Bribing a Child

For two weeks, we have another little 8-year old boy in the house.  Adam is my son John’s nephew, my step-grandson.  (This technically makes me a grandma, with Nephew Adam 2 days older than Uncle John.)  

Adam has no learning differences.   And, Adam loves junk food.   So I have bribed him that if Adam can teach my son John to get his you-know-what into the you-know-where, I will let Adam eat cookies all day long, for one whole day.  Adam is now fully engaged in John’s #2 toileting goals.

And I am also bribing the 2 boys each morning to get through their practice of TouchMath together.  Nothing fun is going to happen until then.  (Technically, that’s less bribery and more tough love parenting.)

I also have a pending deal with Adam involving getting John to actually chew gum.AdamJohnTouchMath

You might want to try some version of leveraged bribery.

I am using it shamelessly.




Can I Buy Some Attention, Please?

2015-07-22 17.11.36Ever wish you could just buy something, as a way out of a problem?

I wish I could buy parental attention, so that I could have a ready supply for my son, for all those moments when I just need to do something else.

John hates math, and he is really hating TouchMath every day.   Every day, I make a list like this, on old-fashioned paper (Thanks, Rosemary Slade), and just point.   Like the Ghost of Christmas Past.  And I have added, “say the words or we start over”.

I was frustrated, drowning in re-directing, my son John playing me like a harp.   Stalling.  Driving me mad.

So Mom got smart.   I started taking him with me.   Wherever I needed to go.   To the kitchen, to the bathroom, to the office.  I had already learned I couldn’t walk away (because he cheats), and I couldn’t hurry him up (because he stalls).  My attention to his TouchMath seems to be ESSENTIAL.

That is why I want to buy attention.  A big fat box of it, that I can throw at the problem and walk away.

But that isn’t how John is going to learn.  Learn TouchMath, learn ANYTHING.

So, I make my attention portable.   I keep aware of the sounds, so I know which chapter he is in by the words I hear.   My eyes may flit away temporarily as my hands do my chores.  But Mom keeps her cool—-because the stall is now John wasting his time.  NOT MINE.

The TouchMath apps follow quite well the theories of their (free) training, but there is NO substitute for paying attention and staying in the moment with his learning.

Today, finally, John took delight in marking off each chapter done, after he showed me the chapter summary screen (so watch for that). 

I have learned to be aware of small moments of new learning (evidence that a learning hole has been back-filled), and never interfere of that demonstration.   But, oh my, I soak up the memory and dance in my heart for every small achievement, whatever he didn’t do before, and is now doing.

So, fellow parents, take heart that your vigilance and persistence of giving attention is vital, precious, necessary, and your own unique reward.

We really can’t buy attention, right?

We can only give it.





Peace Within Your Own Skin?

Today I spent a few quiet hours with my 8-year old son in the water, marveling at how comfortable and playful he was.  His sense of peace, of pace, of not needing, brought tranquility to this churning mom-heart.  That so-busy-with-interventions heart, that is supposed to be balanced between two opposite worlds:  One half doing everything I can to help him and the other half accepting him just as he is, in the moment.John Floating

I fall short often of that second nirvana—that half of my heart at peace with him as he is in his own skin, becoming John.

He is not always this calm, quiet, full of simple joy.  Is it  because I am chasing something I shouldn’t?

How do we teach our struggling children to be at peace within themselves?  To find and hold that inner harmony, to be at equilibrium enough when that social snub comes.  To not grieve for that party invitation undelivered?  To not need, to not be needy?

Peaceful in their own skin.Slide1Heart

For John, it would, of course, start with me.

What kind of example do I provide?   What did I miss?

Sometimes I am Mary when I should be Martha.

Sometimes, the opposite.

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”
― Robert Fulghum (“Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten”)

Peace be with us,




“I Think I Will Try That …..”

Says John.   And then he does.  2015-06-10 14.16.06

When he is ready.   Not when Mom nags, hovers, or cajoles him.

When he was ready to swing out, Tarzan-style, on a long rope over the deep pool at SplashTown.   Letting go.  8 times.

When he was ready to try the archery range at Scout Camp.  Or over to the basketball hoop, with no one he knew.

When he was ready to try the electric hair clippers.

When he was ready to try no more pullups at night.

When he was ready to try . . . . . oh dear angels . . . . actually pooping in the toilet? (am I dreaming?)

The magic of self-directed intrinsic motivation—when he says he wants to.

So, with your learning ones, try saying,

“Do you want to try ……?”2015-06-19 21.10.412015-06-08 17.56.01

And then we back off.  We really have no control.