To open the door, turn to page 67. To return outside, turn to page 73.
As a child, I loved the premise behind Choose Your Own Adventure books. They took reading, which already was alive for me, and upped the ante by making it interactive -- daresay, by giving me the power to shape the story.
With my fingers tucked into the paperback as temporary bookmarks, I never considered a book to be finished until I had unearthed every possible plot.
Now that I'm a mother, I think about these books when I rationally lay out consequences for my children. To have a good day and avoid correction, choose the right path. To have a bad day and face punishment, continue whining and disobeying.
It seems so simple, does it not? Make the right choice; it'll lead to good consequences.
So why is it so hard to do?
One of our parenting goals is to teach our daughters how to manage their own emotions rather than to let outside situations and other people dictate how they feel. But she made me so mad!, one will say. I can understand, but I'd be doing her a disservice if I didn't teach her that the decision to stay mad -- to dwell and internalize on her anger -- is actually a choice of her own, not a necessary byproduct of what someone else "did" to her.
Letting others dictate our own emotional states makes for a volatile life.
If she just gave me the toy, I'd be fine! If you just let me eat pizza and ice cream for dinner each day, I'd stop fussing. If things were going my way -- exactly how I want -- then I'd have a great attitude.
Although they don't articulate these statements directly, this is the subtext to our children's complaints. Our job -- and it's no small task -- is to encourage them to choose the right attitude regardless of the circumstances. Regardless of the outcome. Regardless of who did (or didn't) do what.
The most painful thing, I am reminded frequently, is that this also applies to me. It's my responsibility to choose my own attitude on a daily -- hourly, okay, minute-by-minute -- basis. When the kids are whining and complaining and rolling on the floor in despair over some perceived injustice, my reaction often can as bad as theirs. If you children would simply follow what I say, exactly when I say it, don't you realize how reasonable and patient and fun I would be? I would be such an amazing mother if you weren't acting this way!
Choosing our own attitudes. It's not an adventure for the faint of heart.
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