Squid-Po-Po and Your Kids

GirlsWhen our daughters were little we introduced the concept of quid pro quo to them, explaining that it was a fun way of saying “give a little to get a little.”

We talked about it quite a bit and I was amazed at how early they understood that there is a balance inherent in all relationships and when we abuse it or take advantage of it, there are consequences we may not like. I don’t remember the particulars of the conversation, but Daughter 1 cracked us up one night, telling us a story about her day and saying very seriously, “You know Mommy, like squid-po-po!” We finally figured out what she was saying, and from that day on it has been a family catch phrase. Coincidentally, this is the child who is growing up to be a lawyer!

What does “squid-po-po” have to do with raising respectful children? How can we use it to help keep a good balance through the different stages from caregiving to parenting to mentoring? These were part of a conversation I had today with my friend and new parent, Hjalmar, and here are some concepts and strategies I shared with him.

1. We are all a part of the family unit. The family has resources, time and energy in limited amounts and there has to be balance in the way these are used for the benefit of its members. Parents need to talk about this often and agree on the family policies. Some examples of resources I have touched on previously in this blog are cell phones and computers but the same truth applies to larger things like cars, time and energy.

If you buy a car for the use of your teenage driver, don’t give them the keys and say, “This is yours.” That usually isn’t true. The family’s resources have bought the car; it is usually paying for the maintenance, insurance and may even be picking up the gas. The child cannot have it in their name until they reach majority and so the parents are owners and liable. Therefore, it is actually a family car that you are allowing a family member to use. That use is a privilege and not a right, so present it as such and then you will not have any hesitation asking your teen driver to pick up something at the store or to do other helpful activities. Their cheerful willingness to help out will earn them more privileges, and that is the heart of “squid-po-po.”

2. Time is a limited resource. Is one family member in need of more family time than another? Are you sacrificing your family’s cumulative time for one member’s sport or artistic activities? Consider finding a balance that everyone is comfortable with, even if it means curtailing an activity or coming up with alternative ways for it to be supported. Our family made a rule that each daughter could only have one extracurricular activity at a time, outside of school and church. They were clear that given a busy, active family, not all concerts, games, competitions, etc. would be attended by the whole family and that no one person’s activity was allowed to dominate the family’s resources. It was always very appreciated when they found proactive ways to spread our resources (car-pooling!) and that further illustrated the give a little to get a little principle. This turned out to be a very good policy for us, since our daughters sang, played instruments, played soccer and lacrosse and entered many contests.

3.  Energy is your third and final finite resource as a family and it is not to be underestimated. It takes proactive behaviors to support family members in their activities and a considerable investment of energy. That needs to be appreciated by the family member receiving it, and sincere “Thank You’s” are always welcome.

How do we, as parents, get sincere appreciation for our efforts? To begin with, we ask for it. When a child is not appreciative of your efforts, point it out with an “I” statement.

“When you slam the door and take off without saying thanks for the ride, I feel like you are taking me for granted.”

If you do not say things like this when they are true, you are not doing your child any favors. You may foster a false sense of entitlement and even contempt in him or her.

Next blog post… Are you being a parenting martyr?

One thought on “Squid-Po-Po and Your Kids

  1. Thanks for sharing Kali’! Definitely covered the high points of our conversation. Got me thinking about the “paradigm shift” concept that Covey talks about. Specifically, how starting off with the right paradigm within the family helps provide the foundation/scaffolding where all the lessons you hope to share with your children hinge from. Looking forward to having more enlightening conversations and blog entries!

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