Monday, July 26, 2010

do nothing, say nothing recap

Well, it's been longer than I thought since the last time I posted. Oops! Life with four kids, three rats, two full-time jobs, a dog, and a snake is a little crazy! I actually meant to blog throughout our Parenting on Track journey, but one day stretched into twelve weeks, which stretched into six months without a single update...

The good news (?) is that we've found the program to be so valuable that we're doing it again. Yup. The whole twelve weeks. It's really rich and deep, and there's so much to learn and try, and we feel like our family has come a long way as a result of the conversations and actions brought about by doing the program. So we're doing it again, maybe this time really in twelve weeks instead of six months!

The first week is "Do Nothing, Say Nothing" week. This is where we stop using ineffective parenting techniques and "strategies" that hinder the relationships we would like to have with our kids. Instead, we do and say nothing, and observe them to learn what they can and will do without interference from us. We also observe ourselves to figure out when it is hard for us to exercise control over our reactions to situations or behavior.

The first time we did DNSN, it led to some hilarious (in retrospect) and horrifying moments.

Day one brought us a seven-year-old (Sebastian) who got up on his own, made himself breakfast, packed his lunch, and cheerfully loaded himself and his backpack into the car on time. Impressive! But Dante (age 12) didn't get out of bed and subsequently didn't go to school.

Day two was role reversal. Dante was totally happy and ready to go. Sebastian refused to go to school because, "It's stupid! I never learn anything! And if Dante doesn't have to go, I don't have to go!" Since he's not twelve, he got dumped at my mom's house while I left for work. My parents did such a good job ignoring him that, around 10:30 he announced, "This is boring! I'm going to school!"

Days three and four continued the pile-up of toys and dishes that had begun at the beginning of the week. Kids were responsible for their own breakfasts and lunches, but we had dinner as a family the way we usually do, except for the fact that we didn't have a formal setting or clearing of the table. I just announced when the food was ready. We also didn't put any limits on screen time, or enforce a bedtime. This meant that things were a little more - ahem - chaotic than usual around the house.

Day five was brutal. It culminated when Will and I left Subway because we were so humiliated at the behavior of all four kids. We just walked out and waited for them to eventually follow, because we couldn't handle staying in there AND staying silent. You name it, the kids did it.

Crawling on the floor? Yup! (Keep in mind that we are YEARS past the age at which this is developmentally appropriate.) Swinging from the railings? Yup! Playing a game in which every chair is an island and you can't touch the floor? Yup! (Keep in mind that this was a relatively busy night at a relatively busy restaurant.) Folding your bread into a paper airplane and zooming it around in the air? Yup! Stuffing an entire bag of chips into your mouth at once and then talking while it takes you almost 10 minutes to chew it up? Yup!

And that's just one example from each kid! Multiply what I just described by approximately 10, and maybe, just maybe, you'll have an inkling of what we put those poor Subway patrons through that night. This is what our kids did when we weren't nagging, reminding, and lecturing constantly about how they should behave. It was pretty clear to us that they had internalized pretty much nothing we have said over the last 7-12 years about table manners and restaurant behavior.

By the end of day six, we were DONE, and really, so were the kids. So why would we want to repeat it? Well, here's what we wrote down at the end of that first week about what we learned...

About ourselves -
We care what other people think about our kids and about us as parents.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
We do a ton of nagging and managing.
We do way too much work and baby them way too much.
Unknowingly, we created some of their problematic behaviors.
We don't enjoy being around our kids when they behave badly.

About our kids -
They are capable of more than they do.
It seems like they don't care if the house is a wreck.
They behave very badly in public when we're not actively directing them.
Their manners and cleaning up after themselves are the two biggest issues.
Some of the fighting the kids do is for our benefit.
Dante is developing a habit of being disrespectful.
They think they are good.
Trin (age 7) gets mileage out of being "the good one."
Most of their negative attention-seeking behavior (fighting, pouting) goes away when we ignore it.
They have no self-regulation when it comes to screen time -- they will choose screen time over just about anything else.

As difficult as DNSN week was, it was totally worth it to me in terms of the insights we gained into our family and our kids and ourselves. So even though I'm dreading this going in the second time, I'm excited to see what we will learn this time around.

1 comment:

Masasa said...

I appreciate you posting about this and would enjoy trying it. G and I tried to make it to a workshop in our area in May, but financially couldn't make it happen. If you have any of the audio and might be willing to let us borrow it, let me know.