You know that lady….angry yelling mom? You know, you saw her at Walmart last week. You heard her shrill voice coming over the back fence in your neighborhood. You heard her at preschool drop-off. And then one afternoon, you realized….she lives in your house.
I think we’ve all had that moment (all, right? Not just me is it?) where we realize, “oh my gosh. I’m angry yelling mom! I don’t want to be angry yelling mom! What have I become?”
Now I’ve written before about challenges with Adrian, here, and he’s still challenging! A little discouraging to look at the date on that post…we’ve progressed, but Adrian is still Adrian. He is loveable, fun, energetic, and sweet…until you want him to do something he considers “not fun,” aka chores.
Therefore, my carefully crafted summer daily chore/reading/math spreadsheet did not go over swimmingly (!? I know, right? Who doesn’t love a good spreadsheet??) Conflict ensued. As I worked to hone my parenting skills, Adrian worked to hone his chore-avoidance techniques. Alas, if he spent as much effort and creativity on actually doing the chores as he did on avoiding them, he would be a scholar and my house would be so clean. But no. His top defiant strategies:
- Little Deaf Boy–He can’t hear a word I say. And he lost his chore spreadsheet again.
- Tired Helpless Baby–He’s too tired to do chores. He can’t do it himself, he’s too little.
- Slacking/lying–“I did all my chores, Mom! I’m going to go play!” All smiles, until you open his closet and look under his bed and discover his toothbrush is bone dry.
So we ended up in many fights. Fights. After which, I’m like, I just got in a fight with a 6 year old!? What is wrong with me?
Now the kid’s gotta do chores. Like everyone in the family, he has to participate as a productive member of the household. BUT also part of the bigger picture….what is more important, having the floor vacuumed or having a positive lifelong relationship with my son? How can I maintain my expectations for his responsibilities without losing our fun relationship?
My mom sent me a podcast about “strength based parenting,” here. I decided to try reframing our discussions from that standpoint.
One Sunday afternoon, we came home with a van full of groceries. I told the boys to bring the groceries in the house. Reid and Will trooped diligently back and forth with bags, while Adrian rolled tragically on the floor. He had banged his knee earlier in the day, and now, as soon as it was time to do some work, he was suddenly handicapped.
“My knee hurts!” He cried. “I can’t walk!”
I rolled my eyes. “You can walk just fine! Get up!”
“Nooo….my knee hurts too much!”
“You’re fine! Get up and get the groceries!”
“I’m too tired! They’re too heavy!”
“You had enough energy to run around Walmart driving me crazy! And if the twins can carry a few bags, so can you! Let’s go!”
I shooed him out the garage door. He stomped to the trunk. I helped Reid carry another bag inside. Still no sign of Adrian with groceries. I went outside and spotted him hiding behind the shed. Instead of going after him, I decided to let him be; I was tired of fighting.
The twins and I finished bringing in the groceries. I thought about how to deal with Adrian…early bedtime? Timeout? Extra chores?
But I decided, no. I’m tired of all the conflict with him.
He slunk in after the trunk was empty. He looked meekly at the floor.
“Hi, Adrian!” I said. “I’m glad you’re back.” I hugged him. “You know, you’re my big boy. I really appreciate all your help around the house. I need your help. Thanks for being my helper.”
“Do you think you could help me put the groceries away? I would appreciate it.”
“Sure, Mom!” He said, giving me a squeeze. “I’ll help you!”
He eagerly began unloading bags. I smiled.
There are no magic parenting bullets, and I’m not expecting Adrian to do chores happily any time soon. Whatever parenting techniques I use, I know there are tantrums and resistance ahead. But I also know that I don’t want to have a relationship defined by conflict. And I know my Adrian is a sweet, kind, big-hearted boy with many strengths that I can focus on.