Practice Makes Permanent

The summer before third grade, I attended a soccer camp run by professional soccer players—some active, some retired. One was a gargantuan South African man named Freeman. Freeman told us during our drills that practice did not make perfect, practice made permanent. The way you practice something is the way you will perform it. The way you write, the way you run, the way you throw, kick, catch—everything you do was once done one way, over and over, and that’s why you do what you do, how you do. That statement stayed with me through the years, as again and again I have reminded myself that how you do things is how you will always do things.

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Equally important to teaching children time management is presenting chores and homework as a means to an end—an end of fun! (No, Mr.Man, not the end of fun,an end of fun! Fun at the end!) Once Kiddos are done with their lists of chores, they are “free men” and can head outside, read, play with me—whatever they want. Having that motivation for completing tasks is invaluable.

Sometimes, especially midweek, I’ve found that I have to up the ante. For example, on the way home from school I told Big Cat and Mr. Man that they had to get all of their chores and homework done “super fast and super right” because I was dying to show them a little game I like to call Bear/Hunter/Ninja…because that’s what the game is called. (It is worth noting that when I told them they better “burn through their lists because Bear/Hunter/Ninja is awesome,” Big Cat requested some matches.) Immediately intrigued, both boys raced to finish their chores and met me outside.

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Excuses, Excuses!

As a self-described Supernanny, part of my job is to get stuff done. And by stuff, I mean tasks that the kids don’t want to do and the parents don’t want to do with them (chores, homework, etc). I take the initiative on this because I want the children’s time with their folks to be quality and fun. And besides, I can make chores and homework fly by with my mad Mary Poppins skillz.

I surmount the hill of have-to-dos by breaking up the routine as much as possible and making the kids’ required tasks as clear-cut and easy to complete as possible. I draw up a master list for each, grouping the tasks by proximity to one another—empty backpack, wash hands, get out containers for tomorrow’s lunch can all be done downstairs; set out clothes, set alarm can all be done upstairs; then homework time.  If you send kids all over the house and are constantly giving them directions they stop listening and/or get distracted. Believe me, I get it. As an easily-distracted child (welp, let’s be honest, person) I know how hard it is to complete chore after chore, assignment after assignment when all you see are toys you want to play with, books you’d rather be reading, your pals outside wanting to play, or (as would later become the biggest detriment to my being a productive college student) cocktails and swimming pools. I’m sensitive to the whole, “There’s not enough time!” feeling. I am actually well acquainted with that very excuse, as it was my constant companion all the way through college graduation, but never more so than in middle school.

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Miss Direction

Siegfried and Roy, in all their tiger-taming glory, taught me misdirection, another bit of trickery I use. Misdirection is the deception of the audience. Siegfried/Roy grabs the audience’s attention to some red herring area, while Roy/Siegfried pulls a fast one while they’re distracted. I do not have a partner in crime, so I must perform this trick solo. Now why would an Austin keeper-of-children need misdirection in her bag of tricks? Lemme tell ya. When the kiddos are too young to be left alone, even for a three-minute trip to the bathroom, I am obliged to take them everywhere, and I mean everywhere, with me. Toddlers are like skinny chefs—they cannot be trusted (I’m watching you, Giada). But it only takes a child telling you once in a swimming pool family changing room, “Miss Cheryl, I love your nipples,” for you to scan your brain frantically to find a way to NEVER have it happen again. And so I tell the children to count the ceiling tiles as I change into my suit, ask them “What’s that over there?” when using the water closet, and Voila! It works. When they respond, puzzled, to one of my outbursts, “There wasn’t a unicorn in the shower!” I just reply sheepishly, “Oh, it must have just been a regular horse.”

A Spoonful of Sugar

We all recall the scene in Mary Poppins in which Julie Andrews helps the children tidy up the nursery. With a crisp snap of her fingers, the children’s clothes fly into the closet, their toys onto shelves. It’s AWESOME. But even though I will lay claim to such magical abilities as potty-training a child over the weekend (while his parents are out of town), getting veggies into the bellies of the most adamant verde-haters, and making nappers out of naysayers, I do not profess to have Mary’s mystical abilities. Instead I employ my own version of “Spoonful of Sugar” (better suited to those of us without lightning bolt scars on our foreheads) that transforms otherwise mundane tasks into flights of fancy.

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