Many power struggles are fought over attempts to get our children to do what we expect in the name of learning to be helpful and take responsibility. Too often our best intentions get derailed. Instead of teaching helpfulness and responsibility, we teach them they are disappointments to us.
“When will you ever learn to pick up after yourself?”
“How many times have I told you to hang your coat up?”
“Pick up those dirty clothes right now. I am not your servant you know!”
“Do you ever think about anybody but yourself?”
We get an idea in our heads about what teaching responsibility means—usually stemming from what we got yelled at for— and we plow ahead quite unconsciously. We fear that any exception to the rule will lead to anarchy. But what is the real lesson learned when we hold rigid to a vague principle?
Instead of threatening a time-out unless your four-year-old picks up her toys or your eight-year-old cleans his room, consider the agendas. Yours is to have a clean house: no toys to step on, dust bunnies to collect, mice to gather. Your child’s is to play and have fun as much as possible. If your child doesn’t do what you ask, you might assume disrespect, disobedience, or ingratitude when all she is doing is trying to get what she wants. That is her job after all.