Tuesday, September 19, 2017

4 Ninja Mama Moves to Get Your Child to Bed

Originally published on parent.co on July 16, 2017 without the first paragraph.

There are nights when it seems that my son has reached the apex of new silliness.  I mean, he becomes totally unglued.  Flopping on the ground like a spawning fish, word play that involves creating an almost complete new language, and selective hearing that would make a certain president proud.

In a few words: it's frustrating.  Luckily, I've managed to come up with a few ninja moves with have proven effective.

Ninja move #1: The walk and talk move
As he launches into some sort of silly story, verbose explanation about the construction of hovercrafts and their unique propeller, solar systems, and capability, I turn to him and say, "Tell me more as we're walking upstairs."  This gets the little legs moving but still allows him to chat chat chat away.  Note: this move can also be used effectively when dressing, undressing, and re-dressing in pajamas.

Ninja move #2: Code words
My son and I have come up with some code words that mean, Mama is serious.  Dead serious.  Time to cut this shit and get serious, too.  Our code words are "chocolate chip."  The word "chocolate" gets his attention every time.  "Chocolate chip" adds to the length of it and grabs him even more.  When I say, "Chocolate chip," he knows I'm fed up.  Time to knock it off and get serious. It's also a lot more fun than saying, "Time for teeth - no really, time to do your teeth.  No. Really.  Time. For. Teeth."

Ninja move #3: Invoke competition and lovies
My son can be very competitive, and I must confess I'm willing to use it to my advantage when necessary.  Suddenly, his racing to my bedroom trying to run away turns into me saying, "I bet I can get to your bedroom faster than you! Oh, those babas [his word for blankets] are gonna feel so cozy . . . All for me!"  Truly, I've stacked two moves together: the first is how I'm going to win, and the second is that I've involved two of his beloved objects.

Ninjas move #4: One-upping the one upper.
This is the mother of all ninja mama moves for bedtime silliness. It works when I realize that all serious talk is ineffective.  I generally find I prefer not to issue threats (when I'm tired, the threats get BIG), so this move has become golden.  When I say, "Take off your pajamas," and his response is to pseudo-copy with, "Pake opp py papamas?"  I realize that it's game on.  I respond, "Zake ozz zer zalama bama bozamas."  I take his words, make them sillier, and even add.  This is key.  This move not only one-ups the game but short-circuits his silliness capacity for an inkling of a second.  During this move, I might add, "Zow your zeeth."

Sometimes this move is so crazy effective that he doesn't know what the hell I'm talking about.  "Zeeth" is an easy one, but I have been known to throw in some humdingers, just get him asking questions.  Yeah, it's a power move, but at the end of the day, I'm tired.  If I can break the cycle, then we all get to bed earlier.

So there you have it.  What are your ninja moves for getting your child to bed?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Sewing the Seeds of Self-Esteem

Licensed by Creative Commons. Taken by the saltr

“Mama, can I say a bad word?”  My 6 year-old son’s word piqued my attention.  This wasn’t the first time he had asked such a question.  It certainly wouldn’t be the last. “Sure,” I responded.“Can I call myself a jerk?”

The question was surprising to me.  We had often talked about not swearing at someone or at each other, but that someone had never included swearing at himself.  I did the thing I often do when I’m slightly surprised and perplexed:  I got curious.
I find this is probably one of the important pieces of this conversation.  I could have told him, “Of course not!”  I could have judged.  “Why would you do such a thing?”  Instead, I got curious.  Kids have logic for things.  It is sometimes very naive logic (see “Kid Logic” on This American Life for great examples), but it is logical, and they do have reasons.

  1. Why would you call yourself a jerk?
I asked him this and I kept any judgment out of my voice.  He was asking for a reason; I would hear it.  “To be funny,” he said.  I imagined all of the ways in which he could be funny: knock-knock jokes, plays on words, jokes that defied any sort of sense whatsoever, but here was a different kind of joke: the self-deprecating one, that one that made him the lowest in the stack and the others better than him.

2. The things we say about ourselves are the things we begin to believe.
“Well . . . “ I drew out the answer while I probed my brain for an answer.  “You could say that, but why would you really want to?  Here’s the thing, sometimes I’ve done something, I really was a jerk.  In my apology, I can very seriously tell someone, ‘I was a jerk.’   But to call myself a jerk to make someone laugh. It means I make myself look worse, so someone else feels better.”

I got close to him and explained more.  I believe the things we say about ourselves are the things we begin to believe. Even when we’re joking, do we really want to believe that?  For me, this is the foundation of self-esteem: how we talk about and to ourselves when we make mistakes, and how we talk about ourselves in front of others is critical.

3. There are many ways to be funny without being self-deprecating.
“You know,” I said, “you could call yourself a jerk, and I’d never know.  I’d find other ways to be funny - because you are funny - without speaking that way to yourself.  Do you think you could do that?”  We talked about all the different ways this could happen.  In truth, kids are very creative, and when you create space to be silly and funny, they will often run with that.  That’s the exact thing we did.

I don’t know if he has called himself a jerk since then, but I’ve never heard him say that to any other kid or to himself in front or around me.  My hope is that this is one of those moments when he gets the impact of his words - not only on others, but on himself.  My hope is to weed out those small shoots of negativity before they ever really take root.  After all, this is the very beginning of self-esteem, and I want my son’s to be luminous and healthy.

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