The thing about parenting is that just because you succeed with one child, in a certain part of their life, it does not mean you have the answer for all the children that follow. It could be encouraging them to read, finishing a meal or going to bed. They are all different. Same parents do not equal carbon-copy children. It doesn’t. They all have their own preferences and their own strengths. (Thank goodness!) One parenting formula does not fit all.
Let me give you a real example. For our school run, we walk along a narrow, country lane. I like us to walk, when we can. Using the car always feels like a fail. As babies, I carried them down the lane in a sling. As they grew too big and heavy, they moved into a stroller, until finally pushed out by the next toddler needing the ride. This means that they have pretty much walked down the lane, on their own two feet, since they were 3 years old.
As toddlers, I could encourage them, by looking at the sheep in the field, counting telegraph poles before a car overtook us, and identifying birds. The signs of the changing season is one they all still enjoy. When the novelty waned, I used a sticker chart with eldest, but she loved walking, so it was no big issue. Parenting job done.
Second child loves polar bears. For her, we discussed global warming and how the polar bears were losing their habitat. She happily walked to school in her quest to save the polar bears. Parenting job done.
I sometimes think that a creative thinking workshop might be more valuable that a shelf full of parenting books, when it comes to parenting. One solution does not fit all.
Then came third child. He dragged his feet and often just stopped. I tried sticker charts. I tried reasoning. He was having nothing to do with it. To be honest, I have tried various incentives for the last three years. Even a few threats, out of sheer desperation. He was not going to fit into the same mould of either of his two sisters. Parenting job fail.
Don’t get me wrong. He loves being outside in the normal playing kind of way. Exploring and having fun. A new walk sees him out front, leading the way. He would spend all day outside, but walking the same route is too boring for this 6 year old. I can’t change the route much, but I can try to change his attitude to it.
So this week, I found another game. In a flash of inspiration, as I looked, once again, at my youngest standing stock still in the middle of the lane, I thought of a new incentive for him. He loves stories and he loves to spell.
I started to tell him a story, one word at a time, and he spelt it out. One word at a time. “The t-h-e frog f-r-o-g went w-e-n-t…” you get the idea. Reaching the village happened in a flash. Too soon for a whole story, so we picked it up on the way home.
I don’t know how long this game will last, but at the moment it works. Too soon to say that this part of my parenting job is done, but while it is working, he is learning to love walking, as well as improving his spelling.
So one parenting solution will not fit all. Lucky you if it does. The rest of us will have to live on our creative wits.