(Heads up: My phone was having real problems overheating and so I went to the Apple store today and they replaced my phone. But I hadn’t backed up my stuff to iCloud since December, so I lost all kinds of pictures. Therefore, this post has old pictures for you to enjoy for the second time around. Thank you, Management)
I have a new parenting project I’m working on right now. It’s called, “Teaching My Kids to Sit Quietly in Public Without Any Entertainment,” also known as “TMKTSQIPWAE,” also known as “Sit Down and Be Quiet,” also known as “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!”
My kids are well behaved wee ones. ‘Tis true. They are pretty good little boogers, especially when we are out in public. But here’s the thing: They are well behaved if they have something to entertain them. Normally, I make them bring things with them when we go out somewhere. Notebooks and pencils are a big hit. So are books of word searches and mazes. But sometimes, we end up places without these entertainment tools. In these cases, I often resort to giving them my phone. Not always, but a lot of the time. I usually make myself feel better by reminding myself that there are only educational games on my phone, so really they are learning.
But here’s the next thing: Sometimes, when you are out in public, the learning needs to be social and not academic. This means my kids need to be learning not just to “be entertained” when we are out or when they have something entertaining to play with. What they need to learn is to be content to sit politely for period of time without something entertaining them.
Here’s why: In my classroom at school, I see students – the majority of them, actually – who are only interested in sitting and learning when someone is doing a massive song and dance for them in the front of the classroom. But, sometimes, in fact, MOST of the time, there will not be someone there to entertain you. And you are not there to be entertained. Therefore, kids need to learn to be polite, present, and patient, even when there is nothing in front of them to keep them happy and engaged.
Cause here’s the biggest thing: LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS ENGAGING.
Now, I have purposefully put off teaching this to my kids until they were this age. Little kids need to be entertained. They don’t have the self control to keep themselves quiet for just about any length of time without some assistance. But my kids have already learned that self control. They ARE well behaved. So now, we go to the next level. Can you be well behaved when the world isn’t revolving around you?
This has been a process. It began with me not giving them my phone anymore. Ever. Sounds so harsh, but it’s true. I stopped giving them my phone because more times than not, anytime I was giving them my phone, it was just to pacify them through a time of waiting (at the doctor’s office, in the checkout line, etc.). It was a crutch for me and for them. So, I changed the rules. No more phones. I even deleted their apps from my phone. How’s that for Mean Mommy?
I’m also starting to limit them on things they can take out with us when we are on the go. Usually, I still let them bring a notebook and pencil, if I know we’re going to be somewhere for an extended period time (like when we go grocery shopping), but if we are out running errands and are here and there and all over the place, I have them leave their things at home because these are good learning situations. And not just educational learning, but social learning. We are working on looking adults in the eyes when they speak to us, responding with loud, clear voices when spoken to, not slouching and rolling around in chairs, and paying attention when Mom is having a conversation with someone else, even if it doesn’t involve the kids.
That last one has been the hardest. Most of the time, kids check out when the interaction doesn’t directly involve them. But that’s rude in real life. Being attentive to the people around you is polite and requires some practice. So, the kids are learning to pay attention when I’m speaking with someone so that they can politely join the conversation, if asked, and (this is the biggest reason) so they know when it is okay for them to interrupt and when they need to wait.
These are all social norms that come easily to most adults (although, I’m not so sure it’s natural in most adults these days, either…), but they need to be taught to children, and we are making big efforts to teach them this summer. The kids aren’t great at it yet. They get frustrated with waiting, they get nervous and look away sometimes when an adult speaks directly to them, and they definitely don’t like the new “no phone” rule. But to this I say, “SUCK IT UP, SALLY.” If you’re going to be a polite, decent human being when you grow up, it’s time to start learning to be a polite, decent human being when you’re not grown up yet.