The Subjects: My children (various ages) and myself (26 forever).
Hypothesis: Changing my attitude first, will produce the same desired effect in my kids.
A few years ago a gentlemen asked my dad how he raised such nice kids. Everyone in the room paused, listened in, and waited for my dad to depart his words of wisdom. His reply, “I just do everything they tell me.”
Of course my dad was joking, but I thought about this recently as part of a solution to a problem I had with my kids. We had been fighting a lot. Not punching and kicking and pulling hair, just a lot of whining and “how comes” and “why not-s”. We were at our wits end with each other. I pointed out to them that they were arguing with me and each other about every little thing. I told them that they need to be aware of what they are doing so they could change. If they are the type of person that argues with others all the time, no one will want to hang out with them.
A little light turned on for me at that moment. I wondered how much of my attitude was contributing to the discord in the home. Maybe I was as guilty as my kids of arguing at every turn. Maybe I was saying “no” too often. Maybe all their whining and frustration was due to the fact that I would say “no” and that would be final. I thought about how irritating it would be to me if everything I was trying to accomplish was met with an abrupt “no!”
The Experiment: I decided to take a cue from my dad and try to say “no” as little as possible for a few days and see how it works out. I’m not saying that I was going to give the kids whatever they wanted. Giving a kid carte blanche never did anyone any good. I’m just saying that I was going to try to pick my battles more carefully.
Over the next few days, I agreed to make pancakes instead of eggs. I gave them an extra ten minutes of video games before they started their homework and let them stay up an extra half hour to see the end of Dancing with the Stars. Some things I still held firm on, like tooth brushing after meals, chores before playtime and no watching Adventure Time. I’ve got to maintain some order and standards!
The result: I have found that giving them more choices, helping them understand the reasons I say “no” when I do, and picking my battles more carefully, brought the number of arguments and general frustration down significantly. It was easier when the kids were younger to just say “no” and that would be the end of it. Now that my kids are getting older, they want to have more of a say in the events of their day. I realized that my parenting style needed to grow up a little, too.
My dear Parental Colleagues, have you ever tested this hypothesis? What have you done to lessen the arguments in your home?
Experimenting on my kids since 1998 so you don’t have to.