Patrick Kansa, Author at Engaged Marriage

All Posts by Patrick Kansa

About the Author

I'm just a guy, married to a great woman, learning as I go how to best lead our little family of four. I'm also a bit of a watch guy, as you can see by my articles over on WristWatchReview and aBlogtoWatch.

Giving Kids Responsibility

By Patrick Kansa | Children

Giving Kids ResponsibilityLast month, I covered the topic of giving kids choices, and how we need to be responsible for both the options we give, as well as accepting the choice that the child makes.  Today, I want to dive into what is very much the flipside to the choices coin – and that is responsibility.

Tying It Together With Choices

To see how this ties together, let’s go with the picking-out-their-clothes example that I used in the previous article.  Once your child has their clothing picked out for the day, you’ll go about the activities you have planned.  What if they’ve decided to put on something that isn’t appropriate for the weather (say, shorts in the winter) or the activity (a party dress when headed out to the trails)?  Provided we stick with our earlier decision to abide by their choice (well, perhaps we’ll put a warmer coat and snow pants on in that first example), they’ll start to learn that their decisions have ramifications – and they’re responsible for those choices and their results.

This Is Important!

But why is this important?  As your child begins to pick up on the concept of responsibility, you can begin to instill the lessons that they are more than just an isolated person.  You’ll start off by teaching them to be a contributing (and responsible) member of your immediate family.  This will then be able to be extended to the larger family, perhaps your local congregation.  Ultimately, this will lead to them learning how to be a responsible member of society.

Of course, that’s the end goal.  Before we get there, we’ve got a lot of smaller steps to cover.  This is a journey we ourselves are fairly early on with, as our oldest is just about four.  That isn’t to say we don’t have her being responsible for things, though.  These can be fairly little things, but they’ll be lessons that add up.

Giving Kids ResponsibilityCleaning Up…

For example, we’ve started having her clear her plate from the dinner table once she’s been excused.  When this started out, we had to remind her each night of what was expected of her.  Now, it’s become routine – she knows it’s something she needs to do.   We had a wonderful reminder of her progress over the Thanksgiving weekend.  At both my parents’ and my sister’s house, after being excused (at every meal) she would take her dishes over to the sink without being asking.  She may not realize it yet, but she’s learning the lesson of contributing to the smooth running of our family, aka being a responsible family member.

… and Loading Up

Another lesson she’s been learning has been with what she brings along in her backpack.  We’ll try to give some guidelines for what she packs in there (coloring books, a favorite stuffed toy, etc), but she’s more or less given free reign once she’s got the specific things we want her to have packed in.  Sometimes, she’ll be ready to head out the door, and we’ll put the backpack on her shoulders, only to hear her say “it’s too heavy!”  It’s at this point that I’ll remind her that the weight is from her own activities – she packed in everything she wanted to bring.  While I’ll occasionally help her carry the bag, I’d be more inclined to help her clear things out to lighten the load.  It’s a small lesson, but she’s learning to be responsible for her own belongings, as well as some self sufficiency (in other words, pack what you can carry, not to depend on others to help).

Giving Kids Responsibility

Drawing The Line

Don’t get me wrong – we help our kids as much as we can with many things, especially in areas they’re still learning.  Here and there, though, we’ll take that small step back just to see what happens – what they’re learning, where we need to focus – that sort of thing.  I’ve said it before in these articles, and I’m sure I’ll say it again:  this is yet another one of those areas that we’re working through, and it’s definitely a trial-by-error.  Even for those of you reading this – you might try my examples, and they may or may not work for your kids or your parenting style.  Every child is different, and of course that changes the dynamics of this thing called parenting.

Enjoying the Journey

That all said, I’m curious what other situations our readers have come across with giving their kids more responsibility.  I’m sure there are plenty of stories (good, funny, or otherwise) that we could ultimately all learn from.  In our house, we’re learning as we go, and seeing how our kids react to what we’re opening up to them.  The ultimate goal is to have a productive and responsible member of our family and society.  We’re just enjoying the fun and rolling with the bumps and bruises as we travel the path to getting them there.

 

Giving Kids Choices

By Patrick Kansa | Children

Giving-Kids-Choices-SignToday, I’d like to cover a topic that one that can be rewarding for the child – and sometimes frustrating for the parent.  That, of course, is giving your children choices.  When they start off in life, we’re obviously making all the decisions for them – what they’ll eat, what they’ll wear, etc.  As they grow and mature, though, we starting letting them make their own choices.

Starting Out

Certainly, at first, those choices are relatively inconsequential – do they want the blue bowl or the red bowl, or what do they want to dip their chicken tenders into – that sort of thing.  Depending on your child’s particular maturity level, you may expand these choices more quickly then other parents.  It’s just one of those things that you have to trust your judgement, as you know your child best.

In our house, that’s something we’ve learned by trial and error.  We started with those easier choices, the things that I gave as examples.  As our oldest has grown, she’s demonstrated in different ways that she’s hit a maturity that’s exceeded her age in many ways (of course, there are other times where we are quickly reminded she’s still rather young).  This led us to opening up her choices in different ways.

Giving-Kids-Choices (1)

Accepting the Choice

When it comes to things like clothes, many times we’ll let her pick out her own clothing – or even just tell her to go into her room and change out of her pajamas, and then we’ll see what she’s gone with.  On one hand, this teaches her some independence – but it’s also a lesson for us as parents.  In short, we’ve got to be willing to accept what we’re allowing her to choose.  Sure, the combination of colors and patterns may not be what we’d go with, but it’s what she chose – so we let it ride.

On the other hand, we will other times give specific guidelines (say, we’re going to be out in the cooler weather all day) – then she has to work within those guidelines.  Or, if it comes to picking out her clothes for church, we narrow down the focus.  We’ll pick out two or three things, and then she can choose from those.  That way, we know what’s selected is going to be appropriate, and she still gets to make some decisions.

The biggest lesson we’ve had to learn from this is that, if something is being presented as a choice, you have to be willing to stand by her choice.  If you give a few options out, and one of them isn’t something you really want (say, a particular book you don’t enjoy reading), they will invariably settle on that option – and you must stand by it.  Otherwise, you’re presenting your child with a confusing situation, and that won’t lead to happy times.

Decision-making is an exciting time for your child, as they start gaining some independence as they learn to think about things for themselves.  At the same time, you have to be careful to not open things up too quickly.  If you do, your child is likely to be overwhelmed because they’re decision processes aren’t built up yet.  As they strengthen those muscles, though, it can be very rewarding for both parent and child to open up those choices.

Giving-Kids-Choices (3)

Know Your Child!

We as parents have to know our children, and when it makes sense to allow our child to make decisions.  Sometimes, it may not be a critical situation, and we can allow them to choose from a wide array of options (for example, what pajamas to wear).  In other situations, we may want to constrain the choices, so that they still have some freedom, but the choice ultimately conforms with what we know to be best for them (for example, what mid-day snack to have).

As with just about everything parent-related, this is a topic where we can get as much advice as possible for a variety of sources, but we won’t really know the correct path to go down until we try it out with our own children.  While it can be frustrating at times, it’s ultimately for the good of our children, so it’s important to figure it out!

Be Careful of What You Say

By Patrick Kansa | Children , Communication

Be Careful of What You SayBe Careful of What You SayRemember that old phrase “little pitchers have big ears” ? That’s a phrase that my wife and I have really gained a better appreciation for in our house. And, no, it’s not that we’re worried about them picking up bad language (since we simply don’t use it). But we’ve really be quite surprised by what our oldest will pick up, even when we think she’s not really paying attention.

Of course, it’s a bit of fine line to walk, with what she listens to or not. For example, many times I’ll be talking directly to her, and think that’s she’s listening, only to have her response be “What did you say?” Now, depending on what else is going on, I might repeat myself. Or, as I’ve been doing more frequently, I’ll ask her what she thought I said. Nine times out of ten, she picked up most (if not all) of what I was saying. I use this not so much as an example of daily life communicating with a child (as most parents likely go through this repeatedly), but as an illustration of what she’s picking up on, even when she doesn’t think she was listening.

What Are You Guys Talking About?

The next example pops up from when my wife and I are talking about something that we just need to cover (upcoming plans, what needs to get done, that sort of thing), while our daughter is occupied playing with some toys or doing some coloring. She’s pretty good about diving into some of those sorts of things, so it can be easier for us to forget that she’s nearby as our conversation continues. That is, until we hear a little voice pipe up asking for some clarification on something that was just said.

On one hand, this is a good thing. She’s there, somewhat listening, as mom and dad talk about things relevant and important to the functioning of our family. This lets her know that things are moving along as they should be, in harmony. In some measure, this should also stick with her as a point of reference that we work together as a family to accomplish things, rather than everyone doing what they think needs to be done, then recapping after all is said and done to see what was missed (I think that’s just the nature of our household, though – my wife and I are both planners, and like to know things in advance going into them).

Be Careful of What You SayThe flip side of that coin is that perhaps it isn’t a conversation those little ears need to be picking up on, or it’s just plain something she’s not quite ready (developmentally) to understand. And, on a basic level, we already self-censor some things. There are topics that are ok to talk about in front of the kids, and then there’s the other category of stuff (good, bad, or otherwise) that you simply wait until the kids are asleep to dive into. Then there’s a third category, that gives you some (generally funny) unintended consequences.

Sometimes, It’s Funny!

That third category recently came to light on a recent trip to a toy store. Now, as some background to this, we’ve been talking about (and making steps towards) simplifying things in our house and lives. This mostly entails going over what things we truly need to have in a particular room (or in the house, to begin with), or what things we can get rid of (sell, donate, etc). In short, we think it’s the right path for our family to take – get rid of unnecessary clutter, and focus on quality and enjoyment of the things we do hold on to.clutt

Now, back to the toy store. My daughter loves going in to toy stores, primarily to go and play with their train table (for a long time, she would bring along her own Thomas and Percy). At some point while my wife, father-in-law, and kids were in the store, my oldest told her grandfather that it was ok to look around, but he couldn’t buy her anything, as she had too many things. Needless to say, this sounds pretty funny coming from a little kid! But it also demonstrates that she’s listening and processing in everything that goes on around her at home.

Be Careful of What You SayYes, the clutter and chaos in some parts of the house comes from the kids’ stuff, but it’s not like my wife and I were living some spartan existence prior to their arrival. And while I appreciate that she’s picking up on the concept of what we’re trying to do, things like this can be tricky for her to put into the proper words (though, with her, vocabulary is certainly not an issue!) And while this is a fairly benign sort of thing going on in our house, it’s underscoring the fact that she’s picking up (intentionally or not) the conversations and activities going on around her, no matter how involved it may seem she is in something else.

Something To Nuture

While this hasn’t forced any drastic changes in when (or what) we talk about at the dinner table, it does give us another thing to be aware of – this little child of ours is growing up, and very aware of what’s going on around her. Rather than see this as something working against us, I choose to see it as a strength, albeit one we have to carefully nurture. For you parents out there, I’m curious to hear what your experiences are around this subject, be it a funny story, or some practical tips you’d like to share.

 

As Parents, You Must Be Unified

By Patrick Kansa | Children , Communication

holding-handsBefore my wife and I became parents, we went through a series of parenting sessions (with other couples and parents) that our church congregation offered. One of the recommendations that came from those classes is the subject for my article today – unity at the top.

At a very high level, both parents being unified is a simple concept to grasp, and one that makes a lot of sense. If both parents are on the same page (of the same book, mind you!) then your child knows exactly what to expect when it comes to things like privileges, boundaries, and the like. In practice, however, this can be more involved than you might think.

Talk To Each Other!

First off, you and your spouse must communicate with each other for what you think the rules should be. Sometimes, this might be something you discuss in advance (say, what time bedtime is), or things that you’re kind of talking through as the question or situation comes up (Hmm, can you have another snack today?). Whatever it is, no matter how mundane, you and your spouse need to come to an agreement.

mom-dad-sonThe trickier times crop up when there is a snap call that needs to be made, and your spouse isn’t immediately available for a quick level set. In our house, I generally take more of stricter position it seems, and I’ll be quick to deny something, or tell our older daughter that she needs to stop doing something. While that isn’t intrinsically a bad thing, it can set a dangerous precedent.

Say, for example, I told my daughter that she wasn’t allowed to do some certain thing with her art supplies (maybe cutting and gluing), for whatever reason. However, earlier in the day, my wife may have gone through with her how they were supposed to be used, and she (my daughter) used them responsibly. If I’m changing the rules now, that’s going to cause confusion.

This is especially critical if you’re dealing with young children, as we have. Their first instinct won’t be to tell you about the earlier permission that was granted – they’ll react in disappointment and frustration. And I can say from experience that that particular path is not a fun one to travel – for either parent or child.

Is There A Better Way?

There is a much different way this can go – and it’s the way I try to direct myself. Let’s go back to that earlier crafting example. I could, instead of shutting it down, ask her to wait while I went to check with my wife, and see if there was something that occurred earlier that would allow my daughter to be doing what she was doing.

parents-talking-on-couchThis nets us two very positive things. First, our daughter sees that we’re talking (and talking about her!), so she can know that her parents are on the same page about things. Next, it helps the both of us parents to make sure that we have the same baseline for permissiveness. This then leads (I hope) to our daughter knowing that she can’t try to get away with something.

How would that happen? Well, think back to your own childhood. Say, you wanted a cookie. Now, when I was growing up, I knew I had a much better chance if I asked my dad of actually getting that cookie. Even if it was a situation where I was told to go ask the other parent, I knew where my chances lie.

This is situational, of course – there are some things that parents are more inclined to do (or not do) based on interests, level of busyness, and the like. For example, I’m not about to be ready to teach my daughter to sew, but if she wants to practice using a hammer, I can probably find a project for her. At a low level, we just don’t want things to get to the point where a child knows that they can try to play parents off of each other, or even just play games to try and get what they want.

There Are Wonderful Benefits

This will all come to fruition if your child sees that you and your spouse are unified. This can happen in many ways throughout a day or evening. It could be at the dinner table, where we’re teaching our daughter to say “Excuse me” and then wait to be acknowledged when my wife and I are talking to each other. It could be your child seeing you and your mate holding hands as you walk down the sidewalk, or embracing each other when you get home from work.

parents-kissingFrom what I recall (on this topic) from the class, this not only avoids scenarios where the child tries to play parents against each other, it also allows the child to have a feeling of safety, of being loved. They see the discussions, the hugs and kisses, and they not only know, but they feel that things are good with Mom and Dad. This keeps them free to be children who are learning and growing, secure in the fact that they are part of a cohesive, loving family.

Easier Said Then Done

As I mentioned at the start, this is one of those concepts that is very simple on paper, and it’s easy to see the benefits. Of course, parenting is never as clean cut as the plans we might lay out for ourselves, and seeking and maintaining unity is something the both of you will have to work through to find the right level of give and take, in order to provide that loving environment for your children. There’s no guarantee that it’ll be easy, and if you’re like me, you’re liable to slip up now and again. We can keep at it, though, and the rewards that you AND your children will gain are immeasurable.

On this topic, I’m curious – what do you and your spouse do to make sure that you’re unified when it comes to raising your children? Sound off in the comments and let us know – I’m sure there’s good tips out there from our readers that would be beneficial to everyone.

 

Put The Phone Down!

By Patrick Kansa | Children

Put The Phone Down!Given that the name of this site in Engaged Marriage, I think that today’s parenting post is rather fitting, as I want to talk to you about another aspect of engaging in your marriage – and that would be being fully engaged with your children.

But, before we get into that, you’re probably wondering what might make me an expert in parenting.

Who Is This Guy?

I’m not an expert. I don’t have any degrees that relate, nor have I devoured stacks of books.

However, as with most things in life, I’m learning as I go along. My wife and I are doing the best we can for our two little girls. Sure, we’ve learned by doing our share of reading on the topic, but parenting is just one of those things that you truly have to experience.

And it’s that experience – and the mistakes that we’ve learned from – that I’m hoping to share with you here.

Back to my original premise of engaging with our children.

We’ve always had distractions in our lives – our jobs, chores around the house, errands that need running, things of that nature. More recently, of course, we’ve had all manner of mobile devices (phones, iPods, and tablets) crop up that many of us carry everywhere we go. And it’s those devices that can cause us to become disengaged from our children.

Put The Phone Down!When our oldest was still relatively little (under 6 months old, say), I would often rock her to sleep at night. Of course, once she was asleep on my shoulder, I couldn’t immediately lay her down, as the odds were she would wake up. I needed to wait awhile to ensure she was truly asleep.

With a sleeping baby in your arms in a dark room, how do you pass the time?

For me, that was easy – I’d fire up the iPod, and hop on over to Facebook, or perhaps play a game. And that was the pattern I kind of established for myself.

It was easy to follow, as I generally always had the iPod in my pocket when I was at home (never know when you need to check your email, right?) As our daughter got older, however, both my wife and I realized that perhaps that wasn’t the best course of action.

Distracted_parents text addedA Lesson Learned

Where it really struck home for us was when she was a toddler.

We’d set a phone or iPod down somewhere, and if it was in her eyesight, she’d pick it up and bring it over to us. Yes, in some sense, she was being helpful. But that action also carried a message.

It seemed like, since she always saw us with a device, that she thought we must have set it down by accident, and was bringing it over.

For us, that cut deeply.

I know for myself, I’d often sneak a quick peek at my email while she was distracted for a few minutes playing with her toys. But that device was pulling me away from my child. Sure, I wasn’t missing out on any milestones, but I was still missing out.

And I certainly wasn’t doing anything constructive to help her to learn and grow – or just simply have fun.

Put The Phone Down!The end result of this was a  decision – when we’re with the kids, the devices stay tucked away.

Often, my cellphone is in a different part of the house once I get home, so I don’t have any distractions from that. Sure, I may have the iPod tucked away somewhere, but it stays tucked away.

This way I can be engaged with my daughters, enjoying their laughter and curiosity. If that means being the crazy customer at their “restaurant” or building an amazing track for Thomas, then that’s what we do. We engage them, and do our best to take their imaginations on a journey.

Why Make This Choice?

And if you think about it, there’s a relatively simple equation behind this decision: Time spent on a device plus time with your kids is equal to the time you have before they go to sleep.

Decrease one, and the other increases. And even though they may not have the vocabulary to form the idea, your children will interpret what they think is most important to you – it’s what you spend your time doing.

Put The Phone Down!

This is one of those lessons that we learned the hard way, via our oldest bringing us the phone that we set down somewhere in the house to get away from it. She had that image of it in our hands set in her mind, and she was restoring the picture of what she saw as normal.

This isn’t to say that we don’t use the devices in kids presence. Sometimes, there may be a question that comes up that a quick YouTube search pulls up a video that explains something we can’t quite describe. Or maybe they want to see a silly picture we took of them.

But that’s the root of why the device may be out in their presence – it’s focused on something for the children, not necessarily for us.

And lest you think I’m preaching from on high on this topic, let me assure you – while I’ve personally made strides to improve this, I’m by no means perfect in this regard. If I was, I probably wouldn’t even have the iPod on my person when I’m at home, and would need to go hunting for it.

The Winding Path Of A Parent

But that illustration is representative of parenting, at least in my mind.

You pursue a course of action, and then you make corrections as you realize a change needs to be made, for the benefit of your children. Email and Facebook messages will be waiting for you once you have some downtime when the kids are asleep.

Your children, however, will only be the way they are in a moment for that moment – and once it’s gone, it’s gone! At the same time, we’re also setting an expectation – by our example – of how we expect our children to act when they (one day) have their own electronic distractions – we will want their full attention when we’re talking to them.

Put The Phone Down!What I’d like to encourage you to do is simple: once you get home, set your phone up on a cabinet somewhere where it’s out of sight (and hopefully out of mind).

For the few hours you have at night before your kids go to bed, really focus on your family (children AND spouse), and make the most of that time that you have. For extra credit, you might even consider an electronics-free day (or weekend) – it’s something we’ve talked about in our house, but haven’t quite gotten there.

And for those of you already further along this path, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts, and some of your “tips and tricks” around this particular subject.

As with many things parenting-related, it’s not always an easy path to walk along – but it is certainly one of the most rewarding ones we’ll find ourselves on.