Thursday, August 7, 2008

iDog, and Up and Out of the Tween

My daughter has extended her ability to delay gratification. We give her an allowance weekly and we offered to match whatever she saved for a recent vacation she and her mother took. And she kept the bulk of her money in her pocket during the vacation and decided that she'd rather get her first iPod than collect souvenirs. I was very glad to see her pull that off. Delayed gratification is a cornerstone of emotional intelligence, and it is challenging to teach. 

Since she's only eight I'm happy that iPods now come with volume limiting capability, mainly to keep her from accidentally turning the iPod up way to loud. Those Nanos have touchy little click wheels these days. Also Hannah is not as good as some kids at monitoring that sort of thing carefully. 

Now here's the catch. She had some money left over and decided she had to get an iDog to go with her new mp3 player. Now I'm not quite as impressed with iDog as she is. He pretty much is simple robotic external speaker; produces light patterns on his muzzle to beat of music; and occasionally moves his head back and forth and wiggles his ears. That's iDog. So much for the delayed gratification piece. And for iDog to work, we've discovered, the volume on the iPod has to be cranked up way beyond the sub-half point we set on the volume limiter to preserve her hearing for future years. My hearing, by the way, isn't great, and she may be up against a genetic component too. 

I'm afraid when she's done with iDog one of these times, she'll put on those earbuds, blasting her hearing before I get a chance to reset the volume limit. It doesn't take too long to do some permanent damage. So at this point, my options seem to be  1) ban iDog,  2) throw my hands up in the air and say to myself "I guess she's almost a teen. Whaddaya gonna do?" or 3) lecture her on how delicate hearing is—try to impress upon her how important it is to make sure that she always brings one of us the iPod immediately after using it with iDog, so we can reset the volume limit again.

At 8 years old she has been cultivating that tween skill of giving off disgusted facial expressions when she doesn't like what is being said. The up side is that I have a lecture early warning sign telling me when what I'm saying just isn't likely to sink in. One of the best things I know of to help in this situation is Up and Out of the Kid. It isn't that far off from lecturing, but it is different enough that it improves on it in a couple of ways. The first way is by changing my tone so that she is better able to hear what I have to say. When we lecture, we have a tendency to lapse into being condescending. If we start catching the eye rolls and facial expressions, it can rapidly go downhill from there. We get triggered, and out it rolls: "If you're not willing to listen to me about this without the attitude, maybe you're just not ready to have an iPod." So we're off to threats, and the unstated, embedded message we send is You're Not Capable.

So with Up and Out of the Kid, I try for something more along these lines. "So Hannah, if you forget to bring us the iPod and you end up with the volume too loud, for too long, what could happen?"
"It could ruin my ears"
"Yeah. And if that happened, how long would your hearing be hurt for?"
"It could be hurt forever"
"So after you use iDog, what do you always need to do?"
"Bring you my iPod so you can do the noise thingy [volume limiter]"
"Good thinking.  And if you're not remembering to do that, what do you think we'll need to do?"
"Not let me use my iPod."
"Right. You'd be taking a break from it for a bit. So is that something it would help to write yourself a note about, or is that something that you could just remember on your own. What is your thinking on that?"
"I can remember." [self given You're Capable Message]
"That would be great. I bet you can too."

Up and Out of the Kid is not perfect, but in my mind it beats lectures and threats by a long shot. One of the advantages is that instead of bouncing off Hannah's cranium, which is what seems to happen when I lapse into lecturing, the ideas come up and out of her nervous system. And by definition that increases the odds that she's actually going to remember to do what she's saying. Also, you'll notice lots of my saying "Right" and "Good thinking" in these sorts of conversations. Where the unstated message of a lecture is, "You're not very sharp, so I'd better spell it out for you." the embedded message in a conversation using Up and Out of the Kid is more along the lines of, "This is important stuff. And I bet when you give it some thought you'll know how to handle it." An added bonus is that since by answering my question she stated the likely logical consequence of not bringing me the iPod, she is not going to be too shocked if that comes to pass. She'd still get hacked at me, but not in the same way since she was able to predict what would happen herself. 

I'm betting she'll do well with this. God they grow up fast. 

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