"We're all just walking each other home." - - Ram Dass

Monday, February 6, 2012

Team Pohlkotte on three...

I have a confession to make...when Owen came home with his kindergarten report card the other day, I felt just as nervous and anxious {insert heart pounding and quickening of breath} around opening it as I did opening my own back in the day ~ and when there were a few minor things for us to work on with him, my perfectionistic heart just froze. 

There he was, staring up at me with his saucer sized brown eyes saying "what does it say, mama?" And see...this first born of mine? oh, all of my perfectionism seeped right into him.  So I knew that the news that he wasn't perfect was going to be a shock to his system as well. 

I forced a stiff smile told him I was still looking it over {won't lie, sent a frantic text to my brother, knowing I was losing some mom award} and then took a deep breath out reminding myself he's five, he's amazing, and I'm a bit crazy...

So when I saw this call to round up parenting advice, I chuckled to myself pretty sure I had little to add to the greater good on the subject of not being a zealot mother.  But then, I heard in my house this weekend my kids banding together to clean their rooms because they were Team Pohlkotte... I remembered I had written a previous post on the subject of what works for us....and what a great reminder to me to settle right on down.

~~ ~
With almost six years in with this mothering thing, I am still just barely scratching the surface of proper ways to discipline. Here’s one lesson I am very confident I have learned…children respond to “play” much better than rules. Or for that matter, anger.

I hate to not feel understood.

So, as you can imagine, as I repeat myself for like the 100th time to do simple tasks…I get downright miffed.

And, as my temperature rises, along with my voice, I see no change in behavior with my kids. Well, maybe Owen, but that’s out of fear…and that is not a way I wish to parent.

Yet somehow…when you make it into a funny phrase, or somehow point out the way in which their behavior is missing the mark…along with giggles, you get – results! I try to employ this approach in regards to our family unit.

We, are Team Pohlkotte.

We huddle up. (I do this for big and small things I really want them to listen too), and the glimmer of expectant excitement with our heads crouched together allows me to get a direct connection to their brains which I don’t get by yelling. It's simple. It's fun. It's kinda a lot amazing.

We bench. Some people call these “warnings”… gives them a second out of the activity they are involved in to get their wits about them before they are thrown back into the “game”. Um, also?  This includes mom. 

We assign nick-names and codes. Owen knows he doesn’t want to become “that guy”…you know, the one no one thinks is cool and just feels a little sad for. We warn “don’t be that guy...” and he gets it. Ava, well thanks to the world of SpongeBob, she has become “Crabby Patty”. When we feel her gearing up for a fit we cry “crabby patty, order up! Ding!” This diffuses some of the tension of a tantrum instead of heightening it with your own sharp words. {believe me, she does sharp words just fine on her own.}

We pinch hit and make some wicked assists. Let's face it. While we love our children equally, there's going to be stuff that one is better at than the other.  I can never get Ava to bring something upstairs. ever. But, that girl kills it on trash we assign her with her strengths.  When one of my kids is done with making their bed or cleaning their room, you better believe they are expected to go and help a brother {or sister} out. 

We do visuals of plays and discuss after the game. Right now this is in the form of responsibility charts.  Before bed we look over what went right in the day, what needs to be tweeked and new ways to achieve what it is we are looking for.

We fire people. We all have “jobs” that get assigned us on our team. You are expected to follow through, and if you don’t…you’re sacked. I don't know why the kids find this a funny as they do, but it works.

We cheer. When our players do good work, we are all right there to celebrate the victory. We celebrate success as a family unit. And let me just say, we've got a MEAN victory dance.  You will see this family shakin' what their mama gave them.  Dish in the sink? Do a little spin... got that homework done with flying marks? Lace up them dancin' shoes-  it's gunna get funky.

And while this approach is not for every situation, it is just as big of a reminder for me to not take myself too seriously as it is a way to use play to shape good behavior and a spirit of thinking of others, and connecting us together. 
I can't wait to hear other ways to keep this motherhood thing fresh... 


  1. Love this Tara. You've created a round table concept with your kids, rather than a hierarchy, so wise and fun!

  2. Ok, I am loving this blog carnival...even if I didn't participate. So much goodness, and the report card? Oh, I can relate.

  3. Learned the hard way . . mine respond to love and play much better than anger too. Especially for my second, my son. Love the way you incorporate fun in the lessons of life. And that perfectionism, it wanes with every year that passes. At least for me anyway.

  4. you have an cool sounding team, tara! :)
    I love the nickname thing. Crabby patty! He, he.
    I really like your fun lingo for stuff. I'll read this one through a few times, I think.

  5. Reading this makes me want to have more and can't wait for my little one to get bigger - great ideas and such a good imagery.

  6. Love these ideas, Tara, and how they're not hard to remember or implement because it has that same "team" theme. I could definitely learn from your organization and "coaching" system!

  7. This reminds me so strongly of one of my favourite discipline books, "Playful Parenting." I love this way of handling life. You're fired - that's hilarious. Thank you so much for sharing this - I'll be remembering it! xo

  8. Tara, this is fantastic, I'm not surprised your kids find it so fun. It makes me want to come over and join in too ;)

  9. So great! Thanks for your honesty. Sounds like a very fun family!

  10. ha! this is fantastic! I love the metaphors and I can sense the excitement and fulfillment you must soak in when they respond. Thank you for sharing this. :)

  11. Tara, we are cut from the same cloth, my dear. Confession: my heart pounds as well when I open my 2nd grader's report card. I recently had to (quite literally, out loud) talk myself out of obsessing about his ancestry report, which I was sure wouldn't get the highest mark because his paragraphs weren't structured enough with supporting details and a closing sentence. He's SEVEN FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.
    And, I LOVE what you've described about using fun and humor in your parenting. I've found the same things to work--and it baffles me that I don't resort to those things FIRST rather than allowing myself to get yelly and irritated.

  12. Your words really struck home - my temperature tends to rise too with the number of times I need to repeat myself. The idea of a huddle is perfect - I'll have to try this next time with our gang...I wonder why it never dawns on me to try a fun approach over demanding?

  13. I loved this, Tara! I read this a few weeks ago and tucked some of your great thoughts away. Then this last weekend, my husband and I were inspired to lead the kids in some good ol' fashioned Saturday house cleaning, and we became Team Larkin! The kids were inspired. We all had fun. Though we've tried some of these things before, it was so great to read a "game plan" that would lead us through. Thanks for this...and for all your exquisite writing!

    1. Team Larkin - I love, if only we were neighbors, we could get some team competitions in place, that'll get em cleaning :)