How to Cure a Dawdler Without Strangulation, My Five Tips

Passive aggressive children (coworkers, siblings, roommates) suck the energy right of you, don’t they? People don’t wake up one day and decide to be passive aggressive. No, they act that way because of years of practice, but it begins in childhood. It is most often seen in a child who is given a job–be it getting dressed, cleaning a room, or doing schoolwork, and who then dawdles through it. The child professes to be working at it so shouldn’t be chastised, but in reality is ignoring it, and it drives you to the point of pulling your hair out. That’s the key point in diagnosing passive aggression. If it doesn’t make you crazy, it isn’t passive or it isn’t aggression. But when you see it, before you reach the crazy stage, implement character training. It must be weeded out before it takes root and becomes a way of life.

We see this in the lives of people, not animals. First of all, no mama rhino would let her child be non-compliant. And secondly, dawdlers in the animal kingdom are eaten when the lions chase the pack. Therefore they cease to exist. The mama rhino knows that and trains it out of her offspring. Let us do likewise!

In us humans it’s different, and all too often we make allowances for it. Sometimes we think we can reason it away. Nope. The child (and counterpart adult) seldom voices the reason for passive aggression, and may not be cognizant of it. Thus scolding, talking, reminding and yelling are all ineffective. In our household this week, passive aggression came in the form of a young miss who just sat and did no math, while professing three hours later she was doing it but it was just so hard. (sob, sob) Sound familiar? (Let me just clarify here that when forced to do it, she completed her work in less than 15 minutes. Let’s not fall prey to tears, feeling sorry for the tyke. No, she was dawdling.)

Obviously a spouse, sibling or coworker acts outside the realm of your authority, so you cannot compel a change. Only influence can be brought to bear. But a child is your responsibility.  Your primary job is raising up a righteous generation, and refusing to deal with dawdling hurts not just the rhythm of the present day, but will impact your child in future years. No one enjoys being around a passive aggressive person, no employer likes to hire a passive aggressive person, and few spouses remain married to a passive aggressive person. Fail to deal with it, and your child will pay the price for a very, very long time.

Ready to fix the problem? These are my five tips for dealing with dawdlers:

  1. Move the child next to you. Children who see constant eyes upon them finally dig in and get the job done. K did her math in minutes once I had her within arm’s reach and kept my eyes on her. Of course it upsets your day and requires your attention, but putting in the required time pays off in the end. It’s your job. Just do it. Be the rhino. Everything else can wait when your child needs correction.
  2. Reward dawdling with consequences. K had math, math, math, math, math for all her subjects until I saw a change of attitude and performance. Only then was she allowed to work independently (away from my side) and then still on math, until she proved her good workmanship. In the words of an old song, “Let the punishment fit the crime.” For another situation it might mean cleaning the bathroom and the hall and the kitchen after the original chore was accomplished (with mom lounging in full view with iced tea in hand.) Life has consequences. Don’t thwart that natural order if you wish to raise a responsible child.
  3. Apply the Word. Scripture study and memorization of applicable verses reaches the soul. There’s the heart of the problem, right? Apply eternal light to a little speck of darkness. One of my favorites is 1 Samuel 15:23.
  4. Talk. Inspire. Praise. Passive aggressive children–after consequences have been applied–need a heavy dose of conversation. Why do you suppose you didn’t do your math? and Did it make you happy to be disobedient? and How do you feel now? Many of us act unconsciously when upset until we are able to sit down, ponder, and figure out what made us feel that way. If we have trouble pinpointing a problem as adults, surely we shouldn’t expect that same self awareness in a child. Focus on the situation at hand and let your child grow up a little before you try psychoanalysis, lol. But talk. A lot. Growing love inspires a child to be obedient.
  5. Do this as often as necessary. Your child needs to know that he/she will NEVER win the war of passive aggression. Clear the calendar as often as necessary and get ‘er done. Expect recurrences. Never let your child win in the game of dawdling.

be the rhinoParents, be the rhino! Of course if you home school, this is easier for you. You aren’t racing off with a non-compliant child to be on time somewhere. You can devote yourself to child training. Your reward? A few weeks of happy compliance before it starts all over again. But those few weeks? They’re worth all the hassle.

Let me encourage you, parents, to do your duty. Take the raising of your children as your primary source of employment, and do the job thoroughly. It takes time and effort, but you’ll love that youngster all the more as an adult, an adult who isn’t passive aggressive.

When a Sun Day Isn’t on a Sunday

We home school.  I know, we’re old people, but we home school two of our grandchildren, and the other six are homeschooled as well.  That means we see the world from a little different perspective.  (When we first started 38 years ago, I thought we might just have rocks in our heads.  It didn’t take me long to realize those were Mexican jumping beans doing somersaults of joy.)  It also means that we define words differently from our institutionalized counterparts.  For example, we don’t have snow days.  We enjoy SUN days.cousin love

We may have enjoyed out last SUN day this week.  After a treacherously hot summer and a long anticipated fall, we finally got a short burst of Indian summer this week.  Yes, we took full advantage of it.  All the grands enjoyed some time at a local park, and we sat reveling in what turned out to be the nicest day of the week.

Here’s the thing.  Life requires setting both boundaries and priorities.  Set boundaries to be sure the big, important stuff gets done.  Set priorities so living never gets shoved out of the program.  Balancing on that narrow beam can get tricky, but luckily our state helps us.  In Missouri we are required to log 1000 hours a year of core, non-core, and field trip studies.  We faithfully keep a record of these activities, so when a bonus like a super-gorgeous glorious day comes along…yup, we’re ON it!

We should have spent a few moments eulogizing our institutionalized counterparts and being thankful for our freedom, but nope, we just played and sat in the sun and had a wonderful day together.  Sundays are special in the Rhoads household.  We love going to worship and family dinners.  We love SUN days almost as much. (wink, wink.)

Flame the Fire of Joy

After a full week of algebra and schoolwork with pedal to the metal, we enjoyed an afternoon of bowling yesterday. Yes, we left mowing undone. We left a small mountain of wood unsplit and unstacked.  My work area held a manuscript for book three needing to be imagined and a blog post to write. Yes, we were out an out slugs. Instead, we chose to follow Grand Poppy’s sage advice: “We keep the fun,” and loved seeing the joy explode out of the hearts of our two scholars.

Children grow up. I know, it’s hard to believe since it happens one baby step at a time. When parents turn around and suddenly realize the children have grown up without them, a ginormous opportunity remains forever lost. Enjoy time with them now to avoid the bitter ashes of feeling cheated later.

Living in the moment doesn’t mean we work less. We work faster, with more focus.  We love intentionally. We create pockets of time from which we extract these memories to cache away as joy for another day. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t always happen at a bowling alley. Amazing, right? Share popcorn over a movie, snuggled in an afghan. Play a rousing game of Mexican trains and for goodness sake, let the silly train whistle drive you crazy. Bake some cookies. I’m full of these little ideas. I could go on all day long, but I think you got my drift already.

We country folk who heat with wood like to say it’s the only form of energy that heats you twice: once when you cut it and again when you burn it.  These romps from routine hold the same promise: warm the heart in play, and remember the warmth for years to come when the eagles have flown the nest. Best of all, the flames of joy burn clean with no ashes to sweep from the hearth. Boy, howdy! That’s a win/win for ya’! What price joy? I have no answer for that.

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Tales that Tell

The Common Princess is online! I’m still pinching myself!!  The book took shape several years ago, when I couldn’t find Christian literature for girls that took them into the Word.logo jpeg

It got put on the back burner after a few kind by firm rejection letters.  It wasn’t until Alma’s death sapped my usually boundless energy, with my soul somewhere between a desperate dawn and a lonely sunrise, that Aaron prompted me to dig it out and finish it.

There exists tell tale signs about all of us.  How are we known? Writing became a natural-flowing form of expression for me at a young age.  By junior high I’d found a love for paper and pencils and words.  Not being a Pearl Buck, I let it remain an avocation and thus enjoyed a daily journal all my life.  It took darkness and the light of my son’s confidence to draw me back to the flame.  I want my tell tale sign to be a teller of tales that stirs the imagination.kingdom

This allegorical tale is, I hope, compelling enough to draw girls into the story line, and rich enough in scripture to immerse their hearts in the soul of the King.  I offer a free 46-page set of journal prompts and worksheets available for download via email upon purchase of the book.  All girls are princesses when their Father is the King of the universe.  Entitling them to that destiny is my calling and desire.  I hope you’ll like it and recommend it.

How To Preserve Your Legacy

Keeping a journal serves as a catharsis for me, a way to contemplate life’s events and make sense of life’s experiences, deal with angst.  But that’s not why I write.  Within each of us exists a legacy of memories, recipes, tips and stories crying out for expression.  A sad generation glued to cell phones and Google tidbits for news will one day wish they’d plumbed the well of life experience you carry…and if you write it down, they’ll be able to do just that!  To encourage you, let me share one of my children’s memories.

Fall brings to a close one of my favorite things, so I’ll share a memory fitting the season:

Blue Blood and True Blue

dedicated to Levi

Only Levi shares my passion for royalty.  Far from our humble home and beneath a clear sky, the pageantry begins:  emblazoned symbols, a regal crown and a banner unfurled in the breeze herald the festivities.  The music starts and we involuntarily rise.  Yes, I’d say we’re impressed by royalty.

The lives of the royal family fascinate us.  We cheer their successes and anguish over their defeats, loyal to the end.  We scour the paper for news, and if the press maligns them, we scream, “Foul play!”  Royal names and titles slide easily into our daily conversations.

“Chico’s got a hot bat today, doesn’t he?”

“The Hammer hit another two run homer!  His fourteenth!”

“Monty’s arm sure looks better, and his speed’s up, too!”

Yes, we love those Royals, win or lose, strike or no strike.  It just comes naturally.  My mom never missed a game.  Crippled, she rallied behind the Royals (and the Athletics before them) by radio and television.  Many of my fondest memories include these vicarious friends.  Our favorite Sunday afternoons found us ruminating on the Sunday puzzle, sharing a ball game, a quiet peace between us.  As she lay dying in the ICU, my brother and I stood by her bed, willing her to survive.

“You’ll get better, I”ll get you a Frank White baseball,” my brother promised her.

She laughed.  “What are you going to do? Walk up to his front door and ask him to sign it?”

“If that’s what it takes,” he shot right back.

Well, we started laughing.  We laughed so hard the monitor went berserk and nurses poured into the room to examine her, staring reprovingly at us for administering the best curative of all, love and laughter.  That Frank White baseball lived with my brother until his death, a reminder of the that love we shared.  Fast forward seven years.  Lounging in her favorite rocker, my youngest son now shares the legacy, laughing with each hit or stunning double play.

Home schooling is so much more than books and lesson plans.  Tucked away in the heart of home education is the matrix of shared fun.  The sterile schoolroom, inhabited through business hours Monday through Friday, feels poor and bereft when its lifeblood leaves for home each day, just as learning feels strained in its strange environment.  At home, where we live our learning and our joy, lessons come much more freely, built on a foundation of baseball, firelit nights and the many other pleasures we share together.  Those golden moments set the stage for the lesson plans and written assignments our public counterparts formalize as education.  Without them, learning loses its sparkle.  So, bring on the good times!

Here, we savor the sweeps and hope for at least a wild card slot in the pennant race, and study baseball whenever possible.  I’ll always miss my mom, but I’m so thankful Levi and I slug away our days like royalty, watching the Royals.

Yes, baseball is drawing to a close for yet another season, but the joy of sharing the Royals is being passed onto another Rhoads generation, and I love it!  Most of all I love saving memories of my children, which their children now enjoy.  Perpetuate the cycle of life by taking pen in hand and writing it down.  Capture your memories and pin them to a page.  Your family will be glad you did.




What is the Best Time of Day?

The kiddos arrive and we always start with prayer.  The best time of day? In theory, yes.  In reality, no.  We talk.  we settle into our routine.  We snuggle through math review.  We have fun over lunch.

But the best part of the day occurs when we don’t DO anything at all.  Cuddling on the couch, playing word games and taking selfies is as important in raising a child as reading and math.  How I pity children locked into sterile classrooms where laughter and tickle bug are edged out by grammar and geography.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe in a well-rounded curriculum.  I just believe it should include liberal amounts of love.  One day she will enter formal education, whether it’s next year or junior college, and these days will be the basis of her confidence, her joy, her sense of well-being.  You just can’t buy that with a private school education or mandate it with government regulation.  Too bad.  I think all children need lessons of love extending into their adolescent years.  Even Matthias, a teenager struggling with algebra, enjoys a close relationship.  He’s past tickling, but he still revels in just cuddling up and talking about things.

There exists no greater insecurity than adolescence.  There is no meaner creature than a 7th grade girl, and no rougher environment than a school.  Any school.  Every single youngster struggles to find his/her place, compares his/herself with every other developing student, fears ridicule, and feels inadequate.  At home it’s different.  No one else is the same age, so there’s no comparison except with yesterday’s version of yourself.  No one else stands out as the beauty, the jock, the most popular, the class president–so no child feels less worthy.  These lessons are all learned, but learned at a later time with muted drama.  For now, learning to be the very best person without drama and pressure are

The best part of my day results in beefing up security, growing confidence, filling a little soul with love.  Today we played word games theough free reading, took selfies, and enjoyed an extended cuddling session on the couch.  The. Best. Time. of Day.

And Now She Makes Music? Is This Kindergarten?

I ought to begin by admitting that chronologically speaking, none of us are actually in kindergarten.  I leave it to you, gentle reader, to decide if we function at grade level or not.  And I include myself in this grading of our work habits, for I am one of those in the mix of household personalities who make up our sweet little home/work stations.

I like to work from the living room couch with my laptop on the coffee table, but my grands find their own favorite nooks for their studies.  Katelyn likes to start out in the sun room, nestled into the cushions of a comfortable wicker chair with a bench for her work surface.  And she hums.  Yes, this child who rarely sings at church, tunelessly hums her favorite hymns as she works.  She likes to hum in the rocker when she’s touching up her work, making everything perfect.  But she’s always humming.  Hers are happy sounds.

Matthias either smooshes into the pillows of the reading nook or spreads his books across the dining room table.  He erases a lot.  Rattles his papers.  Sighs when Katelyn hums too loudly.  (He sighs a lot.)  Creaks in his chair.  His are working sounds.sounds of school

Meanwhile, I sip my coffee.  Write.  Work on Sunday school lessons.  Knit.  Work on Posh.  Post on the Expo.  Do what I do, all the while enjoying the serenity.  I love their companionship on these peaceful mornings.  It is the quintessential kindergarten scenario of parallel play.  We work alongside each other, never really interacting.  It spells warmth and comfort.  Our lives are colored in shades of happiness.  Perhaps by coloring outside the lines and spelling by heart I prove I am still a kindergartner at heart.  Mrs. French, my first teacher at the Old Rock Creek elementary school, would be so proud.

Crisp Thoughts Come from Insightful Reading

“So many books, so little time.”  The quote is attributed to Frank Zappa.  Visit a local bookstore, library or Amazon, and you know that books abound.  Here’s the thing:  Reading without contemplation, without introspection, without making the author’s message personal, is a lot like eating a Snickers for lunch.  Tasty, but little to no nutritional value.  Pure pleasure reading produces the lamentable Scarecrow of Oz, unable think deep thoughts.

One of the best books I found for encouraging me to think, reflect, and create coherent thoughts comes in the form of a workbook.  You’ll find it loaded with inspirational quotes and writing prompts for learning the craft of writing, but basic to the heart of the process are the daily morning pages.  The simple act of capturing thoughts on paper trains the mind to think critically.  Consistent practice produces the tendency to think more critically about literature, politics, diet and all parts of the geographical map where my mind wanders.

Ya’ll know how much I value a reading plan that stretches the mind to think When Not to Lose Weight.  This I consider just as important.  Learning how to think critically comes with practice.  Using that old gray matter for something besides figuring out “who done it” in a page turning mystery requires usage.  Reading insightful literature.  Consistently practicing my morning pages.

I like to use a three ring binder for my morning pages.  I use a 3-hole punch to insert not just notebook paper, but beautiful papers igniting my creative juices.  Sometimes I continue to journal after my morning pages, and that lovely paper makes my pen slide better across the page.  Really.  I like to write snippets for my book, list topics I need to study, work on my to do list, write about a good book or a controversial topic.  In short, I write.  At the end of each year I remove the bundle and start anew.  What are you doing to become a better thinker of great thoughts?books

My Top 5 Reasons to Change the Way You Read

Educators and home schoolers alike know this simple truth:  Teach a child to read, to read voraciously, and he will learn independently all his life.  Voracious readers are quirky readers.  I know it well.

Aaron, our firstborn, fell in love with Jim Kjelgaard.  Big Red taught him compassion, loyalty, and about overcoming obstacles.  He proceeded to work his way through every Kjelgaard novel over time.  I recommend a few books of personal ownership.  Don’t get me wrong.  We visited the library every week and exited with a bag full of books each time, but there’s something about a dog-eared well loved book that captures a place in a child’s heart.  If your child likes animals, by all means, check this out!

Katelyn’s current fave is a series about personified dragonets, who exemplify a full gamut of human emotions: love jealousy, fear, loyalty, deceit.  I recommend them cautiously.  Talk about them.  What better way to learn how to deal with tricky emotions than to read, see, and discuss together?

Sadly, many of us escape the classroom of mandatory reading lists and slide backwards into constantly reading for pleasure, if at all.  We read our news online in short snippets lacking depth and varied viewpoints.  A recent online study stated 24% of all American adults report they didn’t read one book, or even part of a book in the last year.  (Can you sense my horrified face here?)  Here’s the problem:  Little eyes watch what you read.  Nothing preaches an indolent reading program more than an adult reading nothing but titles for pleasure.  Whether you’re a mom, dad, grandparent, aunt, uncle, neighbor…and I think that includes all of us…your habits influence all the youngsters around you. When our sons were young I followed a strict reading regimen of pleasure, inspirational, how to, and classic with daily Bible study.  I still like the plan, but I no longer force myself into that same sequence.

Why should you change the way you read?

  1. Reading a book to educate or broaden your horizons each month keeps your mind facile.  Whether you want to learn a new calligraphy font or how to overhaul the engine in your Camaro, learn something new.  Reading about current issues by different authors forms the basis for an educated electorate, a prerequisite for our republic.  Read a book.
  2. An inspirational book continues your personal development and makes you a better person.  We could all profit from some self improvement.
  3. A well written and timeless classic embodies universal values.  Its seamless style helps you appreciate other books and provides a measuring stick by which all literature is better judged.
  4. Daily reading of scripture puts the Word into not just your mind, but your heart as well.
  5. Little eyes watch you.  Always.  Whether they know you or not.  Set an example worthy of emulation.words

Be an avid reader.  Be a lover of words, the hallmark of our evolution into the people we are meant to be.  Follow a well balanced reading regimen.  In short, change the way you read.

A New School Year…Love it or Hate it?

A younger version of me loved the start of school.  Crisp leaves, new pencils, new clothes, the scent of new books…it inspired me and made me smile.  As a long time veteran of home schooling, I now dread the start of school:  August heat, using up last year’s pencils with no erasers, moaning children…there isn’t enough coffee for this.  The part I actually look forward to?  Getting it over with!

We school year round, taking off just a little bit for summer camps, federal holidays and such.  I get Fridays off for good behavior.  Let’s not forget that, always a plus, but basically we school year round.  In Missouri the new year rolls over August first, so we start a fresh year the first full week of August.  No crisp leaves, just lots of hot muggy days.  It profoundly lacks the inspiration I need.hs

Pristine books should excite my kiddos, but keeping it real here–it just foreshadows many months ahead of filling in blank pages.  Don’t get me wrong, they like learning new things.  But the whole process of getting down to business, scouring a book for the correct answer, thinking it through, answering it in their own words…neatly…just isn’t fun.  Home schooling begins with fun hands-on learning, and some of that always exists, but eventually a transition into the ability to take a subject and excel in a college classroom takes the front seat.  Yes, the process is exhausting and challenging and a hair pulling endeavor.  Tangentially, training children for a successful future, putting prayer and scripture study into the daily “classroom” regimen, having time for breaks when we need them and TIME to actually be with them makes it all worthwhile.  When I scold a feisty little girl for not doing her best and it ends with her hugging and kissing me, repentant and wanting to do a good job, I know it’s a struggle I love.  This is what I tell myself the first full week of August.  Breathe.  It’s one week.  I love it, really.  About 51 weeks a year.