Don’t Let The Weeds Take Over (forming good habits)

Kid in Library

Lately I feel as if I am talking in a circle.  Here is a synapses of my daily vocalizations to my kids for what seems like every day for the past few months:

“Good morning.  Breakfast is almost ready.  I need you to get dressed and make your bed.

“Don’t run in the house.”

“Don’t argue.”

“Go. Get. Dressed.”

“Toys don’t go in front of the door when I tell you to put them away.  They go in the bins.”

“Inside voices please.”

“Use nice words.”

“Why is your bed not made?”

“When I say ‘take it to your room’ it means to put it away where it belongs, not just throw it on the floor.”

“Don’t run in the house.”

“Don’t talk back when I ask you to do something.”

“Why is your coat on the floor and not on the hook above it?”

“Nice touches.”

“Don’t run.”

“Was that a nice thing to say?”

“Don’t shout at me, I’m standing right in front of you.”

“Don’t run.”

“Don’t shout in the house.”

Okay, did you get the feeling like I was saying the same three or four things in a zillion different ways?  Yeah, me to.  The thing is, I’ve gotten into a bad habit of nagging.  I’ve caught myself saying, “Why do I have to repeat myself?  Why do you need me to tell you the same thing over and over?”

The biggest thing to annoy me is having to remind a particular child every time we leave the house to go “TO the car, not to step in the mud/snow/water puddle/play with toys.”  And once there, “now sit down and BUCKLE UP! …. (1 minute later, with kid staring out the window) why aren’t you buckled yet?”  Then when it is time to get out of the car, the same kid will sit there and wait for me to say, “Come on, unbuckle….GET. OUT. OF. THE. CAR.” Yup, every time.  Now, do you think the kid doesn’t know what to do, or do you think this kid is just choosing to wait till I say it YET AGAIN?  Yeah, I agree.  Trust me, this kid is smart and has my number.

I’ve known that I need to do something about it, but wasn’t sure what.  Like many times when we are in the middle of the thicket, it is hard to see the way out.

path through trees forest

Last night I was going through some files from an old computer, trying to see if anything could be deleted.  I re-found a book called, Smooth and Easy Days with Charlotte Mason by Sonya Shafer.  (Free download at the link provided.) It was exactly the map I needed, yet again, to start finding my way back.  The book itself is about forming habits, as encouraged by Charlotte Mason.  While I may not agree with everything to the ‘T’, I do agree that forming good habits early on does make life easier for the mother now and for the child when they become adults.

Early on, we started some of these habits with our foster kids out of the idea of wanting them to go back home knowing how to do things for themselves.  With that goal in mind, many of the habits we first started working on focused on self sufficiency skills.  (Additionally, we hoped it would make my days easier as I wouldn’t have to do everything for everyone all the time.  It worked, it did make my days easier, eventually.)

By the age of 4 our foster kids have been able to dress themselves and make their beds, after meals they take their dishes to the kitchen, and when they come in the house they take off their shoes.  Those are a few of the daily habits we have formed.  You would think by now they don’t need reminders, yet I find myself reminding them every day.  Now tell me, who here has formed the habit – me, remembering to remind, or the kids, waiting till mom says something.  Yup, you are right again.  I am the one who has formed the habit.

And it is this habit, me having to remind nag constantly, that has led me to feel like I’m annoyed and mad all the time.  Why?  Because I am mad and annoyed all the time, feeling that I have to keep repeating myself and no one is listening.

So, now it is time to break the habit of nagging.  Time to step back and help the kids form the good habits they need in life, whichever one applies at the time, so I can use less useless words during the day to nag remind and more words to uplift and add joy to our lives.  It will be a process, of that I am aware.  But a process with a glorious ending.

When I was thinking on this earlier today I had the thought, “How did we get here?  When did this all start?  We were on such a good path, then things started to slip.”  Reading further through Smooth and Easy Days I realized what happened.  We were going along so well, and the kids were making such great progress I thought we could relax a little and enjoy ourselves.  It seems they took it to mean, “We don’t have to do anything anymore.  The rules no longer apply.  Freedom!!”  Hmm.

knocked over trashcan

Now what?  Well, now we begin again.

First, I’m going to try and not nag, but instead get them to think through their actions and see what they should have done/be doing.  I want their brains to make these connections.

Secondly, I am going to sit down with each one (and my husband) and talk about the habit we are going to work on.  I’m not going to set out a 5-point plan with flow charts and pictures.  Instead, I am going say something along the lines of:

“We’ve noticed you have had trouble lately with _(leaving your things laying around) and know you can do better.  What can we do to remind you to _(put your stuff away in its proper place) ?”

Then let the kid help form a plan.  Depending on the ages, we may need to give a few suggestions, but let the kid take ownership of the idea.

The hard part for me will be to follow through, day after day, till this habit is formed in them AND me.

Our foster kids have been with us for several years now, and it is actually in the adoption stage.  Our initial goals (easier days for me as the main caregiver and helping them be more self sufficient when they go home) are no longer the same goals we have for them now (easier days for us as parents, preparing them to be responsible adults, for others to enjoy being around them).  Knowing we have more time to work on different habits gives a longer time frame in which to work and look ahead to – years instead of weeks or months.

Looking at the list of habits helped refresh my  mind on what may be most important to work on right now, rather than which we may actually be able to accomplish in a short time frame.

One kid in particular has gotten into a bad habit of “Yes” meaning “No” or saying “No” until the consequence presents itself then saying “I meant YES, I meant YES!”  This kid has also gotten into the habit of not obeying.  Without those two things, working on any of the other habits will be very difficult and not even worth my time.  {sigh}  Why didn’t I weed this garden sooner?

flower bed preremoval 2Like the garden above, if I let it continue the way it is going, it is only going to get worse.  Weeds always get worse after a rain, and I see a few in the forecast.  Better to set aside less important things and focus on weeding before those rains come and more roots are sent out.

new flowers in bed pansyWith time, effort, and love, even the most weed filled gardens can be turned into something beautiful again.


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