“Mom, you didn’t tell me that. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to…”
How many times have we heard our kids utter these words? Â I find it quite challenging to communicate clearly with my school-aged children who seem to have selective hearing when it comes to my instructions and behavioral expectations. After much struggle, I have come up with three bullet points for my children. Three simple expectations. Three principles. Three family rules to follow. It isn’t the end-all be-all. However…after drilling these three points home year in and year out…we are beginning to make some progress. Yes, I did say…just beginning. Parenting is, after all…the hardest job in the world.
1) Be kind.
When my nine-year old is falling apart because I am always controlling her, I quietly remind her that the reason she does not have the privilege of watching a show tonight is that she slapped her five-year-old sister hard across the back — leaving a red, hand-shaped mark. Â In our family, we are kind. If her Kindergarten-aged, very-likely-to-annoy younger sibling bothers her, she needs to try to work it out first. Then, she can come seek my help. Being unkind is not an option in our family. Kindness is the norm. When there is no kindness, there are no privileges.
2) Be polite.
I don’t know exactly where my kids learned to be rude. I really hope it wasn’t from me, but I am not altogether sure. It could be that they are just human. That’s easier to swallow. Nevertheless, in our home we ask everyone to please be polite. To mom and dad. To your siblings. To yourself. If you speak or act rudely, you will be reminded. If mom or dad see you being rude to someone at church, or school or home…there will be a conversation. With our home full of girls it emerges as sassy attitude, meanness, barging in on conversation and harsh directives. As soon as a pattern develops, the guilty child loses privileges until that pattern subsides. A few days without electronics and play dates can do wonders. This can very painful. But effective.
3) Listen right away.
The third principle I work on in my home is the novel idea of “listening right away”. I thought this would be something I would teach my toddlers and then be done with. Of course, that was a pipe dream. As my children get older, it doesn’t have to be this soldier-like “Yes, ma’am.” That’s not what I am after. I’d love to have kids who really want to listen to their parents, please their parents and trust that we have their best in mind. Yes, ideal world. But…hey, it is worth going after. So, my request to my children is that when I make a request they respond. I don’t mind if they say something like, “Mom, I am in the middle of a game. Can I have five minutes before I go brush my teeth?” Sure. Take five. Thank you for not ignoring me. And thank you for going to brush your teeth once that timer went off. With the under five age-group, I often use the options. Would you like to go potty before or after breakfast? Oh, after? That sounds good. As with our first two house rules, if my kids start ignoring me, consistently stalling or disregarding my requests altogether…they lose their privileges for a bit. Just until they remember to listen right away.
These are our expectations with our kiddos. I’d love to know yours. What works well in your home?
Images used under creative commons license â€“ commercial use (2/15/2016) Peter Lindberg (Flickr)