Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Feeding the Good

Roscoe fills the house with piano music.

I remember one afternoon when Roscoe was a baby, lying on the bed gazing into his beautiful face and thinking, "I am a perfect mom." I was! I crept around the house all day with him protecting him from loud noises or even minor disruptions. I was responsive and loving and securely attached. But I as soon as I had that thought, I also realized my perfection would certainly end once this parenting thing got more complicated than snuggles and coos.

Fast forward: Last night I sat in bed after everyone else was asleep, weeping because I am failing one of my children. Now don't jump in and say that's not true and I'm a great mom, because really in some significant ways I'm not doing what this child needs, and so, I decided, I must change what I'm doing.

Haley colors Elmo using her perfect pencil hold.

So I brainstormed and wept and doodled all over the sudoku I was allegedly doing with phrases like: Why does he do it? What need is it filling? attention - be noticed - stop and look - engage Where can I start? Notice the good. There's not much of it. The good he does gets no response.

And then things congealed into some clarity, and I wrote two phrases that have become our parenting mantra:

Don't feed the fire.

Feed the good.

Logan arrived home from school wearing a blue bindi, which he said is the sign he is a Mindswapper from Asteroid 6. Of course.

I woke Mark and shared the news. Then as I drifted to sleep, I replayed all my interactions during that day and envisioned how I would respond with my new focus on feeding the good.

I used to feel Roscoe forced me to be a positive parent because he would crumple with guilt and shame if I was negative. Now this other child is helping me be a more positive parent because if I tell him his actions were bad he'll believe he is bad. When my kids do something good, Mark and I sigh with relief and rush on to the next thing. But when they do something bad we screech to a halt and describe in great detail why and how it was wrong. This particular child seems to feed on that, like fuel to a fire. And we've got to change that dynamic 180 degrees.

So here are picture of my children being good today. (Except Levi! Who was very good indeed.) And of course as I concentrated on the feeding the good, I saw lots of good to feed. But I also saw how much the kids want me to see the good. How after they do something good, they stand poised for a milisecond hoping I'll notice and swoop down upon them with praise.

And of course, a picture of Jesse being naughty. Here he stands, not sits, in Haley's chair, not his highchair. He is throwing Kix onto the chair, then stamping them into dust with his little jammied feet. And I smiled and kissed him and took a picture. How's that for positive parenting!


  1. That's a good mantra. You may have to remind me of that one in a couple of years.
    And what is it with our 18 month olds crushing things? As soon as you hand Asher a cracker his latest trick is to grind into this highchair tray until it is dust. Then whack the dust with his hand sending it flying in all directions. Then he cries for more crackers.

  2. My "most-likely-to-be-strangled" child is my first if you can believe it. He has many wonderful qualities, some of them he came with and some he inherited by being a first child, but the few short comings he has are driving me crazy!

    I have been working on complimenting my kids lately. Not in a "I'm complimenting you so you'll act right again" kind of way but in a very sincere "I really appreciate your help" kind of way. I'm hoping it will make up for all the times I criticize. All I can hope for is a positive ratio!