My kids abuse me. I don’t throw around the term abuse lightly. They abuse me with their behavior and they absolutely abuse me with the way they talk to me. I am the first one to suffer their wrath when things don’t go well. But I’m also the one to blame when things aren’t found, certain groceries are not there, and school responsibilities are not exercised. The irony is that I would never let a friend or significant other treat me the way my offspring do.
The problem begs—who is really responsible for this abuse? I can assure you that my youngest didn’t pick up that tantalizing chant “you’re a poopy diaper” from me. My oldest didn’t pick up his inability to put on his shoes from me either. (I can put on my shoes and coat AND still manage to get to school on time. Imagine that!) My only girl could never have learned to leave her very expensive clothes on the floor from the example I’ve set of attentively hanging all of mine. And you wouldn’t have to tell me twice to pick it up either! Yet this relationship seems to be built on a foundation of complete and utter disrespect. And I’ve realized this level of abuse is not from witnessing this style of communication. It’s completely from me allowing it.
Over the course of the day, we interact with our children a million times. They ask for things, inquire with questions, and tell us stories. Each one of those interactions is an opportunity to groom our children. I have heard that kids are more likely to be polite to wait staff and vendors if they witness their parents being polite. I often approach them with the same style of politeness (don’t worry, there are plenty of times I’m barking orders too). “Please put on your shoes,” or, “Please keep your hands on your own body,” are phrases I often say. Is it possible that I am not getting the respect I believe I deserve because I’m not more forceful with my commands? “It’s time for school, put your shoes on”—would that be a command you couldn’t overlook, unlike the umpteen statements out of my mouth that they ignore?
Or maybe it’s all about consequences. Now that one is a doozy. There needs to be concrete consequences that follow up the threats we use to manipulate (or teach) our children, like, “If you don’t complete your homework, there will be no screen time.” It sounds so easy. Who wouldn’t follow up with that consequence?! Well, in the course of life with multiple children, multiple responsibilities, and a lot going on, there are just times when consequences fall by the wayside. When I’m preoccupied changing the *actual* poopy diaper or running my shuttle service to and from the many activities my daughter has, I find that homework time becomes goof off on the iPad time. My consequence just became a little less heavy.
Not too long ago we were at a holiday party with my children. After approximately seven reminders to behave appropriately and consistent disregard for our commands, we were left with no choice but to leave before the party was over, and before they received their presents. But if there weren’t so many eyes on us, assessing our parenting, judging our style, I probably wouldn’t have had the wherewithal to stand behind the consequence. It was one of my proudest parenting moments. Sadly, it is an unusual occurrence.
Are my children being abusive when they disregard and mistreat me, or have I trained them by not standing my ground with consequences?
Have you ever tried to train yourself to do something totally different than how you’ve always done things? Like eating dinner using the fork in your non-writing hand? Exercise or diet after spending time not doing either? In efforts to improve our relationship, I’m trying to talk to my children differently and follow through with consequences more. I’m finding that my children are resistant to the change. Who would of thought?
These millions of interactions we have in the course of our lives have trained us to do business a certain way. Retraining isn’t easy, but I’m committed to putting an end to this cycle of disrespect. I want more for myself, I want more for our family, and I want more for my kids. This is their first go around at an intimate relationship. If they don’t learn here how to treat people with respect, then I don’t know where they will learn. It’s going to require some heavy lifting and extra elbow grease, but I’m up for the challenge.