Yesterday, we talked about the necessity of establishing vision in keeping our cool when parenting our children. Today, as promised, I would like to offer you a practical tool to go along with your vision. This idea is not my own. Rather, the phrase was coined by our friend, Tim, a wonderful dad of 4 (almost 5) children.
A few years ago, Tim shared with us that he wanted to write an article entitled ‘Get Off Your Butt Parenting’. He went on to describe what this meant; however, I was hooked right away on the title alone.
I notice that when I am at home with my children and there is a situation that is starting to make my blood heat up, the majority of the time I can turn the situation around and completely avoid yelling by practicing ‘Get Off Your Butt Parenting’. The opposite, sitting on my butt, generally leads to an escalation of the situation which then leads to yelling.
Let’s look at an example from my home that is sure to take place today. Several times a day, before meals and before bedtime, our children are required to tidy the main floor and the little girls’ bedroom. Amazingly, no one has ever personally made the mess, so there is always complaining. There are also always accusations that certain people are not doing their share. If the mess is particularly bad, there are usually tears as the children state they can’t do it all.
If I choose to stay on my butt, I can try offering suggestions from afar, but this will usually involve yelling in order to be heard. When I am not in the room, I cannot tell if anyone is taking my suggestions. I cannot see if someone needs help knowing what to do. I can’t see if someone is not pulling their weight or is being unkind to a sibling. I also can’t tell if the kids are scamming and stuffing things where they don’t belong to expedite the clean-up. The room will probably not get cleaned up properly, the children will probably not learn to communicate better with each other or to co-operate to accomplish a team goal. I will probably become very frustrated at the constant tattling and the length of time it is taking to finish a simple task. However, remembering that our children are immature, inexperienced and still learning, it is no wonder this is the situation. What do people like this need? They need someone to come alongside them to teach and to guide.
Getting off my butt will yield a very different outcome. By getting off my butt, the frustrating situation above is turned into an opportunity for me to teach our children to learn to put things away properly and to learn communication skills and diffuse fighting by my helping them re-word things they say to their siblings. I can help good cleaners avoid resentment of their siblings who don’t naturally contribute as well.
Let’s look at another situation that just happened this morning.
Our little children are not allowed to go upstairs for just any old reason. Their bedroom is on the main floor, so all that happens if they go upstairs is trouble-making — mostly involving make-up and/or bandaids. This morning, one child went upstairs to use the bathroom, offering some lame excuse why she could not use the downstairs one. I let that go. However, then a second child went ‘to look for’ the other child. I called her to come back. She did not. I raised my voice slightly and repeated myself. Nope. I was happily knitting some very cool socks that I have almost finished. I had a choice to make and I made the wrong one. At this point, I should have set aside my knitting, stood up and gone upstairs to physically guide the child back downstairs, showing her that I was serious about my request. Instead, I needed to raise my voice further and speak very sternly. Three times a charm. She came down.
The cost for that 30 seconds of knitting time? I didn’t get to the stage of yelling, but I did teach my daughter that when I say something, the first two times, she can feel free to ignore me and wait until my voice reaches a certain level. Getting off my butt parenting applied in this situation would have shown her that when I say something, I mean it and therefore, she should obey. No guilt, however. This is a good learning situation for me.
Get off your butt parenting, I think, is the most effective parenting concept I know of. In recent years, Clay Clarkson wrote a book entitled Heartfelt Discipline which, I believe, does a great job of describing this type of parenting. They use the term ‘Hands Around Parenting’, which I also love. I think both terms speak to me in different situations.
So, I am both pleased to share this concept with you and sorry (in a not-really-sorry kind of way). If you are like me, you will no longer be able to let a situation escalate without thinking about how you could diffuse it and teach at the same time if you are willing to go the extra mile. I promise, it will be wonderfully rewarding to both you and your children.