Am I alone in breathing a small sigh of relief as children return to school and college this morning? During school holidays housework and cooking multiples and extra help is required. My children sleep late, eat and snack throughout the day and don’t appear to see the messy house, the damp towels in the bathroom, the utility piled with laundry and unhoovered carpets!
So what can you do? I like to see me as Before and After, the Before me would have raised my voice, demanded the help, commanded what to do and being rigid and inflexible. My parenting style was dominant and controlling therefore the work may have got done, but relationships would have suffered. I called all the shots, made all the decisions and ruled the roost. How you may ask would that make a child feel. I guess they would feel bitter, resentful and angry towards you. An overprotective parent is the parent who gives, gives gives and asks for nothing in return; yet how does this parent feel and how does that impact on her behaviour towards her children? Could this everyday scenario be played out any better?
Respect is the only rule in this home
The After me is not perfect either-I’m like many parents not good at being consistent. I try to treat my children with respect, ask for their co operation, I listen to them in a way I didn’t before and to their needs. Often; they are happy to help but in their time. I know that a child who feels I’m co operating with his/her needs will then be in a place to meet my needs. I understand they need the ‘break’ from their school routine. I wanted to have some ‘One on One’ time with them individually which was wonderful and ensure they return to school ready for the demands that will be made on them. In return, I had a ‘lived in’ home for most of the week, but was rewarded by my children making me dinner, doing a big clean up of the kitchen and helping out.
Could they have helped out more – of course; however I no longer want a home where everything is in its place and the only thing out of place is the children or my husband, harmonious relationships are the most important thing.
It’s not what you say but how you say it!
Conflict over chores is part of family life; but how that conflict is resolved is what determines the wellbeing of a family. When I communicate that ‘I’m tired and I need some support’ it’s more likely that my child/partner will co-operate with my need-however if they don’t- it’s still my need and my responsibility to meet it. Before I would have done the work-resentfully-and ensured that everyone suffered- now instead I ask myself – ‘What is it I need to do for myself now?’ and I do it. Often, that means I hit the PAUSE button and take a short break for myself, and after I may do the kitchen clean up, as I am relaxed, I am likely to request help in a kind and patient manner which I find gets a better response. Before my child may have said, ‘I will do it after this’ and I now respect that and respond with thanks- instead of before which was – ‘I want it done NOW’!
Choice & Consequences
Finally, Choice and Consequence can be used after you’ve asked respectfully a couple times, important not to overuse.
‘If you choose to help clean up after dinner, you’re choosing to watch some TV after dinner; if you choose not to help out; you’re choosing not to watch TV; you decide.’
Responsible children & young people
Offering children choices is so important in teaching them to be responsible, how will they be able to decide about smoking, drinking, drugs and sex later on if they have not had lots of experience in making choices and learning to live with the consequences of their decisions. Choice giving teaches them to be accountable for the decisions they make, they need to live with the consequences of their decisions. As a parent, our job is to ensure they experience the consequences of their actions; otherwise how will they ever learn?