Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Positive Discipline Tool Card: Special Time

(originally published on Reepicheep's Coracle)

First of all, let me say that the name of this card, Special Time, kind of makes me want to barf. I don't know why; perhaps one of my X chromosomes is damaged in some way. But I wish it was called "Do something cool together" or "Spend time with the people you love" or even the dreaded "Quality time." But when I can get past the name, I really love this card.

(You can find these cards here, and there's even an IPhone app. The cards are reminders of how many great tools are in our kits that we sometimes forget to use.)

The card says, "Schedule special time that is different from regular time. 1. Take the phone off the hook. 2. Take turns choosing an activity you both enjoy from a list you have brainstormed together. 3. Age guidelines: 2-6 years old - 10 min/day, 7-12 years old - at least 30 min/week, 13 and older - once a month something your teen can't resist."

I love this card because Livy and I are very different. We like to do different things a lot of the time, and though we spend A LOT of time together (ask any homeschooler just how much), it's not always doing something together (not just next to each other) that both of us just love. When we do this, I notice that we talk more, we argue less, and much less discipline is required because it's so easy to be respectful of each other.

I feel like the times might be kind of small, but if I worked away from Livy and if I had lots of kids, maybe I would see that differently.

So what does this have to do with discipline, you may ask? I touched on this above; when we are all filled up with loving each other, we get along better. We have fewer arguments to problem solve about, and we are more willing to help each other with chores and problems.

Focused time for us to be together prevents either of us from feeling left out or overlooked. A lot of poor behavior can spring from the desire to get noticed, to get some attention; check out my post on the Mistaken Goal chart. And not just Livy's behavior either. When I feel left out of her life and like we are growing apart, I get snarky and bossy. This card helps me too! As all positive discipline tools do!

Finally, this card improves discipline because so much of positive discipline has to do with joint problem solving and effective communication. Much of what we do boils down to:
I feel ______ because ________, and I wish ______, followed by trying to find mutually agreeable solutions. Why on earth should either of us listen to the other or care about the other's feelings if we aren't feeling close? I don't stop and use effective communication on random loiterers in the street. If I want this kind of problem solving to work, we have to be highly invested in each other's happiness and moral development.

So what do we do for this special time? Livy loves to fall asleep in my bed at night, and that's a great special time for us. We get all cuddled up, and she just drifts off as we watch a movie or as Aaron and I chat. We go to Whitewater together and do waterslides. We play games, like Yahtzee or Skip-bo. We listen to audiobooks together. And I make sure to let Livy know that these times are really important to me; time spent with her is essential to my happiness, and I want her to know it.

A picture of Livy falling asleep on me, one of the activities both of us love that makes us feel super connected.

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