Saturday, April 12, 2008

You Probably Shouldn't Take Advice From Someone Who Wears Sunglasses at Night

And yet I am about to offer some, and I am wearing sunglasses. It is very much nighttime. And no, I am not kidding.

I rarely wear my glasses because I see better with my contacts and the glasses, due to the steep prescription, are heavy and give me a headache. I even wear my contacts when I sleep. However, from time to time I feel like my eyes might like a little fresh air, so between pairs of contacts I usually wear my glasses for an evening and then the next morning until I have to leave the house. I actually like my glasses a lot, so it's no big deal.

Except, of course, when I can't find my glasses.

If it hadn't been for something in my eye that was causing significant discomfort, and the fact that it was well past time to change contacts anyway, I would have just waited. Instead, in my rush to stop the pain, MAKE IT STOP!!!, I pulled the contacts out before I even checked to see if my specs were at hand. I reached up into the cabinet, felt the case, and pulled out the glasses. Which, oops, were my sunglasses. I reached up again, expecting to find a second case, but it wasn't there. I put on the sunglasses and dug through every handbag I'd carried in the last month, and still, no spectacles. I faintly remembered putting them in the car, thinking that they would be better off there, because the one thing I cannot do without corrective lenses is drive. Well, that and read even the top row of the eye chart, but what I mean is that I'm pretty good at getting around half blind. I just can't operate a vehicle like that.

Normally I would just run out to the car and rifle through the glove compartment, but tonight that's not possible. The car is with Jarod. In Minneapolis. So for now, it's sunglasses or blindness. I choose the sunglasses.


And now for the advice. It has come to my attention that there are a great many little tricks I use as a nanny that are simple and effective, but that might not be common knowledge. I've long heard the cries of "Mary, you should write a book!" but let's face it, the last thing any bookstore needs is yet another book about child-rearing. Have you seen that section lately? It's ridiculous. Instead, I'll just pass on little tidbits here. If you know anyone who might be able to use what I've got to offer, feel free to direct them my way. If not, these will just be our little tidbits to share. If you have kids, you might want to try some of these hints. If you don't, you might want to just skip this part or file it away for later. Or you might want to use them on random children who are behaving badly in public, but I really don't recommend that unless you like to cultivate bitterness and hatred.

This first tip is a simple one. Kids like to be prepared. They like advance warning, especially for unpleasant things. I find that I can often avoid a battle of wills if I just give fair warning. For example, Mary Liz loves to pick out her own clothes, and she is very picky about them. She likes all shades of pink, she likes stretchy knit fabrics, and she wants to be comfortable. Bascially, anything that is not a cotton knit does not pass muster. If she is asked to dress in something that she does not like, she will resist mightily. She will argue, she will bargain, she will refuse outright. However, if I let her know in advance that she will have to wear something she doesn't like, she is often quite cooperative. I usually preface the discussion with, "I am going to tell you something that you will not like, but you are not going to be allowed to argue about it. I am telling you so that you know ahead of time." Then I outline what she must do. In the case of clothing, it goes something like, "There is a special occasion coming up, and you are going to have to wear something you don't like. It will be fancy, and it will not be stretchy. Because this occasion is formal, you have to wear a formal dress. We will try on the dress Aunt Lisa sent you, and if that fits, you will have to wear that one. If it doesn't fit, we will go to the store, and I will show you a few options. You will only be allowed to choose one of those options, not anything else." I then reinforce that I know what she normally likes to do, and that other times she will be allowed to do that, but that this time it's just not an option. "I know that you like stretchy dresses best, and you like to be able to pick out what you get to wear. Most times you get to do this, but this is one time that you are not going to be able to." Then I ask if that makes sense and encourage her to think it over so that she's ready when the time comes to do the unpleasant task. "Does that make sense to you? You don't have to do it right now, but I'm letting you know so that you can think about it so that it won't be a big deal when you have to do it." I will field questions if there are any, but usually I try to avoid this because it often turns into a bargaining session, and this is an issue that is not negotiable. I then drop the subject entirely and move on to more pleasant topics.

So the basics, to break it down, are:

1. Warn the child that what you're about to say is something he or she won't like.
2. Let the child know up front that it's not something he or she can argue about.
3. Outline the requirements of the situation.
4. Reinforce that you already understand the child's preferences.
5. Remind the child that it's not something they have to do right away, but that you are giving advance notice so that he or she can get used to the idea.
6. Answer any brief questions while remaining firm that it's not a negotiable situation. If the child tries to bargain, simply state that it's not negotiable and don't say another word about it.
7. Move on to other topics.

When it is closer to the time for the child to do the undesirable task, I usually offer a brief reminder. "Remember when we talked about choosing a dress to wear to the special occasion, and how you were going to have to wear something that's not your favorite? We're doing that today." I will then give a specific time if possible, according to age. If a child is fairly young, it's best to just say "after lunch" or "before storytime at the library," but if it's an older child, you can use clock time. When the actual time comes, most children are resigned to their fate already and will do it willingly. The only snag I've run into is if a child has been allowed to bargain his or her way out of something at the last minute in the past; then they will fight you the first few times you do this, thinking that if you let them have their way before, they can fight for it again. Stand firm, remind them that you discussed it before, and that it's not negotiable. If this is a new technique, it is best to use it for smaller issues at first, those things that will afford you lots of time to wait out their protests. Once they know you mean business, the advance warning will be enough to allow everyone smooth transition into whatever unpleasant task lies ahead.

Any questions?

1 comment:

Shiz said...

Ok, that sounds like brilliant advice. Does it work on husbands? ;)