Positive Time Out and Chore Charts in Flooded Grey Paris

Rain, rain, go away.  It’s been raining in France for weeks.  The Seine river is overflowing, and muddy water oozes into homes.  Trendy houseboat dwellers now row home!

There is a parallel for our families:  How can we parents protect our children from flooding emotions and dark moods?

Read below about:

  • Paris greyness and photos of the flooding Seine River
  • The Louvre museum closing.
    How about if family members took a Positive Time Out too?  Find out what it is and how it worked for parents, teens, & kids.
  • Protecting art treasures in the Louvre from the flood.
    How could we parents protect our emotional treasures such as one-on-one time?  Our family did it through chores with the help of Chore Charts.  We are sharing keys to great chore charts and lessons learned from our mistakes.

Enjoy!

Overflowing Seine with debris
Recuperating debris floating down the Seine. Yes, that is the Eiffel Tower hidden in the mist.
Pont de l'Alma during Paris flood
Hit your head under those bridges!
Frigate in Paris during flood
Switch of boats. The ancient frigate is now out on the water while the tourist boats sit at dock.
Quai d'Orsay during Paris flood
No more road. Take a boat to get to your boat!

50 000 Shades of Paris Grey

It’s a grey day in Paris.  We’ve had rain for weeks and the flooding Seine river leaked into the basements of river-side homes.  On June 3 folk still don padded jackets and woolen scarves.  At this time of year Parisian ladies usually strut in bright colors, reserving black for their sunglasses.  Today, the fall garde-robe is back on the street:  chic black from head to toe.

Parisians and tourists alike feel cheated.  This is not the weather it is supposed to be.  Spring, where art thou?  When did Paris become the City of Indirect Light?

The Louvre museum closed its doors today to move their art treasures stored in the basement to a safer spot.   

Only the security guards stood in the queues.  Slow business day for the trinket salesmen chasing the few tourists mulling about the Glass Pyramid and wandering the grand palatial esplanade.

Could parents learn from the Louvre during our times of flooding emotions, debris floating through our communication, streams, and cold fronts settling into homes?

What would our homes be like if we “closed down for the day” and “moved our treasures to a secure place”?

Take a Break…with a Positive Time Out

Pause.

I just did … and was surprised by sounds.  The bird chirping.  A boy bouncing a basketball.  A frustrated driver honking his horn.  Again. Water flowing through the pipes…

Try it.

Our Parisian life is SPEED and BUSY.  It’s a strain on relationships.  It’s tough on adults.  You can bet it’s a challenge to children.

And we wonder why our kids misbehave.

“Children do better when they feel better,” reminds us Jane Nelsen, author of Positive Discipline.

In our home it means this:  my kids will benefit more from learning to unwind than from (yet another)

  • lecture (even a very intelligent one)
  • moment to “think about what they did wrong” (they are pondering on how not to get caught next time)

Brain science reveals that our human brains physically change shape when we are angry.  Our reasoning functions get “disconnected” which leaves us with raw emotion. Hardly helpful to resolve delicate differences.

Dr. Daniel Siegel explains the phenomena clearly with his short video.

Child psychotherapist Jeanette Yoffe enchantingly describes the kid version of Daniel Siegel’s hand model of the brain.  Show it to your children and you’ll gain a common understanding and LOTS LESS STRESS!

Jane Nelsen goes a step further and shows us PRACTICALLY how to create a physical and emotional space for our kids to reconnect and, once again, be at their best.  She calls this a Positive Time Out.  (Check out her sneak peak video and you’ll hear this insightful parenting expert explain it in her own words.)

It works for kids of all ages, from parents to teens to tykes.

Louvre is closed
Parisians dressed for fall weather on June 3, 2016.
Louvre with closed sign.
Fermee means C.L.O.S.E.D. Exceptional closing of The Louvre museum to move art treasures out of flood danger.
Vendors at Louvre
Golden Eiffel Tower sales plummet when the Louvre is closed.
Glass Pyramid of Louvre
No queues! …only on Closed for Flood Day.

Positive Time Out for Parents

Our family enjoys a Family Feedback where the kids give me feedback.  One year, our youngest told me “Mom, when you’re angry, go to your room.”

LOL!

I no longer have to be a “perfect mom” and think of calming down myself.  My kids tell me…kindly.

“Remember what to do when you’re angry….!”  “Mom, is this a good time for you to go to your room?!!!!”  and sometimes even, “I don’t know where you’re going, but, Mom, I am going to MY room. We’ll talk when you calmed down.”

My kids “parent” me.  What a freedom.  I can be human.  And still loved.  And avoid having the s____ hit the f____ and all that emotional clean up that comes along with the ugly scene.

This moment to regain perspective is so vital that Care for the Family even calls their parenting classes “Time Out for Parents” with special focus for Early Years, Teenage Years, and Children with Special Needs.

Positive Time Out for Teens

In France, school is not out yet for the summer.  It’s exam period.  My teens manage their stress and reconnect their brains with basketball, even shooting hoops on their own.

It’s rhythmic.  The ball goes bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, shoot and bounces again.

It engages body and mind.

It is respite.  On the court, Mom and Dad don’t badger them about their study plan!

Positive Time Out for Young Children

In my Positive Discipline parenting classes, one mother shared how Cuddly Corner helped her food-throwing daughter calm down.

They had previously created a space whose purpose was “to help Alice feel better.”  When the peas started flying through the air, Maman asked her screaming princess if she would be happier after a time in Cuddly Corner.  Alice stopped her pitching of peas in mid swing, thrust out her bottom lip, and whimpered, “Yyyyyyeeeeeeesssss.”

(Five minutes later Alice felt better and came to help mom sweep the floor.)

Positive Time Out works just as well in Paris as in California as in Sydney.  I love how fun, Australian mum Nae, blogger on Adventures at Home with Mum.  She writes about her son’s Chill Out Corner.  Nae (mother) and Dimples (son) gave the place a name that means something to them both.  It’s called marketing for your kids and Nae has done an awesome job engaging multiple senses like perfuming the space with Lavender Rice and providing Squeeze Balls to relax tense fingers.  It’s clearly a space where Dimples knows he has value and is loved.

The teachers at Queen Anne Elementary School in Seattle, WA developed a Positive Time Out space for their students.  Under a blue cloud that evokes sunny skies (!) children are invited to take a break, reset their brain, calm down, and find some peace.  There is a “je ne sais quoi” about Cloud City chez Queen Anne which we miss today in Grey Skies chez Louis XIV!

Preserve Treasures…such as Our Relationships

The Louvre museum time out has a purpose:  to save treasures.

empty Louvre Museum
‘Twas the Day of the Flood, and all through the Louvre, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”
Of course they don’t move. They are made of marble!
Empty halls of the Louvre Museum.
“Hellooooooooo?”

What are our family treasures and how are you and I preserving them?

My most precious resources are relationships and time.  Time flies.  Love lasts.

As the mother of four boys within seven years, I longed to have quality time, even one-on-one moments, with each child.  How?  Let’s be practical.

Quality Time Doing Chores

The solutions came unexpectedly and to my utmost amazement.  These precious exchanges happened doing chores!

Our family (that is, Me, Myself, and I) instituted a system of chores so that Mom would not be the maid.  As the only woman in the house, I conscientiously invest in teaching my future men to respect women.   Allowing them to expect the woman-of-the-house to clean up after their mess modeled the opposite beliefs.

I changed in order for them to change.

Soon my boys and I were doing similar housework.  If I was the maid, they were too.  Amazingly, they no longer thought of me as cleaner-upper!

Make a Chore Chart that Works for YOU

We tried multiple ways of organizing chores, always using a chore chart to facilitate communication and accountability.

Chore charts are like teeth.  Ignore them and they will go away.  To make a chore chart work with kids, parents need to follow through.  Inspection is a gift:  a job well done can receive recognition.

(Have you noticed the number of times we parents request something of a child and then ignore him when he’s done it?!  Would you rush to obey again too?! )

Our first attempt at organizing housework resembles the chart Ashley Langston posted on Frugal Coupon Living.  Like hers, we used images (only hers are much prettier).  🙂    Cute visuals make work more fun for everyone.

Nonetheless, we soon had to change.  “Clean up your room” (one of the jobs listed on Ashley’s chore chart and on mine too) requires verification.

We checked our chore charts before dinner.  Five minutes before mealtime I would go up to the children’s rooms and check for cleanliness.  My eyes hurt from the mess.

“Darlings, cleaning up happens before dinner.”

“It’s clean, Mom.” (!!!!)

“Clean means nothing on the floor and the bed is made.  I SHALL RETURN!”  And off I scurried to complete the finishing touches on the meal.

Five minutes later, I popped my head into their room.   The bed would be made with the toys under the covers…or half the floor was cleared up…or…

Inevitably, dinner was burnt.

If It’s Broke, Change the Chore Chart

So we tried something else.

Helping at home would include tasks that could be verified from the kitchen while I was preparing dinner. 

Opportunities abound:  setting & clearing the table, taking out the trash, emptying the dishwasher, helping the cook, and helping for 5 minutes for whatever.

(To secure clean-ish rooms, we insisted on putting toys away before playing computer games.  Whoever was playing with a messy room was asked to stop playing for the day and was kindly and firmly oriented to his neatening up task.)

Every evening, one child and I would be work side by side for a few moments in the kitchen.  We learned to make them precious.   As Table-Setter-of-the-Week (we rotated chores on a weekly basis) laid out the forks and knives, I would learn about the boxing match during recess…from his perspective.  Between spinning salad and slicing carrots we explored ways to make up with his friend or to avoid bullies.

Another pair of hands might venture into Kitchen Territory during these discussions to be greeted with, “We’re having a Rendez Vous.  Could you come back later, please?”

They did, knowing that as they honored the parent-child-one-on-one-time of a sibling, he would benefit from the same respect during his turn.

A Chore Chart where Children Welcome Responsibility

Tsh Oxenreider’s Chore Chart for Preschoolers includes an added plus:  the kids make it.  She provides the children with the framework and the images (key success factor) of various tasks.

THE CHILDREN DEFINE WHICH TASK GOES TO WHOM.  Half, oops, two thirds of the job of getting chores done is convincing the kids to do them.  This chart enables tykes to choose their chore.

Since they decided on their job, they are more inclined to fulfill it.

This worked for us when my brother and his triplet boys came to visit.

How does ONE woman manage with NINE hungry men?  DELEGATION.

We settled the boys down with a list of chores and they worked out who did what.  Read here how they exclaimed, “I WANT vacuuming!”

Different Special Times for Different Folks

Samantha Kurtzman-Counter, President of  The Mother Company shares another feasible example of a simple way to change the way we spend our time to protect and cherish relationships.  In her video on Special Time she share how the first 15 minutes after coming in from work get dedicated to her son.

I used this example in a training for nannies who are mothers themselves.  They come home exhausted with their own children to bathe, feed, and check on homework.  And that’s before attacking the housework.

“How would your life be different if your children ate dinner fifteen minutes later?” I inquired.

After some debate they did conclude it wouldn’t make that a life-shattering change.

“How would your life be different if you had fifteen non-work minutes a day with your children?  You might just sit with them, listen, cuddle, look them in the eye, or play a game?”  Their eyes popped.

One nanny confessed, “I want to tell my kids ‘I love you,’ but most of the time I say, ‘I’m busy.’  These fifteen minutes would be transformative.”  Vive la (Home) Revolution!

 

Signing off….to snuggle next to my sons watching the Roland Garros women’s final on TV.  For this Parisian tennis tournament on June 4, Serena Williams dons leggings and a long-sleeved shirt.

The sun will come out tomorrow…?

“Help! I’m Losing It!” Article from Message Magazine

It’s a delight to share the excerpt of my article from the fall 2015 edition of the Message Magazine.  Enjoy!

Help!  I’m “Losing It!”

“It was automagic, Mom…”

According to my four sons, spilled milk is automagic, so are the bite marks on a sibling’s arm, and so is my teen’s phone battery that runs out just as I call him.

How to respond to kids’ “béttises” (misbehaviors)?  To laugh?  To cry?  To scream!

The 80/20 rule I learned in business school–which says that 80% of outcomes result from 20% of inputs—also applied to my parenting:  the vast majority of challenges were addressed with the same tool: my voice.  I spoke instructions, then raised my voice to unresponsive children, and ultimately just “lost it.”

In the business world, this management practice is called re-investing in a losing strategy.

At home, this behavior was considered “normal.”

Something had to change.  What?  And how?

I first tried to change other people:  to shrink the kids and to tweak my husband.  It eventually dawned on me to try and influence the one person over whom I had a semblance of control:  moi.

It’s like I finally started walking the yellow brick road in the direction of Home Sweet Home, a path I could travel with other “sooper” (phenomenal and perfectly imperfect) parents, where I could gain a fresh perspective on life and success, and we could empower each other to be our best.

When Kids Take Your Life by Storm…Hold onto the Buoy of Positive Discipline!

Has the arrival of kids taken your life by storm (and dropped you in the middle of Paris)?  Join the club.  Maybe the clouds will simply blow away…  Until then, try stepping out of the fury.

That’s the relief I received from Positive Discipline, an approach to building respectful and collaborative relationships.  I took a class, got hooked, and now lead workshops to help parents apply these principles for healthy relationships. Based on the work of Austrian psychiatrists Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs, Positive Discipline is a model for teaching young people to become responsible, respectful and resourceful contributors to society. Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott adapted these principles into an interactive curriculum, and their books have sold millions …because the approach does wonders to transform home life.  It’s, like, automagic!

With Positive Discipline we first focus on…well, our own focus.  Are we looking for blame or for solutions?  How can we transform recurring challenges into opportunities to nurture respect, resilience, gratitude, love of excellence, and intimacy?

A wide array of Positive Discipline tools empower us to smoothly manage the daily issues:  power struggles, undue demands for attention, sibling rivalry, repetition-repetition-repetition, and more.  Additionally, these parenting “ruby slippers” hit the target with the needs of moms and dads in the Internet-age where our 2.0 youth expect to contribute to and impact their environment.

Positive Discipline works with teens as well as tots of 2.0 years.  Here’s how we applied the Adlerian principle of Firm and Kind to the family job, Get-Out-the-Door-on-Time-for-School-and-Work-With-a-Smile.  Firmness points to respecting the parental structure, such as the non-negotiability of timely departure.  Kindness refers to respect of the child’s perspective, like considering their input in the process.  Part of the Positive Discipline wonder lies in simultaneously respecting kids, mom & pop.

Positive Routine Tool for Parents & Kids Together

Positive RoutinesWe created Positive Routines, a photo-reportage of the priority tasks for leaving on time.  At work this would be called a job description communicated via Power Point.  At home, we call it fun, practical, and empowering.  It’s the process that renders the tool so effective.  First, we sat down to enumerate the multiple tasks needed to get done before walking out the door.  Deep discussion ranged from, “We gotta wake up!” to “Make our beds ?!?!” and “Brush our teeth…No, I already do that at night.” This is brainstorming time; let the ideas flow…especially from the children.  They know what needs doing; they have heard you say it over and over again.

Next we decided together which tasks NEED doing in the morning, when we feel groggy and possibly move slowly, and which ones can be completed the night before.  We classified “Getting parent’s signature,” “Getting school stuff ready,” and “Choosing clothes” among the evening jobs.

Finally, we put it into practice.  What liberty for me!  When the tykes came complaining that their bathing suits were still wet (and now smelling) from last week’s swimming class, I could truly sympathize AND remind them that we wash swimwear the night before.  Discomfort is a bummer, but not the end of their world.  Repeating myself again and again is the end of my sanity.  You bet they remembered the following week :).

These Positive Routine Picto’s also helped my husband and I coordinate our messages.  At first he questioned this process…until the week we had several morning signature requests.  The kids turned to their Dad for these because they knew I merely pointed to the Positive Routine Picto and gladly accepted to sign their paper that evening.  Finally he burst out, “No more signing in the morning for me either!”  The kids accepted it.  After all, these were their rules too.

These Positive Routine Picto’s were such a success that I developed a workshop specifically to bring parents and children together to create their own.  In these photos I love how one child revels in the full attention from all of the family members and how the boys and girls proudly display THEIR routines.  Parents shared delightful feedback.  One girl was showing hers off to a friend, who then told her mom, and the friend’s mom requested to take it home.  Another shared how, after the good-night routine, she noticed the light switch back on in her 3 year old’s room.  “Mommy, I forgot to choose my clothes for tomorrow.”

Our boys are now growing up and leaving home.  It’s a thrill and a solace to see them go forward with the life skills they need to make a life and a living.   And they tell it to me straight:  “Mom, when you stopped trying to be perfect, that’s when you were a great mom.”

May you and yours keep growing and growing together.

 

Denise Dampierre is the author of www.home-is-fun.com blog, a Harvard MBA, the mother of 4 boys, a trainer in Positive Discipline, and an American still married to a Frenchman after 20+ years!  She would be delighted to answer your questions on Positive Discipline (denise@home-is-fun.com).  You can also find out more on the associations’ sites:  www.positivediscipline.com in English and  www.disciplinepositive.fr in French.  This fall, Denise will be leading parenting classes in both English and in French.  You can also find her training professionals on building healthy relationships using these same positive principles.  After all, “People make the world go round” both at home and at work.