You guys, it's so nice to hear from you! I didn't think anybody was going to wade through that whole post, so thanks! This is making me nostalgic for 2005.
Alexandra said that perhaps I could write a book, which I appreciated very much. I do not think, however, that a book is in the cards. Here is most of what my book would say:
- Think carefully about the good habits that are (a) important for your family and (b) suitable for your kids' ages and temperaments
- Enforce those habits kindly and consistently
- Repeat #2 for months or years until it sticks
This is why Jo Frost's website gets more hits than mine, right? This is me telling you that we started the croissants at 1 on Sunday and they weren't done until 7:30 and we washed a lot of dishes and wiped up a lot of flour in between. Even though I tell you how pretty and golden brown they were, and how delicious the kids said they were (which I can't corroborate -- thanks, Whole 30), I would be completely sympathetic if you thought a can of frozen crescent rolls sounded more doable.
But I do want to write a bit about establishing good habits. If you can teach the kids to internalize your "do it now and do it right" voice, then you rarely have to use it. I only have ten minutes before my self-imposed blogging cutoff (that's the habit that equips me to be more patient with kids who need patience), but I'm going to throw out some thoughts and pick them up again tomorrow.
Here's an analogy that occurred to me: in teaching our kids to take on adult responsibilities, we are teaching them a foreign language. Fluency in another language takes years. No one ever hears a 5yo say "I satted down" and snarls "WHY are you STILL adding -ed to irregular past-tense verbs? What is WRONG with you?" (We would hope that such a person was taking anger management classes.) And yet we expect kids to get it quickly when it comes to responsibilities and adult behavior. I have said it myself: how many times do I have to tell you?
The answer: a lot. A lot a lot a lot a lot. You don't notice all of the English (or whatever language you speak at home) you're modeling for your kids. You don't notice all of their errors, because you have absorbed the truth that kids make mistakes with language. It is every bit as normal to make mistakes, to sound babyish, as they learn Adult.
I used to underestimate the bandwidth that was required from me for habit formation. I had told them we were going to do this every day. I had made it clear that this was their responsibility. End of story, right?
If I can't muster the follow-through, I'm not going to see the habits form. Good habits are another of the Golden Keys to authoritative parenting: they can carry you through annoying chores, previously soul-sucking sibling conflict negotiations, responsibilities like piano practice, you name it. But kids need support to get to the point where it's all automatic and they wouldn't dream of flaking out -- the point where they spontaneously apologize and offer to do one of your tasks* if they happen to forget one of theirs. They can get there, and you don't have to bribe or threaten or yell along the way. But you have to have the bandwidth to make it happen.
Oh, rats, I got excited and missed my cutoff. More soon!
*That's a rare occurrence. Apologies are common; voluntarily taking on more work is not.