Raising Alex: Teaching a Child to Make Smart Choices

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9781453851692: Raising Alex: Teaching a Child to Make Smart Choices
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Which takes more time: trying to control your children's behavior or teaching them to make responsible decisions? The answer might surprise you. It also might make you change how you prepare your children for their futures. This book is one father's account of teaching his daughter, Alexis, to make smart choices. He reasons that by helping children to make more intelligent decisions they can avoid the pain of poor life choices and lead more purposeful, happier lives.

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About the Author:

Steve is a consultant to corporations in the areas of sales, negotiations and leadership. He lives in Seattle with his two daughters, Alexis and Maddy and their dog Rocky.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Even video arcades have lessons to teach. From the moment she peered in the doorway of Cape May's local video arcade, five-year-old Alex yearned to play - and play - and play. That first night Alex flew from aisle to aisle, touching every game, like a bumblebee who'd stumbled on a brand-new meadow.

I gave her a handful of quarters, and off she ran to play some games. Within five minutes she was back asking for more money. I dug into my pants and gave her a couple more dollars. She disappeared into the arcade, only to reappear soon asking for still more money. I dug really deep this time, producing one more quarter.

"Is that all?" Alex asked incredulously. "Come on, Dad. I know you have more in there." I refused to donate any more, so off she dashed into the arcade. She was back in a flash. "Please, please, please... can I play some more games, Dad?" No, I said. Her begging grew more persistent until finally, inevitably, I got angry.

"Alex, you are spoiled rotten," I shouted. "If you don't stop begging, we're going right home."

Later that night I walked the beach alone, ashamed of my own behavior, repeating like a mantra, "The mirror, the mirror - look in the mirror." Look in the mirror, you jerk.

So then I knew it was time to establish some boundaries, and my wife Astrid (Alex's step-mother) and I sat up late talking over a better strategy. First I apologized to Alex over breakfast, because I knew I'd been wrong to yell at her. Then I spoke the lines I'd rehearsed with myself back there on the beach:

"Let's go to the arcade again tonight, but let's do it a little differently. As soon as we walk in the door I'm going to give you five dollars for you to play with. That's a lot of quarters, but here's the deal, Alex - when your five dollars are gone, we'll head out of there and go for a walk on the boardwalk. OK?"

"OK, Dad," she said, and solemnly we shook each other's hand. We had a deal.

That night inside the arcade, Alex cashed in her five dollars and quickly ran through all her quarters on the first game she tried. Upon realizing she was out of money she ran back to me, asking for more quarters.

"No, Alex," I told her. "Remember what we said."

She turned to Astrid, who shook her head.

Then she swung back to me. "Please, Dad, I won't ask for any more."

"I'm sorry, honey, but don't worry. Tomorrow night we get to do it again. Let's go for our walk on the boardwalk now."

Grudgingly, she followed us - and within moments we saw she'd actually forgotten the arcade.

We returned the following evening. Again I gave Alex five dollars and reminded her we would leave when she'd used up her money. She ran into the arcade. I watched her from a distance. She was walking around with her bulging pocketful of quarters trying to decide which games to play. (She was trying to determine which game would give her the most tickets - she loved getting those tickets.) The closer she got to using up her quarters, the more intensely she looked around at the games. She was trying to decide. Finally she was down to her last two quarters.

"Which one do you think I should play, Dad?" she asked in frustration.

"I don't know, Alex. Which game is the most fun and gives you the most tickets?"

She finally decided on Skiball and won a few tickets. Turning to me she pleaded, "One more dollar? Dad, can I have one more dollar? I promise I won't ask for any more." "No, Alex. Like I said, when you're done, you're done. Let's go for our walk now ... "

Children need adults to tell them "No." I believe they often want us to say it as well. When Alex stood outside the arcade pestering me for quarters, tears streaking her face, I think on some level she appreciated my not giving in to her. Those tears might have given Alex more control over her dad, but not over her life.

I admit it was difficult saying no to her and it was tough to watch her struggle with the choices she was trying to make. But that is the dilemma we all face as parents. I love Alex so much it is painful to watch her struggle with her choices. But I would rather help Alex grapple with the choices she makes while she is still young. After all, how many years can we "control" our children? I expect I'll have Alex's attention until she is, oh, perhaps twelve years old. After that (maybe even earlier), other influences - her peer group, television, and (God forbid) boyfriends - will begin to outweigh mine. So I figure I had better teach Alex to make good decisions before she turns twelve. Attempting it later on would only frustrate us both.

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Publisher: Stephen J. Reilly, 1998
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