Yesterday I was talking to a good friend about the changes that have happened in our home. It is amazing to me to look back 4 years ago and see where we were and to look at my family now. It is amazing the change that has happened!
All my life I have wanted to be a stay at home mom. It has just always felt right to me. Unfortunately, I only knew what I didn't want to do as a mom, nit what I wanted to do. This is where a "Roadmap" comes into play. For those of you who are not familiar with Parenting on Track, a Roadmap is your plan for raising your family, the skills you want your children to have when they walk out of the house at 18. It helps you and your children know what is important for your family so you can work together.
Now my Roadmap isn't finalized, it isn't even written down. (I know Vicki, I really need to do this!) But I can see gradual changes in our family because of the Parenting on Track program. As a family we have been through a lot. Somethings have been very hard and try to find the "best" track has been a lesson in trial and error...mostly error. But we are dedicated to finding what is really going to work for us and Parenting on Track is it!
At the end of last school year and the beginning of this I was having a difficult time with Sweetie Heart. Her anger towards us and her sister just seemed to have no end. She would walk out of school happy and within minutes she was angry and defiant! All I had done is picked her up and asked how her days was, what was good, what was bad. It got so bad that I was sure something was going on at school and asked her teachers. The response was that she did great at school. She was helpful and loving. The child I described was a shock to her teachers. Her Kindergarten teacher took time with the kids to do an exercise to see if there was something else, but there wasn't anything out of the ordinary. So I talked to the guidance counselor. She is wonderful! She was will to work with Sweetie Heart on a personal basis, to reward her for having a good week (one that didn't have temper tantrums), and assigned her a 6th grade mentor. She would check in with me to see how things were going at home and would discuss things with Sweetie heart. She also recommended that I attend the Parenting on Track class that the school sponsored for free to the parents in the school system. I had wanted to go the year before, but due to Webby's schooling I felt unable to go. I wanted the kids to go to bed on time, at the time it was the most important thing. As I look back now I can see how the sacrifice would have been well worth it a year earlier.
What I have learned is invaluable to me. These are the skills I have been seeking for for years! Now our home is more peaceful. We are more loving toward one another. And that's not just between us as parents and each child individually. The girls love each other more and fight less. We work together on things to get them done. I have lowered, yet raised my expectations for them and they have risen to the challenge. It has been amazing, and truly a blessing in our family.
Just a couple of examples. Sweet Girl is 3.5 years old. It was at about the age of 2.5 that we started having struggles with Sweetie Heart (now 7.) It had gotten so bad we went to Family Couseling for it, but it only helped a little. Recently we have noticed more struggle with Sweet Girl. So we looked back and looked forward and made a decision as to what to do. Sweet Girl does not like to be surprised nor does she like to feel that she doesn't have a choice. So when I want her to do something I give her a choice. For example, it's dinner time. She doesn't want to stop playing and come to the table so she is crying and disrupting dinner. It's unpleasant for everyone, except for her who is in control. Now my knee jerk reaction is to send her to her room. But that usually doesn't work and just makes things worse. Now I give her a choice. "You can choose to quiet down now and eat dinner or you can choose to leave the table. If you keep crying you are choosing to leave the table." Pause for a couple of seconds to see what she chooses. Lately it has been to keep crying. So I pull out her chair, take her by the hand and lead her to the couch. Then I say, "We would love to have eat dinner with us. When you are finished crying we would love for you to join us at the table." All calmly and in a quiet, even voice. Then I return to the table and we eat. She usually joins us in a couple of minutes and all is well! Really!
Sweetie Heart was given a feelings journal this year from the guidance counselor. She did pretty well writing in it whenever she was upset. She hasn't used it for awhile. We were looking through it the other day and she was laughing at the way she had spelled things. So I took the opportunity to ask her if she felt things had changed. She said yes so I asked her how. She said, "You do more things for us." Which is funny because I am actually doing less for them than I did. So I questioned that and asked if it was just that the mood had changed in the house and there was less anger. She agreed, but if you lead a kid in a certain direction they have a tendency to agree. But if I look at there original response, it is really telling. We are doing more things together. Yes, I expect them to help clear the table, but not to do it all by themselves. We clean up the house together, do the laundry together. The key is the togetherness. We are working side by side to have a happier, healthier home. I don't feel as run down and aggravated because I'm "doing everything" and they are getting what they really want, which is time with me! It's a win-win situation.
Yes, there is still fighting and bad attitudes. Yes, I still run my mouth too often and badger them. But you know what, it's better than having temper tantrums, yelling and bad feelings at the end of the day if not more often. I am just as responsible for my actions and reactions as they are.
But then there was this morning. My In-Laws are in town for the week. They have been taking the kids different places and having a great time. This morning they were going to a place they had gone before. Last time they were there they bought t-shirts. Sweet Girl put hers on after being coaxed by Sweetie Heart. But Sweetie Heart couldn't fine her shirt. She had decided that she could get rid of it at the beginning of the summer when we were going through her clothes. Now she wanted it back, but it was already gone. I suggested that her grandparents would probably buy her a new one if she asked, but she wanted to wear it right now! She was crying up in her room, working herself up. It was on the path to a temper tantrum, really. I could see it so clearly. But you know what happened instead? I had called Sweet Girl to come up stair and put her pajamas in the laundry. She came in, heard what was going on and said, "Sister, I have an idea!" She took off her shirt and gave it to her big sister to wear. I was too big for Sweet Girl and big enough for Sweetie Heart. Sweetie Heart stopped crying and thanked her, gave her a hug and put it on. I thanked her, too, for her generosity. She just smiled and put on a different shirt and off they went. ::sniff::
And for me this is what it is all about. Compassion. Seeing the need and helping to find a solution. My solution is good in the long run, but Sweet Girl's solution helped right now! By my example I am teaching my children how to be compassionate people. I am teaching them to be problem solvers. And they are teaching me that my influence is the most important influence in their young lives! I can do better and I will continue to because it is making my family better and our home a place we all want to be!