When positive reinforcement isn’t necessarily the only, or best way

I truly and honestly try to keep in mind on a daily basis that simple positive reinforcement may have its place in parenting as long as one realizes that it can, and will, make them dependent on those positive lines, rather than independent and able to think for themselves.

What a loaded statement.

What I’m trying to tell myself, to remind myself, regularly, daily, even hourly, is that with my help, whether it’s of a positive  nature or of a simple neutral (albeit sometimes LOUD) nature, the idea is to get those kids to think for themselves.

There are too many kids, teenagers, who, as they get older, continue to depend on adults such as their parents, to do everything for them and can’t understand why the adults, who are now 20 years older, are sick and tired and pissed off at them all the time.

“Get your own food”.

“Take the bus, I’m not your taxi driver”.

“Get a job”.

It doesn’t occur to these parents that they are part of the problem. That they, in their efforts to protect their precious offspring over the years, did them a grave disservice in being their constant cook/maid/taxi-driver etc.

Happened in my own extended family…I see it today, with two teenage girls who cannot boil water for a pot of pasta.

“They’re too young, they don’t know how, they’ll burn themselves” was the constant excuse.

Now they ask grandma for MacDonalds every other day.

“The bus is not safe, they’ll get kidnapped/attacked/bullied” was the constant excuse when they wanted to go to the mall or a friend’s house.

Now they call mom or grandma at midnight or later for a drive home from who knows where.

I will not let this happen to my kids. My kids are 5 and 3 but as far as I’m concerned, they can, and do, and will continue to take responsibility for their lives, their activities, their friends, their stuff. And we parents, and their extended families, will help them to get there.

They already have calendars.

They have stickers to help them see what’s what on calendars.

They have us parents who are helping them by talking to them, showing them, and setting examples by doing something. All of which in return should be enough to encourage them to participate in the few household activities we expect them to participate in.

Little activities, like setting the table at supper time. There are enough clues indicating that supper is imminent…they are old enough to, with a little nudging on our part, notice that we won’t be able to sit down and eat until the cutlery has been placed on the table, for example. No reason why those two little rascals can’t help with getting that table set.

See what I’m getting at?

What I’m trying to say is very simple in principle. And our little situation this morning drives this point home once again.

Every Sunday morning, both kids are in swimming lessons.

They have a basket with their swim stuff in it, including swim goggles and what have you.

They also have a basket for shoes, including  crocks or water shoes.

When we start getting their towels set out for putting in a bag, they should, by now, take that as enough of a hint that they need to get their bathing suits put on underneath their clothing. To get their goggles placed by the towels. To find their crocks and either wear them, or put them on the pile.

Certainly I don’t expect them to do this every single time without me asking or encouraging at this age, although there are plenty of indications that Ben especially is capable of picking up the clues and taking initiative on his own.

A few little comments, whether positive or neutral, should be enough for them to get going with their responsiblities.

Sometimes it is.

Sometimes it isn’t…like today. I was distracted and on edge and haven’t slept well, DH was…I don’t know, distracted, there was a situation where Ben couldn’t find his goggles, and no one remembered the crocks.

The crocks are not essential, except today would have been a very good day to have them since there were two signs in the girls’ change room that there was broken glass on the floor.

See what I’m saying?

I expect those two kids to participate in the preparations for their recreational activities.

But it’s a lesson for all of us to learn. How to make this a smooth learning experience for ALL of us is the challenge here.

But it’s a challenge we, as a family, are up for.

Just sayin’.


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