I have begun an experiment.
Yesterday something occurred that reminded me a lot of my childhood, and me as a child. It brought out all the self-blame and helplessness in a situation that was really beyond my control. The thing is I realized that I had been using the same tones and attitudes with my children that has been aimed at me both yesterday and when I was young. (Being the oldest SUCKS because you hear “you should have known better” and why didn’t you” and “why didn’t you think that THIS could happen” ALL THE TIME and I realized yesterday that that was happening in our home.) Now I come from a shouty family–my grandmother got ANGRY and shouted, my mom got pretty mad and shouted, and I only shout when I have hit a certain point, but it gets hit a lot more often than I would like and I want to change that. Which is where the experiment comes in.
This week, starting last night, I am only going to ask (gently and giving them the option whether to do it or not) once regarding anything that needs done. Shamus put the kids in charge of the dishes last fall when the dishwasher broke and it has been fights EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. and sometimes the dishes still aren’t done the next day which means there is a fight in the morning. No more. I am sick and tired of nagging, cajoling, and having to ask him to tell them to do them because they quit listening to my voice. Basically doing a reboot, partly because I really need to change my own attitude about work if I want them to change theirs, partly because I know I am being my mother way too often and it is hurting my oldest’s heart (the other two follow her example and she is the most deliberate with the not doing what she is told to do.) So I will not tell them to do anything this week– just ask gently and then move along. (Also not telling them about the change.)
So, here is what has happened so far:
- Asked the kids to do the dishes, no one did (they fought over who should go first) so I went and just did them without a word.
- Asked, while doing dishes I asked if someone could please check the laundry. They started to fight and I said, “No, I was just asking if someone could, not saying you guys had to.” Essie immediately went and checked but forgot to transfer the laundry. Rach started to berate her and I said it was fine, I was glad to know what needed done down there.
- A few minutes later asked if someone would go and transfer it, Rach immediately did the job without a word (she seldom works without much nagging.
- Asked Issac if he wanted to sit and read a book with me and he immediately said yes (sometimes balks) so we read together while the girls played their games.
- Sat with Rach a bit, asked what she had to do today (she babysits and has things she has to do in order to go). She listed things off and decided (at 10:30pm) that she wanted to get out the school books and practice some things that she would have to help the kids she babysits with on their homework–she did several pages of division, some spelling, practicing her writing while she did (she has beautiful handwriting naturally but gets things backwards due to her severe dyslexia).
- Essie decided to join her and voluntarily did several pages in a math activity books she found. They had me stay by and check their work (haven’t done this in several years I think.) Both girls were shocked at how much they knew and how many pages they could just skip because they knew how to do everything there.
- Rach got up, did some more spelling, prepared her food for babysitting, and did everything else she needed to do before she sat down to watch her movie (all without me nagging her).
- Issac and Esther got up, got dressed, and then helped me gather their dirty laundry.
- Discovered that Esther PANICS when she has to choose her clothes (which explains why she prefers to spend her day in her pjs.) So, I put out a weeks worth of outfits with one dress outfit–which made her absolutely thrilled.
- Any time I have asked someone to do something or help me it has been done immediately and the only fight we have had was between Essie and Issac about who’s turn it was on the computer which was quickly dealt with.
Also noticed–the kids didn’t fight, well, not after the initial my turn, your turn stuff. And because I wasn’t angry already when there were small disputes about balloons I was able to gently remind them that the balloons were private property and each owner had the right to choose how to handle it. So, so far it has been fairly peaceful and Shamus was even surprised at how mcuh work they are actually doing compared to how much when we had to fight it out of them.