My son did not pass his driving test the first time. His evaluator said that he did everything perfectly...except he never fully stopped at stop signs. Upon returning to the privacy of our car, he said, “I did exactly what you do, Mom,” to which I replied, “Not on a driving test or in front of a policeman!”
As I reflect, I find myself wondering how often in life we roll on through without ever coming to a complete stop. I don’t have any problem stopping an activity cold turkey if it’s not working or is contrary to my beliefs. It’s the activities and beliefs I bought into wholeheartedly and now wish to quit that I hesitate to stop. I slow down, but then I cruise on through, and soon find myself right back up to speed.
As parents, “stop” and “no” are probably our most frequently-used words. “Stop” means no discussion, no slowly ending the action. Just quit. Now. If we think back to our own childhood, though, how easy was it for us to just stop? We’re in the middle of a really important fight over who gets to put his/her elbow on the armrest, and Dad says to “stop.” Who gets the armrest? How can we figure it out now? We were tapping our pencil to the beat of our favorite song (in our heads), and we had just gotten to the good part when Mom said, “Stop!” What, now? Right at the good part?
I joke, but admit it: it was hard not to go ahead and push that arm one more time, or air-tap the last of the song because… c’mon!
In this month of resolutions, I’d like to challenge you to use your own struggles with “stopping” as a reminder how difficult it is for your kids to just “stop.” Don’t get me wrong: there are activities and actions they do need to just stop. I’m just reminding you that they might need some help with some strategies for stopping. “Stop spreading your backpack contents all over the house because you’re making us late while you load up” could become “Let’s make a homework drop spot so that your backpack is all loaded up and ready to go before you go to bed.” “Stop whining” could become “I hear that you’re unhappy. Let’s sit down and discuss what’s really wrong right after dinner tonight.”
And remember, the best way to stop one activity is to put a different activity in its place. I’ll try to remember that as I’m resolving to have a less sleep-deprived, more exercised, fewer-caloried year! Happy New Year!