I have a long standing parenting philosophy that’s in need of ramping up on account of where we are with Blueberry. He’s 3, and he’s got some new experiences both in the bag and on his horizon. First, I’ll describe the philosophy, then I’ll demonstrate how this club works – you might want to join too!
The “I’ll Try” club is a super special club for first timers – you know, for anything (except things illegal, immoral, or mean-spirited). The club has 1 rule; you only have to try. I have found it is a super good way to keep expectations right sized and to communicate expectations to my children in ways that meets them right where they are but pushes them to extend boundaries for new experiences. Um, like swimming class (see below).
The thing is, Blueberry needs right sized expectations. He’s a careful observer. And, any setting that is chaotic, loud, noisy, and the least bit unpredictable creates the most intensive ‘velcro’ experience – – – although his predecessor sister, Twinkletoes, might always take the cake on toddler velcro when in public and mighty independence when in private. (Now that I think of it, this must be a club for the brilliant and amazing). Not only does Blueberry meld into my lap/arms/body without a chance of separation, but he typically sinks right into ‘no’, ‘never again’, ‘I don’t like this’ ad nauseum IF I push him to engage beyond a tiny step, positive strategy. Otherwise, not fun. Not fun for him. Not fun for me. Not fun for anyone large and in charge. So, we use the “I’ll Try Club”. It works.
Here is how —
We have some swim lessons this summer. Then we have the start of 2 morning a week preschool this fall. While I can’t budge on the preschool plan (I’ll take him, he’ll go, I’ll leave him. He’ll survive sort of thing), I can warm him up with a very positive swim school experience. He knows we are going to swim class at special swim school time – a time when Moms and Dads don’t get to be in the pool and have fun and when all sorts of special pool toys come out (noodles and boats and barbells and floating mats!). The “I’ll Try Club” awards 3 skittles for kind, cooperative, and helpful preparation for swim school – awarded in the car, of course. I’m not typically a food enticer/rewarder, but for this sort of stuff, YOU BETCHA! Then, we go to swim class with an “I’ll try” attitude. Blueberry knows that at the end of class, when we are all done and wrapped up, he will get another
sugar dose three Skittles for being a good member of the “I’ll Try Club.” In Blue’s case, HE has identified “I’ll try” right now to involve getting there, sitting on the edge with me and watching the class while practicing careful listening. His ‘try’ certainly does not include being in the swim class – and frankly, he might not get there by the end of these 2 weeks.I don’t engage with him much during class (he is sitting on my lap – that’s his comfort zone for right now), and he isn’t allowed to wander off and play or leave the area during lessons. I make simple observations like, “Oh, look, your classmates are putting their listening ears in the water – I wonder if they hear fish?” and “Look at Brett <teacher>, he’s pretending to drive a car in the water!” Blueberry has responded pleasantly. He doesn’t cry, doesn’t pull back, doesn’t smack talk complain. He might say things like, “I’m NOT swimming!” But, generally I don’t argue, and I don’t make a big deal about MY notion of what his participation should look like – nor do I set a timeline for that. I might say, “you’re doing a good job with I’ll try. I wonder when you’ll try something new?” Indeed, it works for us. Today, day 3 of swim lessons, he waded into the pool to do some toy clean up when he saw some school toys floating.He was excited to pick up a noodle, get his feet wet, and grab some boats that were floating away. He even got close enough to his class for his teacher to check in with him. As soon as Brett said his name, my boy turned on his heel and made a bee line for me, but he wasn’t out of sorts. He was ok.
<———–We avoid this. It’s not that I think it’s not ok for him to cry. Rather, I try to encourage measured growth that comes out of my son’s own sense of …… rhythm. Sometimes that rhythm can induce crying. It doesn’t always have to feel so hugely distressing to grow and stretch.
The “I’ll Try Club” has workded great for us – my biggies are lifetime members. Little one is a member now too! Let’s all have a round of Skittles!
(Did I mention it helps me right size MY expectations too – which keeps the lid on my own feelings of frustration and disappointment. Yeah, so I don’t kick back and yak on my cell phone during my kid’s swim lessons…rough life).