We had a delightful weekend with a professional pet sitter. Elizabeth is all things “animal kingdom.” So of course Layla received a lot of additional loving attention. Elizabeth is a F/friend (“F” as in a Quaker Friend and “f” as in personal friend). Her gentle gift with animals is very apparent, as is her always ready camera. Layla had a very difficult time “smiling” for the camera. Each human request for “Layla look at me,” was met with total serious thought and facial expression. Why in the world would Layla “smile” for the camera when she has no idea what is being asked of her?
Ah ha, why in the world do we expect our children (of any age) to give correct responses to our requests that make no sense to them or not give them any kind of positive reinforcement for compliance?
Not sure what I mean? I’ll try to be more specific. Here goes with an example:
#1: Mom to thirteen-year-old: “You need to clean your room, it’s a mess.”
Kid’s thinking: I know where everything is. What good is it to have my own room if my parents can just walk in and give me orders? I’ve seen their bathroom, talk about a mess. I love my room just as it is. It fits me. Hey, it’s not really a mess. I know where everything is. My piles have organization.
Result of Mom’s request to clean up messy room? Zilch with probably an argument, to be repeated often or until Mom gives up.
Back to Layla. Elizabeth plays a favorite game with Layla (a ball is involved, this is helpful. Layla loves chasing a MOVING ball. Once the ball stops, she loses interest. Hence, Layla is teaching everyone how to bounce a ball and keep it rolling or how to gracefully retrieve the now non-moving ball, as Layla has raced back to the ball-person, wanting to CHASE a MOVING ball.) We are also declining to PLAY if Layla doesn’t retrieve the ball to us. This is very disruptive to the PLAYFUL aspect. So we are endeavoring to play BALL whenever Layla brings us a ball, but stopping the play if she refuses to retrieve the ball. This is taking a great deal of effort. But we all persevere. Returning to Elizabeth and Layla: after Layla has chased her MOVING ball a few times, she is smiling. Elizabeth gets a great picture of Layla coming back to her, huge smile and happy.
We apply Layla’s MOVING ball lesson to our teenager. To make a request of “cleaning a messy room” to a teenager quite often involves a REWARD. You are already rebelling, I can feel it. You do not want to have to REWARD your teenager for cleaning his messy room. Keep reading, try this one on:
Mom: “As soon as your piles have disappeared in your room and I can open and close your closet without fear of getting a concussion, and see neat organization under your bed, I will be delighted to ________ (take you to your soccer practice, do your laundry, buy your new cleats, not give you a hug in front of your friends, okay your overnight with your friend, etc., etc., etc.—all things you typically do for your teenager.)
Kid’s thinking: I’ll walk to soccer practice, I can wear my underwear more than once, I don’t need new cleats right this minute, Hmmm, does that mean she’s going to hug me in front of my friends? I can Skype my friend all night, so he doesn’t actually need to be here.
Mom: “I see you need some time to think this over. Let me know how you want to solve this request of mine. I’ll be downstairs.”
Kid’s thinking: Parents–how pathetic. Okay, okay. Just this once. But someday I’ll have my own place and I can keep anyway I want to.
It’s interesting how Layla teaches us to retrieve her NON-MOVING ball. And, it’s also notable that we are teaching Layla to bring NON-MOVING balls to us, if she wants us to throw them for her. We are each being rewarded for our behaviors, even though we have to concede to each others’ preferences. It seems to be a never-ending process at this point in time.
Hint: when children are started on this type of expectation for compliance at an early age (usually FOUR is a good time to start), by the time they are teenagers, both parent and kid are attuned to requests and compliance (which may or may involve some sort of arbitration/discussion/conflict resolution in a healthy, learning conversation between parent and child).
References: for kids: Love and Logic: www.loveandlogic.com/
for dogs: Patricia McConnell: http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/
All examples are my own and do not reflect the above authors. I am a fan of both and know that sometimes I am not totally within their expertise in how I offer my sense of reality.
And, for a GREAT pet sitter in the Portland, OR area: please visit: