Posts Tagged ‘Ikea’

We went to Ikea for dinner tonight. (This time, we didn’t go just to get the monkeys to behave, but knowing that I wanted to go check some stuff out gave me a great way to keep those guys in line all day. A nice byproduct.)

After dinner, we went downstairs to get ice cream. We got the cones, but didn’t manage to get the extra cups and spoons we usually give them so they can eat their ice cream and not make a total mess. As they started to eat I realized that at 3 years old, the monkeys are actually old enough to learn how to eat an ice cream cone.

Being old enough to learn how to properly lick an ice cream cone is not a major milestone that’s likely to be found in any parenting book. But it’s another reminder that they’re growing up, and fast. 

Tonight, it was another reminder that we cling to the practices that worked when they were younger because that’s becomes the habit that we’re in. Assisted ice cream eating, sitting in high chairs at the dinner table, swinging in the baby swings at the park, and ‘bumping’ down the stairs are just a few of the things I can think of that we should probably be moving past soon. But they’ve become as much crutches for me as they are assists for the monkeys. The high chairs keep them stuck in their seats. When they bump down the stairs, I don’t have to watch them as closely (and they can carry things!). All these reasons keep me – and them – rooted in what’s comfortable instead of looking for opportunities to grow.

And to be fair, it’s not just me. Although they are getting to be ‘big boys’ the monkeys still love to be cuddled, coddled and carried – mostly by me. They like to play the baby role almost as much as they like playing the big boy role.

But there’s something exciting and fun about teaching your kids the proper technique for maximum enjoyment of ice cream with minimum melting all over your hands. And for them, there’s something exciting about developing new skills and doing things that the big kids can do. Even as we give up some of the positive benefits of old behaviors, we gain something from adopting new ones.

It’s not just our kids that we get into these patterns with, of course, it’s our colleagues, too.

It’s easy to limit someone’s growth by saying – she’s not ready, we’ll give her training wheels and then, someday she can do it on her own. It even sounds like you’re doing something nice. But you’re not. You’re limiting her growth. Because without trying, she’ll never really learn.

Often growth happens at work by accident. People get pushed into developing or demonstrating new skills and flexing new muscles when they have to – a particularly difficult project or a very busy day means that everyone has to step up and eat their ice cream without a cup. And that’s when you realize that they can. But it’s probably worthwhile to be more proactive about providing these opportunities, not just taking advantage of them when they come up.

But I am going to be so sad to get rid of those high chairs.



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I’m in a sophisticated phase of parenting called bargaining, negotiating and bribery.

I’m not proud, but I’ll do what it takes to ensure that the monkeys not only know that they shouldn’t pull their teacher’s hair in school but that they don’t actually do it.

A couple of weeks ago there was a lot of misbehaving at school. In a single day they were in and out of time out about four times each at school. I was unsure of how to handle it. But I knew that I didn’t really want to be the parent of the worst behaved boys at school. After all, our parent-teacher conference was just around the corner. So I tried a tactic I thought might work: bribery. 

At dinner, I set up the challenge: “If you can get through the day without getting into trouble tomorrow, we’ll go to Ikea for dinner.” By far, the monkey’s favorite place to go out to dinner is Ikea. I guess that’s what happens if you never take your children to McDonald’s. 

The next day I reinforced the bribe with a simple message. “There will be three rules for school today. 1) No crying when mommy drops you off. 2) Listen to your teachers. 3) Have fun. If you follow all the rules we get to go to Ikea for dinner.” For good measure, I let their teacher in on the set up. That way she could invoke the Ikea incentive if she needed to.

It worked like a charm. They were little angels at school and we had a fun dinner at Ikea. Easing my guilt on invoking the Ikea incentive was the fact that I am not the only mom at school that uses that particular motivation tool – we ran into another family eating there, too.

I was quite pleased with the result of the bribe. The problem, of course, is that I don’t really want to eat dinner at Ikea every night. This particular spate of bad behavior subsided without the need for another bribe, though, and we moved on.

Until this Monday, when the monkeys came home from school. “How was school?” I asked innocently. “Monkey #1 stepped on teacher’s toe,” reported Monkey #2. (No, they don’t actually call each other monkey). “On purpose or by accident?” I ask. “By accident and on purpose,” he replied. Turns out Monkey #1 stepped on the teacher’s toe a lot. Four times before he got sent to time out, in fact.

So I tried a new incentive – their favorite brunch place, Morning Glory. “If you behave in school all week, we can go to Morning Glory for lunch on Friday. You can have Monkey French Toast.” (Yes, it’s called Monkey French Toast. It is a delicious sugar bomb with fruit thrown in for good measure.)

I sent them to school with this great promise, only to end up with some very sad monkeys at the end of the day. See, they’re 3. And when Mr. Daddy picked them up from school, they wanted to go to Morning Glory for Monkey French Toast. They’re not really up on the days of the week and they didn’t understand that I didn’t mean tonight, I meant at the end of the week. And the end of the week looks a long way away when it’s Tuesday.

Morning Glory closes at 3, so I couldn’t make good on the promise they thought they’d heard. I talked them down, and explained everything, and they kind of got it, but not really. I had to keep explaining it and re-explaining it all week. They did behave in school, though, and we are going to Morning Glory tomorrow. 

The Ikea success vs. Morning Glory failure taught me something about incentives. The Ikea incentive works because there’s a direct correlation between their behavior and the reward. It’s timely for the way that they perceive time. The Morning Glory incentive might work for an adult, or even an older kid, but a week is too long long for 3 year-olds to wait for their reward.

The folks that I work with  are smart, overachieving people who generally do great work. We try to reward them for their work with salary increases, promotions, and recognition, but we don’t always do a great job. Often, I think, our incentives feel less like the Ikea incentive and more like the Morning Glory incentive. The connection to their particular contributions isn’t always clear. And we don’t always promote people and give them raises in a timely fashion. Of course, they don’t throw tantrums or hit me when I’ve missed the mark, but a lack of good incentives can still be a problem.

Sometimes I teach my kids. And sometimes, I learn from them.

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