A year ago, I had never heard of Harry Styles or the band One Direction. Yet these days, this 54-year-old mom is working on her Harry Styles impression, trying to capture the accent and cheeky persona of this boy-band heartthrob of the young girls set.
Strange, you say? I agree. But "Harry" seems to help defuse my six year old's escalating meltdowns over homework.
Here's the situation: On the one hand, our daughter is a creative, smart first-grader who loves to learn and loves her teacher. On the other hand, she faces learning and attention challenges that require extra support and creative approaches. We work in partnership with the school to help keep our daughter inspired versus frustrated about the learning process.
While some strategies are clearly helping, homework time has become tantrum time. "Homework is stupid!" declarations. Thrown pencils. Head down on the table in teary-eyed, anticipatory defeat.
We had taken our daughter to see the One Direction movie "This is Us." She entered smitten and exited over the moon. (Even her dad and I were humming their songs.) When another homework tantrum started the next day, I jokingly responded in a tortured Harry Styles' voice:
"Why the tears, my friend? Cheer up, love, Harry can help you with the homework."
Her eyes opened wide. She studied my face, waiting for me to break character, but I didn't. "Mommy, stop, you're not Harry!" she said, laughing.
Something told me to run with this bit.
I didn't break character the entire homework session because, well, she began listening to "Harry." They practiced writing vocabulary words together. They took turns administering a spelling test. And when she started to feel frustrated, "Harry's" calm encouragement kept her going. ("No worries, the way you wrote that last word was brilliant! Just try to do the next one, now. Oh, and where's your loo?")
"Harry" has now shown up several times. He's helped my kid with spelling and math problems. They've practiced reading with school books and explored her e-book library ("Harry," she instructed, "let me show you how to swipe the pages.") Harry's photo adorns the homework table now for inspiration.
Sure, it's goofy. But as long as it actually helps - and until the next boy-band fixation takes over - we're sticking with Harry.
What's the craziest thing you've ever done to defuse repeat tantrums?
When she's not scaring people with boy-band impressions, Diana Dull Akers is a freelance writer, sociologist, and mom to a feisty six-year old. In addition to writing Parenting Guru blogs for Yahoo, she is a children's reading advocate/blogger for Bookboard.com.