how do you deal with disagreeable children? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 21 Old 02-23-2009, 04:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't really know how to sum it up, but my kids are driving me crazy. Every time they don't like my answer, they say "no" - I'm talking about very specific and non-disputable things like the word "hurricane" - but they insist that it's really "hurriking" and it just escalates from me saying the "right" word and them insisting and on and on until I get angry or they throw a tantrum. (other examples: what time it is, whether or not I told her where her clean clothes are, what color the sky is)

My oldest is the bigger problem - and I've always ended the argument by saying "you are a child, I am the one who knows this answer - this is something you do NOT get to argue about". But there just isn't any "nice" or gentle way to say "NO!!! YOU ARE WRONG." And, yes, 99% of the time it escalates into a full fledged argument or tantrum because she and I are both stubborn and like to be right.

I basically need a way to differentiate between something that is black & white vs something that could actually be subjective. And also when I specifically tell her something/ask her to do something, and she defies me and refuses to believe that I told her. I know they are two separate issues, but they both end up in the same type of argument.

--janis
(dds are 9 & 5 & newborn)

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#2 of 21 Old 02-23-2009, 05:17 PM
 
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I learned this line from one of ds's preschool teachers, and I have found that it works REALLY well for competitive people who like to be right (me! dh! ds! dd!)

"Oh, it looks like you and I have different ideas about this. You think the sky is purple and I think it's blue."

Right now dd is convinced that her brother is two years old than she is and not 3. Why? Because she's 4 and he's 7. There are two numbers in between: 5 and 6. Thus, he must be 2 years older. (I should get a mommy medal for figuring THAT logic out!) I've been down the "really, I KNOW how many years older he is road" a couple of times and it didn't work. So, now I just say "Hm... you think he's only 2 years older. Interesting." Some day she'll figure it out.

For the clothes or chores, I first say "Did you hear me say: It's time to get your coat on? Oh, ok. Now I'm telling you and looking you in the eye: "It's time to get your coat on." Dd especially tends not to respond when you tell her something and it's not always clear that she listened (her hearing's fine, but if she's focused on something, she might not attend to what we said). So, I spend a lot of time saying "did you hear me? What did I say?" with her.

We also use the timer a lot for transitions, so I'll warn them when I set the timer, check that they heard and then the timer goes. That way they get the message 3 times and they get a little lead time to transition.

Finally, some days I just get silly with this kind of thing. "You think it's 2:30? are you sure it's not 8:30? how about 9:30? 10:30? 30:30?" the more outrageous you are, the more they laugh and that breaks the tension.

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#3 of 21 Old 02-23-2009, 06:55 PM
 
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Why not let her say what she thinks and agree to disagree? She sounds to me like someone who is trying to win and argument and can NEVER win because the other person (you) is always right. So she is going to dig her heels in and never admit that you are right, even if she knows it. Since she is nine how about trying to let her have her own opinion even if it is wrong. This is what adults do, agree to disagree, and move on.

Lynn gave the good practical stuff. I just wanted to suggest that you ease up a bit, unless it is something dangerous. I like the, oh you didn't hear me? Well here is your coat, put it on so we can leave please. Even if you KNOW she heard you why battle it? The goal is for her to put her coat on so you can leave.

I believe she will grow out of this IF and only IF you ease up. If you keep going she will grow up to always feel she has to win the battle with you. I think it is sort of like the toddler phase when they want to be a big boy or girl and do things by themselves. They are developing their personhood...who they are...independent thinking, which is a good thing.

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#4 of 21 Old 02-23-2009, 07:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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i appreciate the feedback - and will try some new tactics.

i guess i didn't explain it perfectly - i agree that i don't need to bully her into submission. it's more that she automatically says NO to everything i say. maybe it's a phase, but it's becoming quite a big problem. I've been trying for the past week to ask her to think about it before she answers or to say nothing - that the automatic no or disagreement is just not conducive to making anyone happy. but it doesn't make any difference. because once she gets it into her head that she WANTS to disagree, she can't change. it's a behavior problem that translates into every part of her life. not being helped by the fact that we had a traumatic birth experience, so i am just now beginning to be able to "be" a parent. so, 6 weeks of chaos have built up and i "want" it all to go back to normal overnight. i'm in a real sucky situation, that's for sure.

thanks for listening - any more tips appreciated always - it takes a village.

--janis

Mama to 3 girls 12,8,3
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#5 of 21 Old 02-23-2009, 07:08 PM
 
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I think you need to learn to pick your battles. They may not be so negative/argumentative when it's important (time to do chores or get dressed, for example) if they haven't gotten into a negative/argumentative pattern over stuff that just doesn't matter.

It's not hurting anybody if they insist on mispronouncing words on purpose or claiming the sky is orange. You need to disengage way before anybody gets angry about it. About the location of the clean clothes "OK, I'm telling you now. They're in this basket right here." It doesn't matter if you already told her or not (maybe she honestly didn't hear you the first time, maybe you did forget to tell her, etc.)

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#6 of 21 Old 02-23-2009, 07:13 PM
 
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Ah...I see now. This is a new development because of the trials you have all been through lately. I would try the playful route. Everything has been very tense lately and that can be a lot for kids to handle. Maybe a little playful parenting would help ease the tension. Have you read that book? Playful Parenting? It's great!
I wanted to clarify that I don't mean for you to be a permissive parent and bend your rules. I would look for opportunities to LET her have the last word or LET her express her opinion and you just drop it (if it's droppable). I think she's experiencing a toddler-type phase that WILL pass as things get back to normal. Maybe she needs more times where she feels like she wins. I really think that if you give this to her, your battles will grow less and less, and not because she disrepects you, but because you are allowing her to be her and this will cause her to respect you more.
Man, I don't know if any of that makes sense to anyone, except me.

ETA: I wanted to give you hugs. Sounds like a rough road you've been on lately. Hang in there...it will pass.

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#7 of 21 Old 02-23-2009, 07:24 PM
 
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Oh and I wanted to share this with you too. It's from an article and I can't remember the author now. The website is www.beyondconsequences.com


Responding vs. Reacting – So the next time your child becomes defiant, talks back, or is
simply “ugly” to you, work to be in a place not to react to the behavior, but respond to your
child. Respond to your child in an open way—open to meeting him in his heart and helping
him understand the overload of feelings that are driving the behaviors. He doesn’t need a
consequence or another parental directive at that moment; he just needs you to be present
with him. As your children learn to respond back to you through the parent-child
relationship, they won’t have the need to communicate through negative behaviors anymore.
You’ll both have more energy for each other, building a relationship that will last a lifetime.


I know it is theoretical and not practical, but I only have a 15 month old so I admit that I don't know that much about nine year olds. It just really sounded good to me.

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#8 of 21 Old 02-24-2009, 05:52 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shami View Post
Oh and I wanted to share this with you too. It's from an article and I can't remember the author now. The website is www.beyondconsequences.com


Responding vs. Reacting – So the next time your child becomes defiant, talks back, or is
simply “ugly” to you, work to be in a place not to react to the behavior, but respond to your
child. Respond to your child in an open way—open to meeting him in his heart and helping
him understand the overload of feelings that are driving the behaviors. He doesn’t need a
consequence or another parental directive at that moment; he just needs you to be present
with him. As your children learn to respond back to you through the parent-child
relationship, they won’t have the need to communicate through negative behaviors anymore.
You’ll both have more energy for each other, building a relationship that will last a lifetime.


I know it is theoretical and not practical, but I only have a 15 month old so I admit that I don't know that much about nine year olds. It just really sounded good to me.
I resent stuff like that; it implies that the parent needs to "just love them more" which implies they aren't loving them "enough" to begin with! Didn't they used to say the same thing to mothers of Autistic kids? Wasn't that long ago the answer to Autism was "you're not loving them enough and that's why they act this way" which is, of course, ridiculous.
Being present with someone who constantly opposes you and defies you and negates everything you say is extremely hard on the spirit. Telling a frustrated parent to love them more and "be present" is rather like saying "be mother theresa and have no ego" - I think its unrealisticly imposing

I don't think there's anything wrong with letting a grade school kid know they are hurting your feelings, annoying you or any other emotion. They need to know that their parents are people too, not saints.
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#9 of 21 Old 02-24-2009, 08:51 PM
 
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Originally Posted by smibbo View Post
I resent stuff like that; it implies that the parent needs to "just love them more" which implies they aren't loving them "enough" to begin with! Didn't they used to say the same thing to mothers of Autistic kids? Wasn't that long ago the answer to Autism was "you're not loving them enough and that's why they act this way" which is, of course, ridiculous.
Being present with someone who constantly opposes you and defies you and negates everything you say is extremely hard on the spirit. Telling a frustrated parent to love them more and "be present" is rather like saying "be mother theresa and have no ego" - I think its unrealisticly imposing

I don't think there's anything wrong with letting a grade school kid know they are hurting your feelings, annoying you or any other emotion. They need to know that their parents are people too, not saints.
The woman who wrote that adopted two children from Russia and discovered that their ability to attach and bond was damaged. So this is for parents of children who are having severe behavior disorders due to attachment issues. However, I thought that it went along with so much of the Gentle Discipline advice that I have heard on this forum. I felt like the OP was saying that she is doing daily battle with her nine year old and with the recent trial their family had, maybe their was a loss in connection. So, I was suggesting that they drop the daily battle and find a way to connect through playful parenting.

I admit I am new to this Gentle Discipline stuff and I only have a 15 month old baby, but I have a basic understanding of GD. Finding the UNDERLYING ISSUES for any negative behavior is crucial in the gentle discipline approach.
Connecting with your child first before you discipline/teach is also a key point. I never suggested that the OP shouldn't let her grade school kid know she is hurting her feelings, or annoying her. Nor am I suggesting that she doesn't love her kid enough.

There is a quote from Pam Leo that floats around this board that says to "connect before you correct". So, my suggestion to Jrabbit is to find a way to connect with her child and then try and get to the root cause of her child's frustration. After they connect, they can work on problem solving, or maybe her dd will realize through intimate conversations with her mom that she has been a very difficult child and begin to change her ways.

Jrabbit, I sure hope I didn't make you feel worse by Heather Forbes' quote.

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#10 of 21 Old 02-24-2009, 10:06 PM
 
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Sorry for your troubles.

FWIW, DS turned 9 a little more than a month ago, and he definitely NEEDS to argue a bit more. He's always been the argumentative sort, so I can start down a slippery slope, and then suddenly think, "How in the heck did I get from it's time to leave to arguing about whether you wore blue socks yesterday?" My very best tactic is, "Hmm!" accompanied by a knowing look. It sounds lame, but it saves me and my temper. He KNOWS what he is saying isn't true, and I am communicating that, but I will NOT engage this way. It makes me CRAZY. I am really sympathetic. That's what I am trying to say. I think it's normal, but if your (soul, psychological) resources are limited, it is impossible sometimes to call repeatedly on our higher selves.
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#11 of 21 Old 02-24-2009, 10:24 PM
 
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OP, Sounds like you have a real opportunity here to show how to maturely deal with frustration. My 3 year old's doing almost exactly the same thing. At her age I'll argue a little, then I'll say something completely off the wall or "oh, you think it's X" and leave it at that. With a 9 year old, though, I think it's reasonable to say "wow, this conversation is really frustrating me because we're disagreeing so much, so I think it's time for me to step back" Then if your children keep pressing, just say "oh, ok, you think it's X, I disagree, but I'm done. Thank you for letting me know. Pass the bean dip" and sort of drop it. I guess that's the angle I'd try... It worked well when I was working with 9 year olds at a summer camp, but I realize it may be more difficult as the parent... kids really know just how to push our buttons, sometimes...

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#12 of 21 Old 02-24-2009, 11:55 PM
 
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Hi,

I noticed my oldest became more argumentative and contrary at about 10. So some of this is developmentally normal.

I would recommend a few things (take what you find useful).

1) You know you're right about this stuff (e.g. how to pronounce hurricane) so there's no need to get angry. Tell them the truth as you know it (pronunciation, the time of day) and if they say "NO!!" then have a sort of all purpose phrase like "It's so disagreeable when you contradict me in this rude way." and then...MOVE on. Kind of like when Lynn wrote.

If they continue to want to argue, say "I will not argue with you about this." and then walk away. You might need to back this up w/ a loss of privilege if that's your parenting style.


2) Differentiating between matters of fact & matters of opinion.

- For the older ones, if they want to argue a point of fact, agree to look it up together? If you're too busy at the time (w/ a newborn, you a likely to be) say "I don't have time right now to look up... [the matter of dispute], let's do it [specify time].

3) Arguments over matters that cannot be proved in black-and-white (e.g. clothes put away).
Consider saying - "Well now I am telling you, do it now" (like what Ruth said).

Consider saying "I see that this is a not uncommon problem. How can we solve it? Would it help if I write notes as reminders and date them?" Then consider doing so. It may sound weird, but using some work-techniques can often help at home - think of these as "memos"

4) Could these arguments be an attention thing? The older one is old enough to be a little self-reflective. Ask her something along the lines of "I notice we're arguing a lot more lately, is it because you want more attention, even if it's unpleasant? How can we solve this? Could we set aside a 10 minute period each afternoon when you can tell me all the wonderful things you know." - Brainstorm.

5) Consider channeling the argumentativeness "Honey, I really dislike arguing with you about these things, but I think we BOTH enjoy a good debate. Let's choose a topic to debate about and prepare a 3 minute talk + 1 minute rebuttal".

6) Not really related, but something I've found useful: Talking Stick
- my kids would sometimes get frustrated at dinner because THEY had something to say and the other kid was dominating the conversation. Or DH and I would try to say something and then the kids would talk over us. We're a family that LOVES to talk and debate. So, sometimes if things are getting a bit out of control, we use a letter-opener as the Talking Stick and the person who is holding it gets to speak without interruption.
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#13 of 21 Old 02-25-2009, 01:30 AM
 
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You have to learn to disengage emotionally WAY before it gets to the point of anger. I swear, you really cannot ever expect a child to behave in order for you to be in control of your emotions. You have to get control over your emotions first, and then address the behavior. It will never work the other way around.

I would give absolutely zero energy to the reflexive 'no' stuff that isn't important. I mean seriously...whatever. It doesn't matter one bit does it? You are giving this behavior SO MUCH attention and energy that you are saying, in so many words, that SHE is right, this stuff DOES matter, because look how upset she gets you with it!

But just be sure you really get to a place of NOT caring--because if you start doing the angle of "Whatever, your words have no power, and nothing you say can bother me" kind of vibe, then she will start feeding off it. You have to really not care. Just stop caring. Whatever. "Yeah, that's a cool way to say rodeo". Stop. caring. about. the. small. stuff.

Now for the interpersonal stuff, where she pretends you never told her something, I would sidestep past/future debates over who said what. You know what you said. She heard you perfectly well the first time. There is ZERO logic in pointing it out. She already knows and is waiting to see if she can draw you into a power game (kids go through all kinds of power trip stuff at different ages, and it is very normal for them to experiment).

First of all I absolutely never engage in power struggles. Period. The minute someone starts to twist a normal, reasonable request into a power game, I withdraw the request, state my observation, and give them zero energy. Wolfe describes this very well in his book (the title escapes me). This is almost magically effective in ways you have to try in order to believe. It works with people of all ages.

I ask you to please clean up the sink.
Five minutes later you snarkily say "Oh you NEVER told me to clean it up (smirk, smirk)".
I immediately go over and start to clean it myself.
I say something like "I'm disappointed in your behavior. The next time I ask you to do something, I expect you to tell me kindly whether you can get the chore done" . And then. absolutely. nothing. not. one. more. bit. of. energy. Do the chore happily yourself.

You wouldn't believe how well this works.



"

Mother is the word for God on the hearts and lips of all little children--William Makepeace Thackeray
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#14 of 21 Old 02-26-2009, 01:46 AM
 
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i just wanted to add (some good stuff has already been said)... the MORE inflexible my DS is, the MORE flexible i need to be. this is crucial for successful dealing with kids who can be really inflexible or easily aroused.

the more flexible i am, the easier it is for DS to connect with me and not feel the need to "show" me how "right" he is. it's good modeling for him and it helps me not lose my mind with someone who will fight with me about how old i am. (or any other crazy thing)

oh, and one more thing... when you really don't like how your kids are acting, take a deep breath and look in the mirror. children mirror us completely. completely.

"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift." -- Mary Olivercoolshine.gif

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#15 of 21 Old 02-26-2009, 02:35 AM
 
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Dd does this. As mentioned, the key for us is for me to disengage. I get busy with something else and slide into a repeatable phrase like- you think so? hmmm. or- that's interesting. It must be said with as little emotion and interest as possible

-Angela
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#16 of 21 Old 02-26-2009, 02:45 AM
 
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I ask you to please clean up the sink.
Five minutes later you snarkily say "Oh you NEVER told me to clean it up (smirk, smirk)".
I immediately go over and start to clean it myself.
I say something like "I'm disappointed in your behavior. The next time I ask you to do something, I expect you to tell me kindly whether you can get the chore done" . And then. absolutely. nothing. not. one. more. bit. of. energy. Do the chore happily yourself.

You wouldn't believe how well this works.

Ummmm..... but then YOU'RE cleaning the sink. And that's ok?

What am I missing????

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#17 of 21 Old 02-26-2009, 05:11 AM
 
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Belia: I think you're missing the part where she totally diffused the power struggle. So she cleans the sink! And happily too. Great--modeling that it really is no big deal, cleaning and work don't have to be horrible things we all dread and do desperate acts to escape from.

But the main thing I think is the power struggle part. If that's what this is, and it usually is, then Mom just made a very clear, effective statement that she is not interested in maintaining power over anyone. She just wanted the sink cleaned. Once kids see that they aren't being coerced into something, they're usually more than willing to help out and do things to make their parents smile! And especially if, when you do it, you do it willingly yourself, then it really takes away all the negative energy from the situation AND the sink cleaning. And makes it much more likely for them to just do it next time they're asked.

To the OP: I agree with those who said to just let it go! Seriously! They are children, there are a hundred reasons why they might be doing this, but none of them require us to revert and act just like them!

When my kids do this, I usually say something like, "Oh really, you don't think so?" Or, "What do you think? I'd like to hear more about that." I'm sure most of the time your children KNOW you are right. They can SEE what color the sky is, you know? They aren't contradicting you because they really think you're wrong, so engaging in the argument is really pointless. That's not the point of their contradiction.

I can't say exactly what it is b/c I'm not there, and, more importantly, I'm not your kids! That's why I go for the questioning. Ask the ones who know. "Oh? Why do you say that?" With a smile and a look of sincerely wanting to know. Not that you sincerely want to know how they can possibly think the sky is green, because you don't--but you do sincerely want to understand what it is they ARE trying to communicate by their contradiction!

--Kate, home/unschooling mom two three girls (6, 3, and Tiny)
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#18 of 21 Old 02-26-2009, 06:01 AM
 
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Simply,

I agree that chores and work are not a "dreadful things" to avoid. I like doing most chores around the house and try to model a positive work ethic.

However, I don't think that Belia and (now) I are missing the point. Yes, I understand that "the power struggle has been de-fused". But I would consider it a problem if my kid thought he or she could evade doing their chores or other commitments by lying about "not hearing" an instruction.

For me, it's not a question of my power vs. the children's will. Instead, it's about being a considerate & cooperative member of a household and carrying out our duties and commitments. I want to teach them to do their part in the household so that they will not grow up to live in filth, or become the Flatmate or Co-Worker From Hell.

Once, yeah, maybe I'd give them the benefit of the doubt but, say "You hear me now, it needs to be done." That should (IMHO) take care of it.

That's also the reason that we have a work-chart that lists whose turn it is for dishes & other things.

That's also why the kids have charts from school that list what is due and give a due date.

I do agree w/ you about sometimes asking the kids why it is that they think something that either appears wrong, or is totally zany. It can lead to some fun conversations.

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Originally Posted by simplymother View Post
Belia: I think you're missing the part where she totally diffused the power struggle. So she cleans the sink! And happily too. Great--modeling that it really is no big deal, cleaning and work don't have to be horrible things we all dread and do desperate acts to escape from.
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#19 of 21 Old 02-26-2009, 12:13 PM
 
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However, I don't think that Belia and (now) I are missing the point. Yes, I understand that "the power struggle has been de-fused". But I would consider it a problem if my kid thought he or she could evade doing their chores or other commitments by lying about "not hearing" an instruction.
This is always what people say they fear will happen with this approach. I recommend reading Anthony Wolfe's book "the Secret Of Parenting" for further insight.

I have read quite a few posts over the years from parents who really grasped this technique and used it with kids of all ages. Not once did anyone post that their kid took advantage of the approach. Every single time it had a better result than any other more confrontational approach.

There isn't one approach I use as a panacea for every situation. But for a power struggle I always use the above and it has always worked for us like magic. Do the opposite of what you think you should do with a power struggle, and the effect is just amazing!

In fact I remember ds being very disagreeable for a couple of days last month, complaining and not wanting to do his chores.

So I did ALL of his chores one day, with a good attitute, as a surprise for him. I didn't say a word. When he grumbled about a chore he had to do next I just said "Don't worry, I already did it. You seem out of sorts this week".

He was speechless for a moment. "WOW. Thanks!". Then he felt so 'understood' by the gesture he became 10x more industrious and helpful the rest of the week.

Diffusing a power struggle is so much more rewarding than winning it.

Not every situation is a power struggle, and sometimes kids just need us to give firm reminders etc. But what you described is definitely a power struggle, and generally even if you win them, you lose, kwim?

Mother is the word for God on the hearts and lips of all little children--William Makepeace Thackeray
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#20 of 21 Old 02-26-2009, 12:25 PM
 
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I just want to clarify: Not every situation where a child isn't doing chores is a power struggle. When ds was younger (about 7/8 years old) he was just intimidated by chores and he really could be resistant because he wasn't competent enough to do them willingly. In that case we solve the problem by having a set 'chore time' each day when everyone who was home did chores together. It was a fun family time. At first we gave ds jobs that were too easy for him. Then when he seemed bored we would ask which job he wanted to pick. Whatever he picked, we gave him little pointers for how to get it done, or did it with him if it was too big a job, and then praised him mightily for being a 'a real member of the team'. LOTS of praise was given in those days.

Eventually he didn't need all the praise or structure. He could do his chores anytime on his own.

I am adding this just to point out that I definitely don't think it would work to just respond to a balky child every time by doing the work for them. If they are balking out of feelings of overwhelm or intimidation with the chores, that won't help at all, kwim?

Mother is the word for God on the hearts and lips of all little children--William Makepeace Thackeray
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#21 of 21 Old 02-26-2009, 11:11 PM
 
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Hi Heartmama,

What you describe is what I would consider grace, mercy, or just really empathetic mothering. Yes, if my kid has been "out of sorts", I would give them a special treat, a break, something that would let them know that his or her parents cared & want to lighten the load.

It seems like a different situation than the one the OP described, which I interpreted (could be mis-interpreted?) to be a "balky child" situation.


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Originally Posted by heartmama View Post
T

In fact I remember ds being very disagreeable for a couple of days last month, complaining and not wanting to do his chores.

So I did ALL of his chores one day, with a good attitute, as a surprise for him. I didn't say a word. When he grumbled about a chore he had to do next I just said "Don't worry, I already did it. You seem out of sorts this week".
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