Useful mindsets

As a teacher and a mom, dealing with students all day and my own kids at night, I can easily be overwhelmed.  Some days feel like I motivate everyone else - cheer them on, pick them up, encourage and argue that they can do something.  This can be draining.

One of the most helpful phrases that I try to keep in mind is "What you focus on, you get more of."  I first read this in Becky Bailey's book, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline.  To be honest, I picked this book up in a moment of desperation.  My then three year old son, who had been with me in foster care since he was almost two, had a lot of challenging behaviors, and this title seemed to summon me with incredible force.  I wanted to have someone tell me how to make him stop screaming when he was angry, how to use words when frustrated, and how to not get so wild and crazy out of control when he was having fun.  I just wanted someone to fix HIM.  This seemed to be just the book.

But when I opened up the book, Dr. Bailey had the nerve to tell me that I could not fix him, I could only fix ME.  What?  Like that was going to help!  It wasn't me screaming bloody murder in the grocery store, or when asked to do something crazy like take a nap at daycare.  How the heck could I just fix me?

I've now read Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline approximately seven times, maybe more if you could all those little "look ups" I do.  When I finally got it, that my perception and focus determine a lot of outcomes, I was hungry to make sure I lived that way.  I find I function best with a reminder.  Or eight.

When teachers and parents focus on what they want instead of just what they don't want, kids actually get useful directions.  In my classroom this week, I wanted kids to choose and start reading an independent book they liked.  I said it, I provided LOTS of books (and continue to expand my classroom library and my knowledge of what's in it), and we set about choosing.  I had kids say, "I don't read,"  to which I replied, "Not yet, but you will!" with a smile.  I had kids say, "There are no books I like."  Response?  "You haven't ever been in my class before.  My library is different!"  And finally, "I've been in reading before, and I still don't like it."  Sad look from me.  "You've never had me for a teacher before. Now go read your book."  And you know what?  It works.  Single, laser focus on what I want, and pretty soon I have a room full of readers.  Or I will have, once my newbies settle in.

At home the same thing is possible.  Why then is it harder with my own kids?  Daughter #1 (age 11) is not setting the world on fire with her cleaning skills.  Today was rough.  Her room simply needed to be straightened up - hang up pajamas, dirty clothes in the hamper, books back on the shelf, pile of blankets and stuffed animals taken care of.  Easy, right?  Add in the motivation that she had a birthday party to go to.  I explained what she needed to do and left.  I returned and it was not done.    My brain locked in on what I did not want, and guess how it went?  Right.  Not so well.

My theory is that as parents our brains flood with the future.  We can't just see the messy room.  Instead we see the messy room, the future messy dorm, the future messy apartment, the moving back in with us because life is too hard.  Then I'm off to she'll never get a college degree, or a job, or find happiness in life!  See why I want to simplify?  It's not really to clear her room of stuff; it's to clear my head of useless worry.  Those runaway mind trips don't do anyone any good.

My simple message for myself tonight:  focus on what I want, so I can get more of it.  Not magically, not right this very second, but by being clear about my goal.

One more step on the journey!

Happy Saturday!


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