Sunday, May 1, 2011
Personal Growth Assignments AKA Cut the Crap!
Two summers ago, the boys were driving me crazy with little behavior issues. It wasn't anything big, just the simple (to me) little things. They are all smart little suckers who make me my head tired from trying to keep one step ahead. They are all very different from each other, so no one strategy works for all three of them. After feeling like I was making the same individual corrections over and over to each one and seeing no sign of enlightenment, I decided to bring them in on my effort. It was the end of the school year. No more homework. No more after school running. Perfect time. Time for some personal growth...to put it nicely.
Jake was (and somewhat still is) going through a period of little to no initiative. He isn't the kind of kid to see something that needs to be done and to do it without being told. He is quick at school, so sees little value in homework. He leaves clothes on the floor of the bathroom...daily. So that summer, his job was to take initiative.
Luke is a classic middle child. The difference between him and really classic middle children is that while he may feel slighted for attention on the surface, his personality is so big that it demands attention. He lacks nothing. He does however, in his artistic and emotional personality, think that everything is a big deal and must have justice (code for really he is a bit of a tattler). His job that summer was to learn to LET THINGS GO!!
Joseph, being the youngest, has the hardest time feeling heard. There are many times I have all three talking at once and it's mental overload. This includes Joseph, but he doesn't feel heard enough. To correct this feeling of invisibility, he hit people. He wasn't heard, he hit. He wasn't acknowledged, he hit. His feelings got hurt, he hit. Guess what his job was? Yep! Stop hitting.
At the end of the summer, they had some improvement believe it or not. And at the very least, they were more aware of these behaviors as they occurred. Luke would start a litanyy of tattling and would interrupt himself to say, "I'm letting it go, I'm letting it go."
So here we are two summers later. I guess last year they were pretty ok because I didn't assign anything. Or maybe I just didn't think of it. That's probably more like it. I forgot. This year...some problems the same, some new. They have been on Spring Break this week, and all of the togetherness brought to light some things we need to work on. The other night at dinner they were just having a moment....yes, it must have been them (and not me). I gave new assignments for this summer in a heated speech regarding each one's transgressions and the new behavior I expected.
I was telling my parents about the new jobs today at lunch. I asked Jake as he ran by.
"What's your personal growth assignment this summer?"
"Not to be an obnoxious teenage weirdo," he said.
That pretty much sums it up. He can not walk by without tapping you on the wrong shoulder and "making you look." This is not really ever fun, but it is REALLY annoying when I am trying to check out at the grocery store, or I am talking to another adult. He can not not touch people to annoy. He can not stop using sarcasm that is usually pretty funny, but also walks dangerously close to the line of disrespect. Having a sarcastic sense of humor myself, I sometimes let him get over that line...oops! So he is going to learn where the lines of appropriate teenage weirdness fall.
Luke had the same job as before. He still has not learned to let things go, and with preteen hormonal crap going on inside his little self, his behavior is exaggerated. So back to the drawing board for Luke! No reporting every transgression, no telling me how to right the serious wrongs of his brothers. No more sassy attitude.
In telling my parents, I couldn't think of what Joseph's job. As he wandered by, I said, "Joseph!"
"Joseph, what was you job for the summer?"
No answer. He didn't even turn around..
I turned around to my parents. "I just remembered what his job is....to learn to listen"