Pancakes for breakfast on a School Morning??? This should be on the 6 o'clock news!
(If you knew how bad I am in the mornings, you would appreciate what a miracle these pancakes are.)
It's not just the weekday breakfast pancakes, there's a whole lot of stuff that's been changing for the better around here since I've begun my Incredible Years parenting course..
Learning to play was the beginning of it all. Slightly awkward at first, I can now slip into play-mode at the slightest provocation. The increase in shared laughter and simple spontaneous games has begun to change the atmosphere in our home for the better. I feel closer to my kids and I know they feel closer to me. There's more hugging and kissing, more words of appreciation and morning snuggles.
Early morning warm-fuzzies can lead to surprising things... like pancakes on a Tuesday.
And playing becomes a natural part of life. See this pirate?
Last night he was sword-battled up to bed.
But only after he'd done what I asked him.
You see, I have been learning some other parenting gems as well. Some of them may be old hat, others might seem obvious, but I have been surprised at how effective some of these deceptively simple concepts can be...
New Magic Words: WHEN YOU... THEN YOU...!
This is my new magic formula for getting cooperation.
It works like this.
"Mummy can we have another pirate battle?""Yes you can... WHEN YOU have cleaned your teeth, THEN YOU can fight me to the death (all the way up to bed)..."
"Mummy can we watch Survivor?"
"Yes, WHEN YOU have tidied your room and done your homework, THEN YOU can watch Survivor!"
It may seem obvious to you, but to me this is pure gold.
Magic words that work every time, and take the fight away.
Of course, they may try to argue or negotiate. These are children we are talking about, after all.
"But muuuuum!! I don't want to do my homework. I'll watch Survivor first and then I'll do it, promise."
"Hmmmm... No. This is how we're doing things now. Jobs first, then fun."
"Awwwwww, not fair! I'm not doing it!"
"That's fine. No problem. You just won't watch Survivor..." (see how I calmly stick to my guns?)
Ten minutes later: Child is observed sitting at dining table doing homework.
It's a miracle folks.
This once spineless pushover mother has discovered her backbone.
Of course there is one other new weapon in the arsenal.
More Magic Words: Praise
Come on Simone, you might be saying, we already know this one!
Yeah, me too. I'm not too bad at giving praise.
But focusing on the power of effective praise has really been a great bonus.
We are talking specific praise, loud enthusiastic praise, and also (a new one) proximal praise.
Instead of a general statement like "good boy, well done!" we are encouraged to get specific about the behaviour we are praising. "Wow Scrag what a good bed-maker you are! You are such a big boy doing that all by yourself!"
Apparently if we give attention (praise) to the behaviour we want, it will increase, because after all, kids love receiving praise (don't we all?).
When we praise our child - catching them doing something good - they glow with pride and grow a few inches taller before our eyes. As a bonus, any other children within earshot hear the praise and want to get some too. This is proximal praise.
Watch how this works.
"Mummy come and see my room!" says little brother.
"WOW! You made your bed! What a beautiful job you have done, Scrag! And you got dressed all by yourself! Hey, you are great at being responsible! I am so proud of you!"
Pyjama-clad big brother glances up at messy top bunk.
Two minutes later....
"Muuum! Come and see my room!" calls big brother.
"WOW! you've made your bed and gotten dressed too! Great job Dash! And Scrag, look what a great role model you were for your big brother! Great bed-making, boys, I'm very proud of both of you..."
You shouldn't be surprised to know that little brother now makes his bed without fail every morning, and runs to drag me in and show me his efforts so he can get some of that lovely Praise.
He is three years old. His blanket is often lumpy, but I don't ever straighten it. I just sing his praises for all to hear and watch the rest go scurrying.
So with all of these warm fuzzies flying around, is it any wonder I felt awake enough to shake up a bottle of pancake mix and have a sit-down brekky midweek?
"WHEN YOU have made your beds and gotten dressed, THEN I will make pancakes..." I told them.
You should have heard the cheers and seen them go running. 7am and all beds made, kids dressed, pancakes frying. Scrag was my pancake helper, pouring the batter and greasing the pan.
Miss Fab set the table beautifully. Dash...? Well, at least he was dressed and had made his bed.
Daddy came home from the gym (he's always an early riser) and couldn't believe his eyes. Pancakes on a school-day morning? Lunchboxes made, kids dressed, beds made...all before 8 o'clock????!!!
Yep, miracles do happen, occasionally.
Can't say pancakes will be a regular thing.
But Playing and Praising are here to stay.