Posts Tagged ‘chores’

Bad Parenting Behaviors to Let Go of in 2017

So, here we are, almost in February and I’m still contemplating what I want to work on this year. Not that I’m keen on resolutions. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever kept a New Year’s resolution and yet, I can’t stop myself from making them.

I have a problem with someone telling me what to do or not to do, which is weird, I know, since I’m the one making the resolution. There is something about saying out loud, “I will not eat sugar,” that causes me to make a beeline for the candy drawer.

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Finally, however, I think I’ve come up with a couple of things that I can get behind in 2017; two bad parenting behaviors that I can let go of this year and feel good about: not doing everything for my kids and not talking about them with other people.

Let’s start with the second one first.

I will not talk about my kids with other people.

You might think it’s odd that I have chosen not to talk about my kids with other people when I write a blog about my kids and share it with other people. Believe it or not, I write very little about what happens to my kids and when I do I tend to have their blessing. I’ve tried to make this blog about my bad behavior, because, well, I often suck as a parent and I want to be held accountable.

What I want to stop doing this year is sharing information about my kids that I know they won’t want me to share with anyone else but I do it anyway because I’m venting to my friends. Let’s face it, parenting is not easy and sometimes you need to talk about your failures or your kids’ bad behavior with someone else.

My advice? Choose your audience and your stories carefully.

How many of you have done this? Your kid is driving you bat-shit crazy and you run into a friend and proceed to offer too many details about your kid’s latest exploits thinking there is some sort of “mom code” that will prevent your friend from relaying the info to her kid who just happens to be your son’s or daughter’s good friend.

Next thing you know, your kid is pissed at you – as he or she should be – because the story you told has made it’s way back to your kid but with all sorts of embellishments.

It doesn’t matter if the story you told was totally benign or you thought it was just a funny story to tell your friend. It doesn’t matter if it was relayed exactly how you told it or whether the story made its way through a group with new and completely fabricated details (as these stories tend to do). Your kid feels betrayed and you feel like crap.

So, yes, I will be working on this behavior this year because last year I let my kid down and that really did suck.

I will not do everything for my kids this year

When my kids were little and I chose to stay at home with them I felt that it was my job to wait on them hand and foot and stifle their independence.

Oh, wait, that wasn’t the plan.

No, the plan was to stay at home to take care of them and be around to watch them grow. The problem with that plan was that I felt guilty about being a stay-at-home mom and I felt like the only job I had was to take care of the kids and the house. If someone else was doing those jobs what was I doing all day??

No one saddled me with this notion (except, maybe Hollywood and the media’s distorted images of women’s roles and my own upbringing, but I digress).

Every time I thought about passing on the laundry duty or forcing my kids to cook dinner I wondered what I was supposed to be doing in the void of activity. Eating bonbons? Watching TV with my feet up on the ottoman thumbing through magazines? Writing??

The problem, I realize now, was not with the job but with the job description that I had written.

Instead of thinking that my job as a mom was to cater to my boys’ every need, I should have recognized that my job was to help my kids become independent, capable adults who could handle their own cleaning/feeding/scheduling.

Duh.

Nearly 21 years into this parenting gig and I finally figure it out.

Obviously, I didn’t start out wanting my kids to be needy and dependent and, for the most part, even with all my failings, they are pretty capable (if I’m not around, of course). But now it’s time to let go of the guilt and rewrite my role. I will call my new title: Director of Creating Independence. I’m sure my kids will call my new role: Tyrant.

 

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What parenting behaviors do you hope to work on this year?

 

 

Oh, Christmas Tree!

It is January 22 and our Christmas tree is still in our living room. Although it is no longer standing (my husband laid it on its side yesterday – I think he thought he was hiding it from me) it has yet to be moved into our basement where it is stored for 11 months out of the year.

The problem is that every year since we bought a fake tree, I have been the one to bring the tree out of it’s storage closet, lug the parts up the stairs and assemble it in our living room. Then, in early January, I take down all of the ornaments—alone, take apart the tree—alone, drag it down the stairs—alone, and put it away – al (well, you get the idea).

But not this year. I already hurt my back taking off a cowboy boot, who knows what would happen if I had to stand on my tip-toes and try to pull apart our fake Fraser fir. I’m not risking it, so there the tree sits (although I did manage to wrest off the top portion of the tree which has been sitting on the floor since January 14).

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Of course, everyone wants to join in when we are decorating the tree but no one, surprisingly, wants to help with the clean up. And no one, surprisingly, notices that something needs to be cleaned up.

How is it possible that am I the only one who notices a 7-foot tall Christmas tree in the middle of the living room nearly a month after Christmas??

Still, I refused to demand that someone help me. I refused to yell and threaten and scream. I actually wanted to see how long it would take before someone in this house would ask why the tree was still up (or hiding behind the coffee table as the case may be).

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I was even starting to get used to it. If it wasn’t for my 12-year-old’s guitars that had migrated to the family room when the tree displaced them, I could probably live with the tree in the living room for a few more weeks. I even joked with a friend of mine that we should just leave the tree up and decorate it for every holiday.

There were so many possibilities! I could print out pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. and hang them like ornaments on MLK Day or hang dragons for Chinese New Year or hearts on Valentine’s Day or even make copies of my left hand on National Left Hander’s Day and hang those up.  Would anyone notice the tree then??

I was cracking myself up so I told my 16-year-old about my idea. “Geez mom,” he said. “I’ll take the tree down.  All you had to do was ask!”

Funny. I was so busy not yelling and threatening and screaming at my kids that I forgot to ask them.

Lesson learned.

Strike Back

Have you heard about the mom who went on strike? For six days, Jessica Stilwell, mother of three girls, refused to pick-up, clean up, or otherwise wash anything for her daughters in the hope that they would simply do it themselves. Sure, they eventually broke down and cleaned the mess but only after six days of forcing their family to live in squalor. Who wants to live through that??

I’ve often dreamed of going on strike except in my dream I run away.

I run away to a beautiful tropical island where I don’t have to look at six days worth of dishes in the sink or clothes on the couch. If I’m going to teach my kids a lesson I might as well do it in comfort.

But, alas, fleeing to a tropical locale is not always a realistic option. That’s why I’ve come up with a new solution: throw out your back!

No plane ticket required; just a lack of mobility and a hefty doctor’s bill (unless you’ve met your insurance deductible for the year, then your golden).

Sure it’s painful; but it has an upside: even if you want to clean up, you can’t. Ms. Stilwell had to fight her natural impulses to scrub, organize and scream. I get to escape to my room and lay on the floor, no questions asked.

I really can’t push a vacuum cleaner or empty a dishwasher and, although, I suppose I could assemble a meal (or at least pick up the phone to order one) why would I do that?

I don’t want to give them hope.

Which reminds me; don’t let them see you doing ANY housework. Don’t wipe down the counters, or let the dog out or even fluff a pillow. They are looking for signs that you are improving. If you can put away the cereal box, then obviously, you are well enough to do the laundry. Don’t give them hope (this, by the way, applies to your spouse as well).

If you opt for this plan, however, make sure at least one of your children sees you writhing in pain. There is no substitute for this. If they only see you limping around or moving slowly, they may know you are in pain, but it may not be enough pain to prevent you from making them lunch.

Unfortunately, only my youngest saw me injure myself while taking off my boots. (Yes, taking off my boots did me in, and, no, I’m not 80-years-old). My subsequent screams were enough to reduce my 12-year-old to tears. Now, if he sees me lean forward to get something or I simply ask him to do something he jumps to my aid.

My oldest, on the other hand, missed the show. He came home after I was already tucked in bed at 8:30 at night. Although that did seem disturbing to him, it clearly wasn’t enough for him to really understand the extent of my pain. The following day I actually had to text him from my prone position on the family room floor to get him to let our barking dog in.

He was sitting 15 feet away.

Yelling for him didn’t work because he had his ear buds in and the music was so loud that even I could hear it. Now, normally, if I need him to do something and his ear buds are in I have two options:  walk up to him and yank an ear bud out or—as is more often the case—I simply do whatever it is myself. This time, however, I didn’t have much of a choice. So I sent him a text.

I saw him lean around the corner to see why I was texting him from 15 feet away. I looked him in the eye as I reached for my back and moaned. Unfair, I know, but, come on! I’m on the floor!

He only bitched for a little of the 20 foot walk to the door.

At that moment I actually considered recreating my back spasm so he, too, could witness the extent of my injury. One pull on my cowboy boots or a quick twist to the right and bam! Maybe that would be enough to make him stop complaining. But, no, even I’m not that much of a masochist.

Or aren’t I…

Did I just hear my youngest mutter that he doesn’t have any clean clothes to wear? Where are my boots?

What a Chore!

I don’t let my kids do enough.

I’m not talking about giving them more freedom; I’m talking about housework. I’ve gotten into the habit of just doing the work myself to avoid the initial fight when I ask them to do something, followed by the inevitable disappointment I feel when I view the final product.

For instance, last week when we had a fairly heavy snowfall I started getting dressed to head outside to shovel when I remembered that I have two kids! What is the point of having kids if you can’t make them do tedious work around the house?

So I turned to my oldest and said, “Please go outside and shovel. Thank you.”

You would think I asked him to shovel the snow in his bare feet with one hand tied behind his back while simultaneously painting the house—that’s how much he complained.

Just to be clear, shoveling snow at our house does not involve removing snow from a large driveway or even a 600-foot long sidewalk. It’s about 100 feet of walkway—front and back. In the time it took my son to complain about shoveling, he could have been done.

About 15 minutes after my initial request, he finally trudged out the door. Usually it’s those 15 minutes of listening to him bitch about the task that does me in and I take over just to have some peace. But this time I ignored him and kept repeating, “Please go outside and shovel. Thank you.”

Yes, I thought. It worked!

Then I tried to walk to the garage.

Apparently my son and I have very different ideas of what it means to shovel. I believe the snow should be removed from the width of the entire walk (in this case that’s four feet); he believes the width of the shovel is enough of a path. So now I’m slogging along the walk, dragging grocery bags across the snow because I only have about 16 inches of clearance.

What do I do now? Do I make him go outside and do it the “right way” or do I let him do it his way and just be happy that he did something?

Part of me is convinced that he does a crap job so I will eventually stop asking him to do anything. It’s the same theory I have about my husband washing dishes – there is so much water on the counters and the floor when he attempts to “help” with the dishes that I inevitably step in before he can even start. He denies the plot but I’m not convinced.

Is my son also plotting against me or is he just being a teenager?

I couldn’t help myself; I had to ask him what he thought about the shoveling job. I explained my predicament with the groceries. He told me that I should have lifted the bags higher.

I just stared at him.

He then suggested that I get a wider shovel. Followed by my favorite line: “It’s supposed to warm up tomorrow anyway. It will probably melt.”

While I had to applaud his creativity, it still didn’t solve my dilemma. Why can’t he see that he didn’t do a good job shoveling the walk?

I was mulling over this question when I remembered a Wall Street Journal article that I read recently entitled, “What’s Wrong with the Teenage Mind.”* The author, Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, believes that teenagers today don’t learn practical life skills the way their predecessors did and it’s having a negative impact on them. In the past, children would be expected to help around the house (or the farm) and they would have jobs like a paper route or baby-sitting long before they were 16, she explained.

“[Today’s] adolescents,” the author notes “often don’t do much of anything except go to school.”

Getting a better education may have led to higher IQ (and in my son’s case, a more creative approach to problem-solving), but the lack of basic skill development is, she believes, at the root of why teenagers have delayed development of the pre-frontal cortex of the brain—the part that governs impulse control, motivation and decision-making. If kids don’t flex those muscles (or that part of their brain) early and often she believes, they can’t develop into the responsible and productive adults they are meant to become.

As I stood at the back door with my groceries, I reasoned that he isn’t doing a “bad” job just to piss me off; he simply hasn’t been doing enough work around the house to learn how to do it well!

Apparently, it is my job to make my kids do as much work around the house as possible!

Armed with this knowledge, I decided to simply say thank you for the shoveling…and then I made him carry in the rest of the groceries. Not because I wanted him to have to drag the groceries through the snow, of course. I’m just helping with that pre-frontal cortex thing.

 

*For Alison Gopnik’s article see: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203806504577181351486558984.html.

 

 

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