Thursday, March 15, 2012

Twelve Terrific Times to Talk--#6: Penny for Your Thoughts---Letting Your Kids Know That You Want to Communicate With Them

#6: Penny for Your Thoughts, A Nickel for a Hug, and a Dime If You Tell Me That You Love Me

We have talked at length over the past year and a half about communicating with our kids. And how communication is a strong form of "teaching when..." The ditty above is a little chant that we used to say to our kids to remind them that we want to talk to them, that they are valuable to us, that we love them "ten million times infinity and beyond." From this saying, a valuable “object lesson” developed and tied the heartstrings of my son and me in a special way some ten to twenty years ago.

The rest of that jingle (after the infamous "penny for your thoughts") goes on to offer not only a penny for what the person is thinking, but also a nickel for a hug and ten cents if he or she says “I love you.”

Sixteen cents… a meager amount of change that elicits warm feelings (and, I admit, a few tears of longing) as I write this. Our oldest son and I used to take the “penny for your thoughts” a little further when he was a little boy—and repeat the rest of the jingle to each other, complete with a big hug and special “I love you.”

As Joshua grew up, we would occasionally remind each other of how much we love to talk—and how much we care for each other by giving each other sixteen cents. When he was in high school and worked part time, I would wake up in the morning to find him off to work—with a penny, a nickel, and a dime lying on my desk. When he would open his lunch box, he would sometimes find sixteen cents taped to the inside of his pail. Not enough money to buy lunch, for sure, but enough money to know that Mom will be waiting on him ready to talk when he gets home from work.

What objects might have special meaning to you and your child? Is there a special item that you can attach unique meaning to for one or more of your children? Is there a trinket, heart, words to a song, picture of the two of you, favorite picture book, etc. that can be utilized as an object “just for the two of you”?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Twelve Terrific Times to Talk--#5: Terrific Tuesday or Wonderful Wednesday

#5: Terrific Tuesday or Wonderful Wednesday

With the addition of another child every other year or so, we knew it was important to spend time with the older children. (We were taught by our early mentors to put as much time and energy into our first two kids as we possibly could, knowing that the “trickle down effect” of teaching would come into play.)

Note: This is another reason we have felt so strongly about not letting an eight month old, eighteen month old, or twenty-eight month old determine the entire family’s schedule [i.e. have a “toddler run home”]—it never felt right to let a toddler’s “wants” override a teen’s needs.) Anyway, because of the advice we received to invest significantly in our older kids for the “trickle down effect” (which majorly works, I might add), we always looked for ways to spend more time with Joshua (now 29) and Kayla (now 26). One of the ways I did this was to implement “Terrific Tuesday” or “Wonderful Wednesday.”

One afternoon a week (either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on our schedule) a different “older” child got to have Mom to himself or herself for a few hours. We tweaked our daily schedule (which usually involved Mom teaching/story time/lesson planning,
etc. In the afternoons) so that right after lunch, somebody else did story time with the litttles and got them to bed for their naps (one of the olders not having her “Terrific Tuesday” that day), and I gave my undivided attention to one of the other olders.

The child got to choose what we did for our afternoon together (though it couldn’t be expensive—just a few dollars at the most). I spent many a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon at the public library, reading a chapter book aloud at Dairy Queen, playing ping pong in the basement, or challenging a tween to a Scrabble or Rummikub match. And then, of course, as the title of this series suggests, in addition to being a “terrific Tuesday,” it also became another ‘terrific time to talk.”

When kids get their parents’ undivided attention, something happens within their hearts. There is a softening that takes place that doesn’t just happen when you are gathered around the game table or watching a movie as a family. Kids (especially tweens and teens) are very astute when it comes to their parents’ priorities. Showing our kids that they are truly our priorities causes a special bond that doesn’t just happen when we only make time for their sporting events, debates, or concerts.

And yes, it was a sacrifice for me. I used to (and continue to do so today with my writing work) have to work later in the evenings and often after the kids were in bed in order to get all of the work done that is required in raising a large family and homeschooling several children. Our special times with our kids were not just “extra” time that we had waiting to be used. They took conscious efforts and sacrifices to make them happen. But now that our seven children are nearly fourteen to thirty, I can tell you unequivocally---it is worth it all to find as many “terrific times to talk” as you can.