This is a continuation of my recent blog post entitled “Why Do I React When My Kids Don’t Listen?”. This is just one example of how to handle the dreaded “I don’t want to pick up after myself. I don’t know how. It’s too hard!” tactic, that all children use as an attempt to get out of taking responsibility for themselves. Most of us fall for it. In doing so, we only reinforce the unhappy story they carry about themselves and perpetuate learned helplessness. We set them up with the mentality that “I don’t have to take responsibility for myself, because someone else will do it for me!”
Let’s use the same scenario and apply the Happy Kid Triangle this time.
I’m in the kitchen getting ready to start dinner. I notice a game/activity that has been left out by my children. I also recognize that my children are MIA. They’ve fled the scene:-) It is obvious that they have chosen not to pick up their game. I want to highlight the word ‘chosen’ in my last sentence. The reality is that they in fact made a choice (consciously or unconsciously) to leave their game/activity out.
At this point, I have taken the time to question my own unhappy thinking about this situation. In doing so, I am able to step back from the situation to see it through the lens of Reality. There is no one to blame here. My children have not devised some evil plan to make mommy miserable. By stepping back from the situation I can see clearly, that I too, have a choice to make. I can choose to be an Unhappy Kid; blaming the cause of my unhappiness on my children (what they are doing to me). Or, I can choose to be a Happy Kid; using this as the perfect opportunity for me to empower my children and to set healthy boundaries for them once more (I know sometimes it feels like we’re a broken record…it get’s better, I promise).
From this place of clarity I am ready to step into the other room where my children are playing.
Me: “Hey guys.”
Kids: “Hi mom.”
Me: “It looks like you are having a lot of fun. I really enjoy watching you two play together.”
Kids: “Yup. We are having fun. Look at what we’re building!”
Me: “Very cool. Thanks for showing me. I noticed that you all are no longer playing the game/activity in the kitchen.”
Kids: “We got bored playing it, so we started playing this.”
Me: “I see. Fortunately, we have rules and consequences in our home, and one of those rules is that we clean up after ourselves.
Kids: “Can we finish setting up this game first?”
Me: “I can totally understand why you’d want to finish what you are doing in here. I’m about to start cooking dinner and need the counter space to be cleared off. My responsibility is to prepare and cook dinner for our family. Your responsibility is to pick up after yourselves. It would not be very loving of me to take responsibility for you. It’s not very loving of me to get mad and frustrated with you either. And that is why we have our family rules set in place. We have these rules set in place so that we can all feel good about ourselves when we choose to follow them…and learn from the times where we choose not to follow them.”
Kids: “Mom. Please?????? We’re almost finished.”
Me: “I hear how badly you want to finish. I want to remind you that you always have a choice guys. I am giving you the opportunity to make a choice now. You can choose to go into the kitchen right now, clean up and put away the game/activity, and then you can get back to what you are building now. Or, you can choose to continue what you are doing, but each of you will have to pay me 25 points (we use a reward/consequences point system chart) because I will be the one cleaning it up and putting it away. I need the counter space. It’s up to you. You get to decide.”
Kids: (as they hop to their feet and race into the kitchen to clean-up their game) “Let’s go clean it up quickly! No way we are paying you 25 points each Mom. We are saving up our points to go see Frozen at the movie theater next weekend!”
Mom: (smiling) “It is really nice to see you all make your own choices. Thank you for choosing to clean up after yourselves.”
Kids: : “Ok mom. You’re welcome. C’mon Reese, let’s hurry up and clean this up so we can finish building our marble maze!”
So what just happened? I simply gave my kids a choice. I reminded them of the consequences. They were consequences that I was willing to follow through, and without resentment. I did not have to raise my voice. I didn’t have to come up with empty threats to get them to obey me. I didn’t have to make myself miserable. I moved into the Respectful Leader role when I gave them the choice. I moved into the Empowering Friend role when I honored their decision…whatever they decided to do. Overall, I was a Happy Kid (parent).
I promise to write another blog post about my Happy Family Point System this week. I think you’ll find it to be user friendly, practical, and will provide instant results. The most important (yet most challenging) part of implementing any reward system in your home, is the commitment and willingness to follow-through.
Please feel free to share this and other articles with your friends and family. If you are interested in learning more about The Happy Kid Toolkit™, and bringing it into your home, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With Gratitude & Blessings,
The Happy Family Coach