Momhood

Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Kill 'Em With Kindness

The other night, my husband and I attended a talk at our daughter’s grade school given by a child psychologist. She was speaking to us about parenting techniques. She was highly recommended by parents from another school in the area. We found her to be very animated, outgoing and funny, which in my book should be the criteria for anyone that speaks to me in a group setting. I mean, honestly, I’m 45 years old, a member of the TV generation and I have the attention span of a 5-year old. If I have to sit still and hear something serious, I am so falling asleep. Don’t believe me? Watch me in my car when I’m waiting to pick up my daughter from school: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Anyway, this psychologist, we’ll call her Dr. Mary, decided to pick on ME first out of all of the parents there. She asked what problem I was having with my children. What I should have said was: “How long do we have tonight?” Instead, I just said: “Attitude. Teenage attitude.” This was enough and launched her into a discussion of how this was perfectly normal and she proceeded to give out various tips and techniques for successfully dealing with teens with attitude.

Then, another mom asked how she could get her kids to do something without having to ask 10 times. Dr. Mary then explained that the best approach is to compliment the child first and then ask them to do something. Ohhhhhh, that’s all I have to do? Doh! I could have been doing this years ago. It’s that simple, really? OK, I’m going to practice now:

“Honey, that mold culture that you’re growing on your bedroom floor under your dirty clothes is really colorful! Could you please throw your underwear down the laundry chute this month?”

or

“Wow, 265 people on your buddy list! That’s quite an accomplishment. Please make sure you start on your homework before 10:30 pm tonight.”

or

“I’m so impressed by the variety of ringtones on your cell phone! Could you please hang up so that we can get to school on time?”

Huh. Who knew that parenting was this easy? Actually, all I could really think when she suggested this technique was: “Have you talked to a teenager recently?” It’s not that I’m questioning her credentials or her experience, but in my house, complimenting a teenager sends up a red flag faster than the word “like” will fly out of her mouth. Teens are, by nature, cynical and skeptical, which is exactly how we moms got that way too. If we say something nice to each other, the first thought is: “What does she want?” It just seems like there should be something a little more stealth like reprogramming their brain stems while they sleep.

Still, I have to give Dr. Mary some props. After all, she’s the person that you send your kid to after you’ve pulled your hair out and your kid has been kicked out of school and you’re ready to lose your mind. There might be something to her tricks of the trade, so to speak. And even though I’ve threatened to send my kids to military academies, I’m OK with slugging it out the old fashioned way – one argument at a time.

“Honey, that’s such a unique way of expressing how you feel! Could you please.....”

40 Comments:

At 1:45 PM , Blogger Shannon said...

2 things---one, I think its very unreasonable to act like just because we change our tone they will snap to order. I know my 8 yr old already tunes out everything but a raised voice. But hey thats just me. Then of course theres the PTA meeting, the papers they handed out had no notes, just scribbles. Its a wonder I graduated.
Here from Micheles

 
At 1:47 PM , Blogger Karen said...

from one Karen to another...
"hi" from Michele's!

 
At 2:51 PM , Blogger mar said...

Wonderful!!! this is a teenager-free weekend at home, the phone is quiet, no loud music is being played, his room is picked up. Life can be so good. But tomorrow I will be missing him. Such is life in momhood! Michele sent me this time.

 
At 3:50 PM , Blogger Ciera said...

Oh my gosh! Here from Michele's. Was highly amused by some of your -compliment/ask scenarios.

 
At 7:54 PM , Blogger Star said...

the important question is "does Dr. Mary have kids?"

 
At 8:09 PM , Anonymous netchick said...

Crap, that's funny. Perhaps I should try that with my neice who never listens. Hey, sweetie, your hair looks lovely when you don't brush it. Could you please clean up your room?

Thanks for the laugh!

Here from Michele's!

 
At 8:12 PM , Blogger Juliabohemian said...

it probably sounds dumb but it couldn't hurt to try. As a teenager I would have been thrilled to receive something like a compliment from my Mom. Of course I would have had trouble believing it...

Your examples are great, though. I think the Dr probably meant more like. "The last time you cleaned your room, it looked so great. I would love it if you would do that again."
Hey, you never know.

 
At 8:44 PM , Blogger Marisa said...

I'm here from somewhere in the middle.

IF you think it's hard to get your kids to listen to you when they're teenagers, try being their attorney!

 
At 9:43 PM , Blogger kontan said...

ok...I am going to try that this weekend. Dedicating myself to the task now. I have a nine year old and a five year old. Tomorrow I will compliment first request second. Be back with a report on how that goes...

 
At 9:45 PM , Blogger kontan said...

Marissa said "IF you think it's hard to get your kids to listen to you when they're teenagers, try being their attorney!"

let me add or their teacher.

TGIF!

 
At 10:03 PM , Blogger scrappintwinmom said...

Aw man, my girls are only two, and I'm already dreading the teen years! Here via Michele today!

 
At 10:06 PM , Blogger Chrixean said...

i really enjoyed this post. thanks for the insights! My son is only 7 years old, and already he's killing me with his disobedience (well, sometimes he does). man, this just means I've got a looooong way to go....

Here via Michele's, btw. Have a great weekend!

 
At 10:53 PM , Blogger kenju said...

I remember reading on another blog recently, one written by a woman psychologist; that she was going to talk to a bunch of parents about parenting. I had to stop and think if she could be the one you were referring to.....LOL

 
At 10:58 PM , Blogger Malinda777 said...

Too funny, I have teenagers too. Isn't parenthood the journey of a lifetime (literally)

Here from Michele

 
At 4:20 AM , Anonymous Charles said...

I'll keep this short because I know you will only read for a few seconds... attention span of a 5 year old et al... LOL.

I agree with what you say about teens being skeptical. I also like the idea of re-programming the stem cells. Maybe a chip implant? If you invent it, I'll deliver the promos in a funny, animated way... we could do infomercials! Frustrated parents with insomnia would sign up in droves. Like, if they can't sleep, then what better way to spend their time than installing the chips? O my gawd!

 
At 6:57 AM , Blogger sage said...

Down south, where I grew up, mothers motivate their children the old fashion way--with guilt. Why couldn't you be like your cousin, or like so and so from scouts, or like the preacher's kids... When I was in my late 20s, I had a heart to heart talk with my mom.

"Mom, did your sister tell you why her son didn't finish college? Did she happen to mention anything about his drug experiences? And that guy from the scouts who you thought was such a high achiever, did you know he was the one who first introduced all the rest of us to girlie magazines and pot? And the preacher's kids, well, we won't even go there."

So if kindness doesn't work for you, and guilt didn't work for me, I suppose the only other sane option is abandonment. -I'm here from Michele's.

 
At 8:02 AM , Blogger Viamarie said...

It's better said than done. Well anyway, it was a very informative post. Thanks for sharing it.

Michele sent me today.

 
At 8:09 AM , Blogger Prego said...

Jeez. I don't need a shrink to tell me that one. I'm a middle school teacher, so I get the teen-attitude tenfold. Surprisingly, it works.

It also works on my four year old.

Me: Wow, you can run really fast. See how fast you can pick up all these toys.
4 y.o.: Trot-trot-trot (compliance)

Here via Michele, tough it's nice to see you again. It's been a while. (to self) Must... link... Karen.....

 
At 9:57 AM , Blogger owlhaven said...

Not very in touch, huh? Parenting is just not that simple!

Mary

 
At 1:54 PM , Blogger mar said...

Hi, Michele sent me again your way.Parenting isn't an easy task but I wouldn't want to miss it.

 
At 3:39 PM , Blogger vanx said...

"Sweetie, you really do find the most interesting Reality TV programs. By the way, how is Project Algebra coming?"

"Snap! That is one interesting "art installation" you have going up in your room. Do you like the idea of artists bringing order to chaos?"

"Dr. Mary, I like your perspective and your knack for getting right to the point and just lifting the scales from our eyes. Do you have kids?"

~,:^)

 
At 11:57 PM , Blogger vanx said...

I'm trying to think of another complement/commandment, but I'm completely burned out. I really liked your post. It will be fun failing as a parent with the Dr. Mary method.~,:^)

 
At 8:47 AM , Blogger kenju said...

Hi, Karen, Michele sent me back this morning. Have you been any more successful with parenting since I was here last...? LOL

 
At 9:00 AM , Blogger The Mistress of the Dark said...

That compliment thing is a hoot. I think psychologists think most of us are stupid. Kids certainly. I think it might work a time or two..but after that..Ha!

Here via Michele's

 
At 10:28 PM , Blogger kenju said...

Michele sent me back, Karen, and the 3rd time's the charm.

 
At 10:30 PM , Blogger Kross-Eyed Kitty said...

LOL!
Here via Michele's
Don't have any teenagers, but I was one once. My mother still talks about how awful it was for her, and I'm 40 now! Good luck!

 
At 8:35 AM , Blogger Kimmy said...

Well that was too funny. Isn't it great to get parenting advice from people who are obviously NOT parents?! Honestly... "You have a wonderful ability to speak so freely without inhibitions. Now please go stuff it. Thank you." :)

Hello, Michele sent me. Sorry you were skipped. You made a pinky promise so I'm visiting :P

 
At 10:25 AM , Blogger Jess Riley said...

I have to learn how to be entertaining for a few speaking engagements I have on my calendar...*nervous*

And you know, I think the "compliment first, diplomatically suggest/criticize next" tactic works in lots of situations! :)

 
At 2:40 PM , Blogger Robin said...

wow...I really didn't NOTICE you living in my house, but with the mess around here it's entirely possible...LOL! Thanks for the visit today :)

 
At 8:50 PM , Blogger Mama B said...

LOL...I'm going to try that to see how it works. Here via michele.

 
At 11:09 PM , Blogger kontan said...

just an update...

you can imagine how it went over.

i so dread the teen years.

 
At 11:57 PM , Blogger jac said...

ROFLMAO! yeah but you know what....i wonder what they (the teens) would do if all the sudden you started talking like that???? that would be an interesting little experiment! at the very least you know you'd be messing with their minds instead of the other way around for a change!
thanks for stopping by my place today!

 
At 8:36 AM , Anonymous Angela said...

Ha! I suppose I can see her point, but by that same token wouldn't the kid start to figure out at some point that the compliments are almost always followed by some kind of direction? Wouldn't that start to negate the compliment at some point? Teenagers are not stupid, and I think sometimes people forget that, lol! I sometimes think I was smarter as a teenager than I am today...

Michele sent me!

 
At 10:15 AM , Blogger the Intuitive Woman said...

I wish you much luck getting your teenager to do what they're supposed to. Even if you do, I'd almost guarantee if will still come with attitude. I think it's in the water at public schools. ;)

Michele sent me!

 
At 6:27 AM , Blogger kenju said...

Hi, Karen, Michele sent me this morning. Where have you been?

 
At 3:42 PM , Blogger Blog This! said...

I am reading your post in dismay - you mean the terrible two's arent the worst of it?! Things actually get WORSE as they get older?! Is it too late to throw in the towel on this whole parenthood thing?! Yeah probably...

Good luck to you! At least you can find humor in the situations.

 
At 5:34 PM , Blogger angela marie said...

No way. All the answers to parenting in one night! Sign me up! ;)

 
At 6:42 AM , Anonymous Laura said...

As a mom of two teenagers, I had to laugh when I read this post!

Was Dr. Mary on drugs? The day I have to go around complimenting my kids before I ask them to do something is the day I hang it up and head to the funny farm. THey're going to know in a NY second that something is up with all the compliments!
In the real world, their boss won't compliment them everytime he wants them to do a task. The cop won't compliment them before he gives them a ticket for speeding. And their future hub? God help him if they learn to expect a compliment every time something needs to be done.

I'm here via Micheles, a few days late, too. (typical of me). Loved your site!

 
At 12:07 AM , Blogger Shane said...

This may be the funniest post I've ever read in my life. heh heh. I think you should enter it in some sort of blog post contest.

 
At 3:21 PM , Blogger panthergirl said...

Hahahaha.... I'm laughing because the reverse is true, too. Whenever my son approaches me with "You're the BEST MOM IN THE WHOLE WORLD..." I brace for something really, really unpleasant to follow...

 

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