Do you ever listen to yourself from your child’s perspective and realize how annoying you sound?
I do, and recently, it’s all about speed.
If you saw my last Wordless Wednesday post, you may have guessed that on most days I awake to the challenge of a teenager who suffers from the typical yet lethal combination of a casual disregard for time management and an inherited aversion to early mornings.
This does not bring out the best of my parenting skills, but I have been working on more creative and effective ways of encouraging my son to get to school on time. [Surprisingly, my whiny reprimands of “Move your body, NOW” aren’t all that effective and serve only to put both of us in a foul mood.]
In the process of this though, I’ve come to realize that – as much as I like to complain that my son only runs on one speed – this kid is, in fact, more than capable of operating at various levels of speediness, depending on the situation.
His mother, on the other hand, appears to lack the capacity to ever be satisfied with the rate at which her son is moving.
On any given day, this kid is assaulted by mixed messages regarding his swiftness or lack thereof from his time-obsessed mother.
- He is repeatedly hit with conflicting reminders to walk carefully (near the pool), or run faster (at the track); to eat up (before his food gets cold), or to take a breath between his hurried bites (so he doesn’t get a stomachache).
- This poor child can rarely enjoy a walk around the neighborhood, which he prefers to do at a brisk pace, without his mother nagging him to ease up, relax, and enjoy it.
- After reluctantly taking the oft-repeated direction to slow down and really scrub when washing his hands – he will inevitably be met with that impatient query: Aren’t you done in the shower yet?!?
- In the morning, he resists entreaties to hurry up and finish his breakfast; but by evening, he protests the insistence that he need not scarf down his pizza as if someone might steal it.
- This boy humors his mother’s efforts to hustle him out of bed on school mornings; and later that day, endures the repetitive pleas to “wait, wait, wait for Mom” when crossing a crowded parking lot.
- He very often hears the complaint: “It shouldn’t take you a half an hour to put your pants on. Let’s GO!” – and yet, he faces panicked parental cries when he begins with unfettered alacrity to strip off his wet swimsuit at the public pool.
This kid can’t catch a break.
I have his best interests at heart – he needs to learn how to be safe, clean, polite and responsible.
(Plus, I really, really, really hate to be late.)
But now that I’ve begun to listen to myself, I can’t un-hear how ridiculous these conflicting instructions must sound to my kid.
I know that my exasperated verbal cues do very little except transfer my stress to him. I am familiar with (and use) a lot of the strategies that can be very effective in teaching independent time management skills – timers and external reinforcement and social stories and schedules. And I really am trying to become more attuned to his rhythms and his motivations, and am even learning to admit when the need to move fast or slow is more of a “guideline” than a “rule.”
But when confronted by an apathetic teenager as an urgent time commitment looms – or conversely, by an excitable toddler in the body of a 120lb boy when the situation demands caution or ease – I tend to regress to pleading and scolding.
And, that’s just got to be so annoying.