Friday, August 2, 2013

Asking Yourself: What Could I Do To Make This Better?

It is tempting, in the world of parenthood, to see something that one (or more) of our kids does that we don't like, and start thinking things like, "What's wrong with him?" and, "Why does he act like that?"

I'm not sure how many years ago my thinking on this evolved or how it came to pass, but I started to experience these small disappointments with my kids, and rather than the old thought patterns, I would instead ask myself, "What could I have done that could have avoided this?"

It's revolutionary, really.  Because when you are willing to look at *yourself* you can find a solution.

Let's break it down with an example:

So, your children have left the lunch table and there is all manner of plates, cups, food items, crumbs, etc. left all over.  

You could fuss and scold, or you could ask yourself:

What could I have done to avoid this?  What can I do to not have this outcome in the future?

The answer, if you are honest with yourself, might be:

If I had stayed at the lunch table and eaten with my children instead of eating my lunch in the other room in front of the computer, I could have provided leadership that would have avoided this.

If I had not been distracted by my phone/trying to do laundry/the baby I could have been there to coach the children through the steps to clear their spot/put away the leftovers/wipe off the table.

Or your answer might be something else.  That's not the point.  The point is that for whatever your kids have done that you didn't like, there is probably *something* you could have done differently to avoid, provide for, change, or help.

Now that you have honestly answered your question, you are in a position to bring about a solution.

What you are NOT supposed to do is stomp your feet and fuss and yell and snarl at your children about this job not getting done.  That just junks up your relationship with them and pollutes what could be a sweet atmosphere in your home.   It's also lazy and kind of dishonest.  If your kids are leaving the table a mess (or whatever else they do), it is because you have failed to make it happen.  Whether by example, by your presence, by training, by oversight, by foresight, or whatever.  Kids are kids and they don't want to do housework any more than anybody else.  Don't be surprised when they prove this to you.  Instead, embrace the concept of Personal Responsibility, and start walking the pathway to solutions in your home.

You might need to commit to eating your meals with the children, and not taking the opportunity to mentally check out during lunch.  (though I am sure there is a whole chorus of moms who appreciate your felt need to do so!)

You may decide that your felt need to mentally check out during lunch is worth spending 5 minutes on your own cleaning the table yourself after your lunch break, or kindly calling the children back to the table to join you in a group cleanup.  (and that's ok, you know!)

You may need to commit to consistent training for your children on how to clean up after they eat.  

Maybe you will make a sign for the wall that will tell/show them the steps they should take to do this job properly.

Maybe you will assign one of the children as Table Captain and have them be in charge of helping the other children remember what steps to take to get the job done nicely.

Maybe you need to have a reward system (here's mine) in place to motivate and encourage them to remember and feel appreciated.

My goal in finding a solution would be to provide leadership, kindness, and simplicity.  There is no need to yell, spank, fume, get angry, or anything else.  You are the leader, and if you are willing to lead by example, lead sacrificially, and lead consistently, you can have success.

Tomorrow I'll share a real-life example of what I could have done better to make our first day of school go more smoothly.

What do you think?  Are you willing to observe issues with your children and choose to look at yourself and take personal responsibility for how to provide a solution?

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