Family Time | Buckets
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“How do other people do this?” my husband Cory asked the ceiling, with his palms in his eyes.

It’s the morning after. We were up late.

If you were to peek in our window at 9:45 p.m. any given night, you’d see a wild-haired naked three-year-old jumping from one bed to the next, while a six-year-old in Minecraft pajamas whines loudly with eyes at half-mast, and a one-year-old peeks in the door, cackling from her crib across the hall.

You’d see Cory on his back on one of the beds, under the flying monkey, palms in his eyes, holding back a full-fledged breakdown. And me, animatedly reading Harry Potter to nobody.

Sometimes the breakdown makes its way through the hands, and sometimes we hold our breath while it passes, and we realize, tonight we are not going to have a peaceful moment to shower, pack lunches, fold laundry, or, heaven forbid, have a cup of tea and watch half an hour of bad TV. Seventy-five percent of those things still have to happen, one way or another, and eventually, all the work is done at midnight and we flop into bed, exhausted.

Then it starts all over again. Six in the morning and a baby’s poking you in the eye. And before you know it, it’s seven-thirty and you’re late for a meeting and the three-year-old won’t put pants on until you let him have candy. Or it’s eight-thirty and the six-year-old is late for school because he had to re-tie his tie seventeen times (that’s his latest thing).

Just when everyone’s finally listening to you and calm and lovey, you realize they all have fevers. Of course. There’s no way they’d be so quiet unless they were sick. And now you’ve got to call off the meetings or find babysitters who don’t mind being coughed on, and schedule doctor’s appointments, and follow-up appointments and spend your life’s savings on antibiotics and probiotics and penicillin and steroids and nebulizer treatments that they fight you on.

But you know, it’s worth it. Because they’re so cuddly when they’re sick. And they need you.

Blearily scrolling through Facebook, I clicked on an ad promising I wouldn’t remember the last time I raised my voice at my kids.

The webinar by Positive Parenting Solutions says that children have two buckets that need to be full at all times: The attention bucket, and the power bucket. If you’re giving them plenty of attention and they’re still acting out, it means that their need to have power is not being met.

“Kids only continue the behavior that works for them,” says Amy McCready, the founder of this organization.

She says the “blame-shame-pain” punishment system just teaches kids to become very good at lying. Which makes sense. I won’t name names, but one of my kids is quite the wily one, and we’ve had some phone calls from school lately.

The webinar said children need age-appropriate independence and control.

This isn’t to say you let them run the show, though. You set forth consequences that follow the five R’s: Respectful, Reasonable, Related (as in, the punishment fits the crime), Revealed (in advance; so it’s not a surprise consequence) and you have the child Repeat the rule and consequence back to you.

And since they’ll be fully informed of your expectations and the consequences of rule-breaking, the children will then be empowered and feel more in control, hence acting out much less.

Cory and I plan to think up some rules and consequences meeting the five R’s.

Right after they go to bed tonight.

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