too. What if a younger kid tries it and gets hurt?” I asked. My son tried to defend himself, “but I was barely on the railing.” “My point,” I continued, “is if you don’t want to sit out during recess, stay away from the banister. Period. There is no upside to sliding down even one part of it.” I went on, “You have to pick your battles and this one isn’t worth it.” He thought about what I said. We sat for a minute or so quietly. Then I added, “I want to go back and talk about labels. I don’t like them. People, particularly young people, can accept the labels they are given and let them define who they are or become. You are not a bad kid or a troublemaker. Do you do things that are wrong sometimes? Sure, but that’s part of growing up. I don’t know that your friends are either, but I do think you all are frustrating your teacher with your behavior. You don’t want to be labeled as troublemaker, because if you are, people will pay closer attention to what you are doing and will be looking for you to ’cause trouble.’ Someone who isn’t considered a troublemaker will be able to do the same thing and they won’t get in trouble, but you will. You don’t want that?” I paused, “You are going to be going to middle school in the fall and are going to have the opportunity to start over — a clean slate. You can get to decide how you come across to others. You can change the label.” He thought for a moment, as if he was thinking, and quietly said, “Okay. Thanks.”

I’m not sure if I got through, but am hopeful he’ll take what I said to heart. I don’t like labels. They generalize people too easily and can divert us from really getting to know someone, their story, and what redeeming qualities they have (because most of us do have some).

Has your child been labeled? How are you helping your child navigate labels?

How Rude!

It’s no fun encountering someone who is rude, right? It can really throw off your day, and put you in a bad mood. No fun.

My husband and I have recently been experiencing rudeness at the hands of our oldest child. We’ve been working on manners for quite some time, and while there has been good progress there is still room for improvement. Our oldest is eight, and in a place where he is working through growing independence and experiencing emotions more intensely. It makes for a challenging environment.

After pointing out the rude behavior we were seeing to our son, and doling out consequences that did not appear to be deterring his behavior, my husband and I decided we had to come up with a new strategy. My husband suggested that our son might still not grasp what being rude really meant and that we should talk with him to make it clear. We sat down with our son to have the discussion. It started off with our son telling and showing us how much he didn’t want to have the conversation (e.g. he got upset, outwardly showed his disdain with a grunt, scrunched up face and balled up fists, and then tried to walk away). We sat our son down and began.

We talked to him about his behavior and how it was unacceptable, and asked if he understood what being rude meant, and what actions constituted being rude. Listening to his answers really helped. “Being rude is when you’re not nice to someone?” he said guessing. “It’s more than just not being nice,” my husband shared. We began a dialogue that lasted more than 20 minutes. We talked about what being rude meant (not acknowledging others when they are speaking to you, and exhibiting behaviors that imply your needs are more important than the other person’s). We asked him again to give his definition. He struggled to come up with an explanation that was simple and clear for him, so my husband and I invoked a role-playing session to show how he could better identify rudeness. Since we often associate respect as being the opposite of rude, we thought we should help clarify some nuances there as well. We shared that being respectful doesn’t mean you have to agree with someone or do what they ask you to do, it’s how you handle yourself in these situations.

He seemed to be grasping what we were talking about, and started to get down on himself for not recognizing how his behavior had come across and impacted others.  We stopped him before he got too far along in that line of thinking, and reminded him that our job is to teach him, and what he is going through is part of growing up. We told him that he was a really neat kid, and that it was important for us to talk to him about his behavior, because when he is rude, it takes away from how neat he is. We continued that if he wasn’t aware that he was being rude, and nothing changed, there might be people who miss out on understanding how much he has to offer, and that would have been a shame. He really seemed to understand what we were saying now.

My husband and I moved on from talking about being rude, and asked him how his day had gone. Our son started to tell us when my husband interrupted him to ask him for more details. My son called his father out on what he did, “Dad, you’re being rude! You just interrupted me.” My husband and I looked at each other with a mutual understanding — we got through to our son…he does understand what being rude means, yes! It felt like we’d really gotten through to him and helped our son learned. It felt great. I didn’t know rudeness could lead to such a place.

How do you help your child work through difficult behavior? When did you know you were getting through to your child?