One of our priorities for this year is.....obedience! Oh that dreaded issue! We want the girls to be obedient as a first response - as I read somewhere, if you have to shout or repeat yourself five times or bribe or whatever before your children obey or before you take any action (yes, we have done all of those!) then you are basically training your children to obey (or not) that way and will be doing that in the future.
We have sat down with the girls then and explained our new system and that we want them to obey straight away when they are told to do something, responding with "yes mummy" to show they have heard and processed it. Complaining, questioning, moaning etc is not obeying straight away! Failure to act will result in clearly defined consequences...!
In fact, children obeying is not the hardest part of the issue, it is parents remembering to be consistent! It is so easy to let something go because we are occupied or can't be bothered, so that is our challenge. It also makes you consider what boundaries you set or what commands you give more carefully bearing in mind that you will have to follow them up. So I think it ends up with fewer rules but those that are set have more value. I mean, does it really matter if Baby JoJo gets a green felt tip moustache...certainly not to him!
The other thing I struggle with is telling them to do something rather than asking. Of course if I say "Can you close the door LissaLou" she is well within her rights to say no! I am practising rephrasing it as "Close the door please LissaLou".
So far the whole issue of obedience is going much better - as my friend and fellow mum Yvonne pointed out to me (thanks for your help and encouragement on this subject and I hope you don't mind me quoting you!) a child is far happier with clearly defined boundaries and it also means much less shouting which is better for everyone! CassCass in particular is very easily reduced to tears by the word no (even if it isn't a telling off) or by raised voices, and this has helped her lots as we are aiming to speak pleasantly and calmly.
On the subject of shouting, that is another priority for us. Here, everyone shouts, so much! (One person explained that it is because of the outdoor life - it is certainly true that people are more likely to shout "Ki jen aw!" from the pavement across the road to their friend sitting on their verandah than come up close and converse!) So it has been very easy for us to fall into that bad habit. (LissaLou has picked it up from school - more from the teacher than from the kids!)
I have been ashamed to hear LissaLou saying pitifully "why do you always shout at me mummy!" but it is a good lesson in learning to apologise to your child! I was also challenged by this post which told us that "there are few emergencies" whereas we mums (well, I speak for myself here!) can have a bad habit of hurrying, hassling, perhaps shouting our way through the day. Listening to the way the parents speak to their children around us (and their children reply) reminds me of a quote from "Shepherding Your Child's Heart" (Tedd Tripp) on the principle that conversation is dialogue, not monologue: "Her mother was a screamer. Communication was limited to periods of volcanic activity. When Mom spewed forth lava, [she] learnt to head for cover". Oh yes, la Soufriere is not the only volcano on this island!
So shouting is now out. Except in the case of fire of course. I would say that Bertie rarely if ever shouts so that is a great example for us. Presumably that was developed by his desire to retain his voice throughout his years in an inner city school! And believe me, LissaLou is quick to remind me if I forget this one!
We are working on saying thank you and that is going well, particularly with CassCass, who has a great example to follow in LissaLou.
Finally, as LissaLou approaches the grand old age of 5, I have introduced two new concepts - privilege and responsibility. For privilege, she is going to be receiving pocket money. I think I will give her €1.50 a week in three 50 centimes coins - one for church collection, one for saving and one for spending. Sounded a lot to me but it won't even buy her a floup! (They have just gone up to 75 centimes, shock horror!) This is the beginning of that topic close to my heart (and which my dad gave me such good lessons in!)...money management!
For responsibility, we discussed all the things that needed to be done to keep the house nice and everyone healthy, then who did all these things. Daddy got equal mention with me, which seemed a bit inaccurate...! When put in this perspective, LissaLou was quite happy to get away with five things to match her age:
1. Carry cups down for lunch and upstairs to be washed
2. Put her pyjamas on her bed after her shower
3. Put her clothes in the washing basket
4. Put her shoes in the shoe box
5. Tidy up her toys
Oh for such an easy life!
Right, enough thinking for now, I am off to roast a chicken and cope without water, again!