About Me

My photo
My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Family Communication

I hate hearing the following: "It wasn't me;" "I didn't do it!" "It's not my turn to do that!" "HE did it, not me!" "Why are you asking me and not him?!" Or, "I think you love her more than me." Etc.

The refrain goes on and on. Despite chore charts and incentive plans, allowances and penalties, my kids persist in finding ways to point out how life is SO unfair and how they are so innocent. I actually think this is totally normal, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I want phantom kids: ones who make no noise, pick up after themselves without reminders or complaints, don't break things, and who get along wonderfully. Turns out I have real children.

We recently reinstated the venerable family meeting, and gave everyone a chance to air their grievances against each other. Whew! Not a pleasant meeting at all, though it was probably good to have it. Together, we came up with a new and revised (notice I didn't add "improved") chore chart, complete with a list of monetary penalties which occur for certain offenses (such as swearing, a habit the middle one has recently acquired and, were there are world class title to win there, he'd get it). Now, off to implement said plan. Easier created than implemented, as ususal.

According to my children's logic, we must have a band of miscreant, destructive aliens living in the house, for the toys and clothes left on the floor, the globs of toothpaste on the bathroom counters, and the mysteriously broken items in the house are NEVER the result of my children' actions, at least never the result of the most-likely guilty party. Similarly, it is never "their" turn to take out the trash, put dishes in the sink, or feed the cat. Sigh. I wonder sometimes if I am a total failure in the parenting department. Alas, I think I'm a real parent, too. Turns out, genetics really is true: real parents have real kids. Bummer.

To be fair, my kids would probably start a similar essay with the following sentence. "I hate hearing the following: 'Please pick up your clothes off the floor,' 'Please put the milk back in the refridgerator,' 'Please go take a shower,' 'Please pick up the toys in the backyard.'"

If it feels like parenting is nothing more than an endless list of poorly-received requests, it must seem like childhood is an endlessly annoying to-do list, one that is never conceived by the child. My kids correctly point out that I am a champion nag. Ug. What an awful personality quality, but if I'm honest, it is so true. I can point out to them that I'd be less of a nag if they were more self-starters, but it seems that immaturity prevents them from seeing my logic.

From my perspective, one of the most annoying things about the nagging-and-complaining communication pattern is how it perpetuates the very things it aims to prevent (the nagging and the complaining). I've moved to a silent chart -- I point to it and raise my eyebrows, in the silent, motherly sign of "did you do those things you're supposed to have done?" *Kinda* works. Some days. At least with the two who can read.

I've come to the conclusion that family communication probably improves when kids are no longer kids and kids and parents no longer live under the same roof. Shocking!

1 comment:

  1. I don't know that it gets a whole lot easier, except in the negociation aspect. Our 19 year old is home from college and she's still messy. She had a due date for putting away her stuff and made that; she is allowed to have her own room as messy as she likes, but not bring it into the rest of the house. So far, I'd give her a B- on that. She's trying, I'm trying--but it's still frustrating at times. Good luck!!


Politeness is always appreciated.