Thursday, February 11, 2010

On discipline, self and other

1. Self.

Since leaving my day job (of the sort where going to the office is part of the gig, and on some days seemed more important than the quantity of work produced) I'm having trouble finding the self-discipline to accomplish, well, much of anything of substance. Case in point: I've been meaning to write this post for a week. On my "to-do" list everyday. Already had to come back to it 3 times today. (And again a week later, natch.)

I never thought I was an office-job sort of person. I like self-directed projects. When I'm involved in a project, I can work on it almost nonstop for hours, stay up all night while the creative juices are flowing, eat in front of my computer, then do nothing for several days afterward. But the act of going in to the office gave me a kind of structure, and now that I'm working from home again I'm rethinking my optimal setup.

How do I find the time and focus and self-discipline to do what I need to do, and not simply fritter away my time? How do I shut out the other projects so I can focus on just one?

I'm trying a new thing -- the Pomodoro technique -- as a way of reigning myself in. For 25 minutes at a time, I'm focusing on one project, task, writing assignment, whatever. I'm trying to do a couple of "tomatoes" every day. (Ideally, I'd be doing something more like 4 tomatoes in the morning and another 4 in the afternoon, I think, but right now if I can focus that well on 2 it seems like a good day.) We'll see if that helps me focus on just one thing at a time, even if I focus on different things at different times. Or something.

2. Kids

A whole different kind of discipline here, of course.  The kids are, well, three and a half.  And all that entails.  For a couple of weeks, now, the kids have been having a tough time with their behaviour, especially at school.  And the school seems a bit at a loss as to what to do.  The teachers send home these notes (sometimes quite lengthy notes) detailing the day's infractions - who had to nap in the younger kids class instead, who wouldn't clean up their mess after spilling at lunch, who said NO to the teachers a bunch.

When I first started this post (eons ago, apparently) I was going to ask for discipline advice, since clearly nothing we were doing was working and we were terrible parents who couldn't control our children etc etc.  And to some extent, we're still there.  We've implemented a sticker chart to reward the ideal behaviour (at home, stickers for the steps to get ready in the morning, plus stickers for being quiet at naptime and listening to the teachers) but I don't know if it's making much difference. It's only been a week and a half of charts, so we haven't had a huge chance to test out the rewards scheme.  But even then, it feels silly.  I don't love the idea of bribing the kids to behave, nor do I love that the school is getting all worked up over developmentally-expected behaviour.  Obnoxious, yes, and certainly something we all need to work on, but not cause for sudden panic and drastic measures.  They're three-and-a-half, dudes.  They're testing limits.  Please don't go all "wait until your father gets home" on us -- if they're acting up at school, something other than a sticker when they get home has to be involved.

A couple of other things might also be factors here.  Once is a twin thing -- some days it seems like the teachers are seeing the kids as two parts of a whole - so one does something, and the other one does something and it's as if the second kid is on their second infraction.  Or the teachers just don't like us as a family or something.  Also, a structural problem.  Our kids are the oldest in their class, and should probably have been in the next class (a slightly older bunch, and the group they'll likely track with into Kindergarten).  I wonder if these teachers are less used to dealing with the obnoxiousness of 3-and-a-half than the next classroom's teachers, just due to the demographics.

We're trying to set up a parent teacher conference with them -- hard to arrange since it means other teachers need to be covering the class, but the school is trying to work out the logistics.  We'll see what we glean from that.

A week ago, I would have been looking for reassurance, but I've managed two moms-nights-out recently (one with my twins club, and one with our old playgroup moms) and both times have heard the collective reassurances - they're just acting their age.  It's obnoxious, and it'll suck for a while, and we certainly need a plan for helping them learn to control their behaviour, but they're not suddenly on the road to misfithood over their defiance and limit testing.

Though it's damn exhausting.


  1. I hear you on both! I have the full time job, but need to do more (both job and family stuff) in the evenings, and have trouble focusing for either (right now I'm breaking from work at midnight to be writing here).

    The 3 1/2 thing has new challenges here too, especially with my son. Lots of no. Some hitting (though right now, only me and his sister). I'm told at daycare his favorite phrase is "I'm never gonna do it." Don't really have great advice, because some of our old tricks aren't working as well as they used to. I guess it's always going to be like this, some things improve, others get harder!

  2. I'm sorry things at preschool are being troublesome. It doesn't sound like their behavior is unusual for this age--that's what 3 is all about! I understand getting notes sent home for hitting or biting other kids, but anything less than that, I think it's a bit strange.

  3. I totally hear you on the concentration thing. I have been working from home since 2003 and I'm really at the point of absolute diminished returns. I gotta sort out my life and then I'm planning on getting back into an office sometime in 2011.