Thursday, November 13, 2014

It's Sink or Swim Time

An article in the Huffington Post (read it here) spurred me to put my fingers to the keys and post after a too long absence from blogging. The article, entitled Are We Raising A Generation of Helpless Kids?, has been a topic of frequent conversation here lately between Daddy-O and I. In the past few years we have had more moments of burying our faces in our hands and sighing "Where did we screw up? How did (insert minion's name here) become a slacker?!"

Don't misunderstand me, our minions aren't total incorrigible, lazy, unmotivated, feeling entitled to whatever they desire children. The problem we are working to correct is that with five children, ranging in age from seventeen to nine, it seems like there is always one behaving like an incorrigible, lazy, unmotivated, feeling entitled to whatever they desire child. And when that behavior shows itself we feel like we have failed that child. 

We realized that saving them too often when they were younger didn't help them, it hurt them. In our quest to make sure they were happy, stress free and successful we stole pieces of their independence and failed to teach them that every choice has a consequence and a person must accept and live with the ultimate outcome of their decisions. Every time one of us drove like a bat out of Hell to take a forgotten item to school, every time we stayed up until o'dark thirty finishing a project while they slept, we saved them from facing the natural consequence of their actions. That was poor parenting!

It is a thousand times harder to change bad habits in ourselves and our children after years of giving in to them, but it is worth it. Do I want my twenty five year old calling and asking  me to bring his briefcase to work because he forgot it? NO! Do I want to have my thirty year old child at my house napping while I finish up his/her work project? NO!

As horrible as it sounds, we have adopted a sink or swim, your choice your consequence attitude over the past two years. It's hard, no doubt. When bedtime comes and there is unfinished homework I feel nauseous. I have to force myself not to give them the answers quickly or do it for them. I have to remind myself that the goal isn't an 'A' in math but to raise a responsible, independent, motivated adult who can function in the world and contribute positively to society.

For those wondering what we have done to correct our mistakes, I'll give you a few pointers.

  • We charge a fee for bringing forgotten items to school/sports practice. The fee is the current taxi rate. Every minion gets one freebie - because hey, everyone forgets something sometime - but after that a forgotten library book delivery is $1.75 per mile. The choice is theirs, pay the fee or accept the consequence of not getting a new library book that week.
  •  Reminders are given to complete homework twice. We will help a minion understand the material, provide the resources for the assignment, but we won't give the answers or do the work for them. My childrens' school projects now arrive in the classroom LOOKING like they did them themselves. If a minion chooses to ignore the reminders and not do their work they live with the natural consequence of their choice: missed recess, loss of privileges at home and at school. We no longer force homework to be done, but we do enforce consequences for unfinished work. 
  • Needs are always provided for, wants are earned or bought with money earned through work. There is not an endless supply of money available in this home, the money tree in the backyard never grew, the odds are pretty high those two things will remain constant for our minions' entire lives. It is far better to learn the relationship between money and work at nine than it is at forty.....

Will we ever be nominated for Parents of the Year? I seriously doubt it. Will we have to explain why homework or projects are incomplete to teachers sometimes? Yes, I just did that exact thing yesterday! Will we spend many hours over the next decade seeing a sad, pouty face because we refused to buy something a minion wanted? Hell yes. When our minions are leaving the nest and forging their path in the adult world will they be responsible, motivated, independent and proud of themselves for their accomplishments? That's the plan, and we hope and pray we give them the tools for that.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The REAL School Supply Shopping List

Buying school supplies for five minions, ranging from a senior in high school to a fourth grader, is huge undertaking. Add in that two minions have attention deficit disorder and two are on the autism spectrum spectrum and it becomes a chore that ranks right under childbirth without medication. Because I'm a giving person who wants nothing more than to help my friends whenever I can, I'm going to share my school supply shopping plan of attack and the items you actually have to buy. Heed me friends, I've done this for a lot of years and I've now got it down to an exact science! 

The most important rule in tackling the supply list shopping is to NEVER let a child go with you! It adds 4 hours and $200 to the total cost. If you don't take my advice I don't want to hear your whining when you get home with half the list, a case of wine and a migraine.

It is best to divide and conquer, to shop in waves so to speak. Tackle the adhd lists first:

Pens and pencils - Triple the amount listed, buying the least expensive #2 pencils and ballpoint pens available. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES send the amount on the list to school the first day. If you do, you will start day 2 of school with a child telling you they have no pencils or pens and raiding your extra supplies!

One Binder and Folder - The list for middle school and high school students will say to have a folder for each subject. DO NOT WASTE THE MONEY buying that many. Your child will stuff every single flippin' paper in ONE folder, if you're lucky enough to get them to use one folder, or jam rumpled papers in their backpack for you to dig through searching for the form that HAS to be turned in the next day or the world will cease to exist.

The Biggest 3 Ring spiral bound notebook you can find - Loose leaf paper? Are you a masochist?!?!! Trust me, it is an accomplishment worthy of a chocolate fountain and free flowing champagne if your child can find assignments and notes in the one huge notebook. Giving them loose leaf paper is just asking to be on a teacher or principal's speed dial.

The Sturdiest Calculator you can afford - If they are on sale and you can swing it, buy three. And for the Love of all that's Holy, buy the extended warranty! 

Sharpie Marker, Black - Use this to plaster your child's name on EVERYTHING, including their jacket/coat, backpack and maybe even their arm. Hey, laugh if you want but I've seen too many "No Name" papers to run the run the risk that he might not remember who he is......

Now, wave one is finished so take a day or two break and celebrate! Right after you hide everything you bought. DO NOT give school supplies to your adhd child and expect them to get into their backpack. YOU put them in the backpack the night before school starts, then hang the backpack (and lanyard if they wear one) on the knob of the door they use to leave in the morning.

We're ready for Wave 2 - The autism student supply list:

Pencils & Pens - Price is not considered for these. You know just like I do that he/she will use only ONE exact type and brand of each. Bite the bullet and buy them by the crate. Seriously, if you don't and get the call saying "He/She is refusing to work because they don't have the RIGHT pencil/pen" I will not feel badly for you. HIDE THESE from everyone else in the house. If you have a safe, lock them away. Again, trust me, it's for your own sanity.

A HUGE Binder and folders - A folder for each subject is good. Just remeber that at no point during this school year can the color, texture, look or feel of these folders change. Plan ahead and buy in bulk. One little rip in the pocket will be cause to curl into a fetal position and lament the loss so be prepared to replace folders at the first sign of any wear or tear!

Loose Leaf Paper - My advice is to clean the store out. Those little paper things on the side of a sheet torn from a spiral bound notebook are the enemy! It will take your child three times longer to make the paper "perfect" than it will to complete whatever assignment is on the paper. Not to mention the erasing holes in the paper, which leads to the paper being tossed and starting over, which leads to using MORE paper.....

Calculator - Make sure it is the EXACT one on the supply list. Your child will check and compare and woe to you if it doesn't match. Again, buy two or three - once they use it they will likely refuse to EVER change brand/model so have a stock pile.

White Out - Buy it by the gross.

Once you've bought all this, watched your child thoroughly examine each purchase and determine it is "right" you can load up backpacks with their guidance. Because everything will have an exact spot where it MUST go. Put the loaded backpack in "their spot" - you know, the spot in your house where if anyone else places something World War III commences and pour yourself a glass of wine or cup of coffee to celebrate a job well done.

Best of luck this school supply shopping year! Remember, it could be worse - it could still be summer vacation and the grocery bill that goes along with that.