I’ve been conscious of a lot of stress in my house lately. True, I myself am under increased stress; but this was something more. I realized I really wasn’t enjoying being a parent. It’s not that my daughter’s behavior has changed, but rather my attitudes had changed, and not for the better. I was trying to make her conform, and the resulting battles rattled the windows.
I was reminded (again!) that it didn’t have to be that way as I read “The Happiest Mom (Parenting Magazine): 10 Secrets to Enjoying Motherhood”. I didn’t have to have these arguments.
Skinning The Cat
(I hate this phrase, but it’s part of the culture). The saying goes there is more than one way to skin a cat. A friend of mine, a high school Latin teacher, was talking about her department head’s insistence on certain activities in the language classes. All languages had to teach conversation skills, for example.
My friend was upset, because no one speaks Latin. That’s the whole issue with a dead language. She said to me, “It’s not enough that I’m getting the cat skinned. I’ve been told how I must do it, but the cat won’t be skinned that way!”
That made me think about what is really important in these battles: the outcome.
The daily battles in our house consist of four areas: brushing the teeth, picking up her room, keeping her desk in the shared office (where I work) tidy, and practicing piano for a given length of time (it’s not the practicing that causes arguments. It’s the length of time).
What I cared about was the outcomes. Clean teeth. Being able to vacuum her room. Not having a mess within my visual range while I was working. Building the muscle memory necessary to be a good piano player.
And I looked at if the outcomes were being met, or if I was trying to force her to skin a cat my way.
Picking the Battles
With the teeth, there is no other way to clean teeth than to brush. So I told her this was non-negotiable, and she has to brush her teeth in my bathroom now so I can make sure it is done.
For being able to vacuum, I only do that every other week. And I am willing to shovel everything into the Saturday basket so that I can vaccum. For the rest of the week I can keep the door shut. I know it is easier to keep something clean if you keep up with it, but apparently that is a lesson she is going to have to learn on her own.
Not having a mess in my office was very important to me, so I decided I would take care of it. If papers build up, they get put in the Saturday basket, or recycled at my discretion (she is always allowed to take care of it first!).
Practicing piano…there is no substitute for time when it comes to muscle memory. But we did find a way to vary what she is playing (rotating through the pieces instead of playing the same one a set number of times before moving on). We do have to use a timer, but again, I told her this was non-negotiable.
It’s been a lot less stressful on me in the two weeks since I made the conscious decision to let these things go. I do have to remind myself frequently of the decisions, but they will become automatic in time.
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Photo by pipitdapo