All they want for the holidays…is YOU!
We spend tons of money on gadgets and games. I know, because we own tons of X Box and Nintendo games and gleefully buy more knowing our boys, in particular, will be thrilled (and that’s my gift to myself: seeing their joy!).
So whether we load up on American Girl Doll clothing, or iPod paraphernalia, or a brand new computer, or the latest gift-toy craze for the holidays, I wanted to remind you of the one gift you can keep giving all year to your Brave Writers: You.
Homeschooling parents are devoted beyond measure. We stay home year round to be with our kids. We do it out of love, out of a commitment to excellence and relationship. Still, sometimes that commitment looks more like habit and a battle of the wills than the joy of interaction. Here are two gifts you can give your kids starting now (and especially following holiday break when you get back into your homeschool routine):
Time? How can I put that on the list? After all, you give loads of it. All of it. But let’s think about the time you give. Is it supervisory? Is it cajoling and nudging? Is it alongside, but without really participating? The time you give needs to be the kind your kids recognize as an investment in them. They know that you are giving them time when they feel happy in your presence. They don’t know it when they are miserable, bored or doing something they don’t enjoy.
Let me put it another way: The gift of time in a child’s life is expressed in minutes devoted to your child’s chief pleasures while you sacrifice your own interests to relish theirs.
That means you will play MarioCart with your child over having the child bake muffins with you if MarioCart really is more fun for your child. It means sitting by the fire knitting along with your child, not just teaching that child how to knit and then heading off to throw in another load of laundry. It means learning to ski so that you glide down the mountain too, not hanging out in the lodge with hot chocolate. Find a way to connect individually with each child through the lavish expense of time spent on a child’s passion.
When your child tells you he hates writing, or she can’t bear cleaning the bathroom, or he wants to just quit homeschool for good, what is your immediate thought? Do you think: He has to learn to write? Or do you wonder: When will she ever learn to be responsible? Do you immediately imagine ways to get that child to work harder? Or do you sink into parental despair, feeling that you must be failing if your children are so lethargic and lazy about basic duties?
Perhaps, though, you’ve discovered a child’s favorite gift of all: compassion. When a child expresses negative emotions, most of us immediately want to kill the emotion (by putting a stake through it – which takes the form of lectures) and override the complaint with strategies for overcoming the debilitating feeling. Yet the quickest route to recovered goodwill is not a big ka-bash on feelings, but a welcoming of them.
If you can offer compassion to your child, you immediately give them a partner in carrying the heavy weight of the feeling. The load lifts a little.
Some of us feel compassionate but that shared feeling doesn’t get across the gulf. I’ve assembled a few practices that help kids know you have compassion.
Give a hug.
- what you heard: “So you hate homeschooling. Gosh that is awful! I’ll bet you feel sad about the fact that a big part of your life is such misery for you.”
Ask a follow-up question…
- …that invites more discussion: “How long have you felt this way?” or “What makes this task so miserable?” or “How can I help you?”
Take a break.
- Seriously. Anyone who expresses genuine unhappiness about any activity deserves a break. If you offer it immediately, you give your child a chance to see that you take his feelings seriously and are prepared to help find a solution for a happier future.
Find new strategies.
- If the old way isn’t working, try something new. If you can’t think of anything on your feet, make a list of what is wrong with the current experience and then commit to brainstorming and researching ways to alleviate the pressure from the current situation.
Offer to do the project, task together.
- When something is hard or boring or long or tedious or difficult or smelly or exhausting, it can make all the difference in the world to have someone who loves you share the task.
Remember to be that comforting presence during a difficult passage (for whatever your kids consider boring, tedious, hard, painful, or scary), and you’ll give your children the gift of being the “safe parent” – the one they turn to when they need extra care and nurturing (which means they will let you into their world).