How often throughout your parenting journey have you found yourself faced with an overwhelm of frustration when met with arguments and attitude over wanting your children to do the least little task?
Whether it is cleaning their room, helping with house hold chores or even doing their homework, do you wonder why it has to be such an issue? Why can’t they do what they are told? If they would just behave, life would be so much more peaceful! Does any of that sound familiar to you?
I remember feeling exactly that way when my daughter, Cally, was around 6 yrs. old. I was cooking dinner for my parents and grandparents one Sunday afternoon, wanting everything to be ready on time...biscuits in the oven, table set, roast carved etc. My parents happened to arrive early just as I told Cally to get the salt & pepper shakers and put them on the table.
Cally responded with a huge disgruntled sigh and stomped to the kitchen! I was not at all pleased with her reaction and said to my mother in a frustrated huff, “What is wrong with her? Some times when I ask her to do something she is just as cooperative and pleasant and other times she reacts with such an attitude.”
Mother, in her straight talking manner, said “Have you considered that her reaction might have more to do with how you are speaking to her than anything else.” I guess I looked confused because she continued with, “I did not hear you ask Cally, I heard you order her. What prompts you to respond positively to someone’s request, an appeal for help or an order to comply?”
Well, needless to say, I felt badly for not treating my daughter with the same respect that my parents had raised me with. I apologized to Cally and vowed to do better.
When we treat our children as people who deserve respect, we can expect their reactions and responses to be respectful and cooperative. As parents we create these negative situations with our children in many areas of their daily lives. But the good news is that we can easily turn it around and create positive situations by changing two simple things.
First, the manner in which we speak to our child and second, our child’s understanding and perception of what they are being asked to do.
As I could see in hindsight, a more positive way to have approached Cally about the salt and pepper shakers would have been to say something like, “Oh, I forgot the salt and pepper, and you know how Grandma likes salt and pepper on her mashed potatoes, would you mind getting them from the kitchen for me, I really want her to enjoy her dinner?”
Many parents believe their children should keep their rooms clean, they should be willing to help out around the house and they should be respectful and considerate. And in addition they then go about telling their children that they need to do these things and if they don’t there will be unpleasant consequences. Doesn't this just add to the negative tone?
However, if your children are raised to understand the value, benefit and importance in doing something and they are asked in a respectful way, you are changing the atmosphere to a positive experience.
Begin by replacing the “should or need to” with “would like to or want to”. Let me explain. When your child sees the value and importance in cleaning his room, he will be more inclined to “want to”. Communicating the benefits for whatever you feel is important for your child to be responsible for lays the groundwork for a change in perception. When you give logical reasons, and inspire your child to want the benefits, you have now removed the negativity.
For instance, the example of how wonderfully you take care of the kitchen or dining room, whichever you eat in, and the room where you typically gather as a family, can be used as a starting point for you to share your thoughts on how nice it is to have a clean and orderly area to eat and relax in. Through example and discussion you can share how much more enjoyable it is when things are clean, and how so much more convenient it is to get what you want because things are put back each time they are used.
I have worked with many families who found it challenging to convey this to their children. However, it only took a short while for their children to fully grasp this when their parents took my suggestion of allowing the kitchen to go un-kept for a period of time…dirty dishes meant every time they wanted a drink or something to eat they had to wash a plate or glass, every time they wanted to sit at the table they had to clear off the clutter and each time they tried to put something in the trash it fell back out on to the floor!
Of course if your children are younger this concept can be instilled in them early enough that this “experiment” would not be necessary.
I remember growing up we had a full basement that my father converted into a playroom. All the walls were lined with shelves for all of our games, toys and crafts. Each child had a designated section. (We only kept books in our bedrooms.) My mother labeled the shelves for each of us so everything was assigned a specific spot. For example, on my brother’s shelf there was a spot labeled “blocks”, one for “games” and one for trucks…etc.
For the first few months after the room was completed, the toys and games were scattered to the point you couldn’t see the floor…and then eventually, on our own, without anyone telling us we had to, we decided to pick everything up and put it all back on the shelves in their proper spots.
Looking back now, I realize that it eventually occurred to us that we couldn’t find anything, things were getting broken or lost and there literally was no room left on the floor to play! We could see that it was much nicer to have things in order to be able to really enjoy our toys.
Through that experience we were allowed to see the benefit of having the playroom clean…we put in the effort to keep it clean and in order because we could understand the benefit, we wanted to, not because our parents told us we should or because if we didn’t there would be negative consequences.
Occasionally when we were expecting company, my mother would say, “I think the playroom looks a bit messy, and I am sure you will want so-and-so (whoever was coming to visit) to play in the playroom, do you think you could all spend awhile organizing things?”
Alerting us to the fact that we were about to have an opportunity to have fun and play with our friends, was all we really needed. No one had to order us to clean it up, we wanted to!
When you speak to your children with respect and take the extra few minutes to explain the value, benefit or importance in doing something, you will effectively reduce your level of frustration because you have provided them with self-motivation…and in doing so, created the pleasant and peaceful atmosphere for all to thrive in.