I spend a fair amount of my day chauffeuring my girls around Boulder County — to and from school, to and from SMAA and everywhere in between.
I often glance at the minivan stopped next to me at red lights, noticing kids buckled up on the back seat, eyes transfixed on a portable screen hung from the roof or from the backside of the front seat.
Dr. Karla and I decided to limit any video-watching to trips longer than those taken around town, such as multi-hour trips to the mountains and road trips, so I cannot rely on a screen to occupy my kids as I drive them to SMAA and back.
Due to my afternoon and evening teaching schedule, I found myself with less time to read to the girls as I would have liked. My bedtime stories have to wait until weekends.
At the same time, I wanted to share classic children’s stories with them.
I found my answer at audible.com, amazon.com’s platform that offers audiobooks read by professional storytellers. The girls have been listening to audiobooks since well-before they could read chapter books by themselves, and Siena continues to love audiobooks now that she can and has read the books herself.
Drive time in dad’s car is audiobook time, time the girls eagerly anticipate, as do I.
I’ve been waiting for Petra to reach the age when we could start listening to Harry Potter. Currently, we are finishing up the first story and they are already looking forward to starting Chamber of Secrets.
Today is “karate day,” meaning I pick them up from school and bring them to class.
They are already looking forward to heading to SMAA because they get to listen to Harry Potter. No whining, griping, complaining “I don’t wanna go to karate today” because they associate the trip to class with listening to Harry’s adventures.
A few words. My kids always enjoy class and I notice their positive emotional change after each class ends. However, just like every other kid out there, they have days they would rather not come to class.
I avoid butting heads and falling victim to the perennial parent lament, “I don’t want to force my child…” by setting up their day so that they are actually excited to hop in the car so they can listen to what’s going to happen to Harry next.
I avoid the fight before it starts, just like Black Belts do.
The problem isn’t that kids don’t like karate class, it’s that they have so many huge, conflicting emotions preventing them from directing themselves to the car.
I hear it so often that i’s become cliche, “I can’t get him here, BUT as soon as he’s here my son has a great time.” Of course kids have a great time, martial arts is mentally and physically engaging with new challenges ready for them whenever they are ready to accept them.
This powerful strategy I use to get my girls to class without a struggle is called Shaping the Path by Chip and Dan Heath (authors of Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard) and it refers to making it easier to do the right thing by arranging your environment.
I have seen parents argue that unless their child has some preternatural, pure passion that naturally arises from some well of motivation deep within himself, then there’s no point in forcing the issue because life is hopeless without it.
Fortunately, this “100%-Internally-Motivated, 100%-of-the-time” viewpoint doesn’t hold up to scientific scrutiny.
Our environment has profound effects on how we feel and how we act.
If you disagree, think back to the last time you were in line at the grocery store and your kid nagged you,”please, please can I have a Snickers bar,” because the candy is at kids’ eye level, placed right where you might make an impulse buy.
Ignorant people are controlled by their environment while spouting off about the primacy of their individual freedom, whereas savvy people actively shape their environment to support their own success, using every tool to their own advantage.
Right now, Harry Potter gets my kids to class where they practice the values I want them to learn, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.