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#1 of 9 Old 04-01-2012, 07:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am really struggling with my approach to raising my oldest ds, who is 9yo, right now.  Things seem to be going more smoothly with his younger siblings, who are 7 and 4.  I ask for help sometimes, trying to accept the answer of "no" if it comes.  Occasionally, we have a real crisis, and my ds readily jumps in and helps in those situations.  He also - very occasionally - puts away the dishes.  I really appreciate that spontaneous help, and he is clearly proud to have helped.  The vast majority of the time, he is happy to be waited on hand and foot, and complains bitterly about helping to clean up his room once per week.  I have taken to bribing him constantly with, "you won't have your computer/DS/TV time until x happens" or "you can do your game time after lunch if you've gotten a,b, and c done in the morning."  I hate that!  That's not the parent I want to be!

 

He has more tantrums than his younger siblings.  The other day, he started to melt down when I announced it was time to go to house-church (a weekly dinner with close friends at rotating houses).  So, I told him he could stay home, make leftovers for his own dinner, and check in with my Dad (who lives in an attached apartment) if he needed anything.  He did great!!  He made his own dinner, talked with my dad, read, called me to see if he could watch a TV show on netflix, and was super happy and relieved to see us when we got home.  He had even put all the clean dishes away.  I was stunned.  It seemed like giving him real responsibility yielded a natural response of maturity.  

 

We are building a small farm and have lots of land and activity happening almost every day.  There is a lot of opportunity for him to take responsibility.  We are raising all our own meat, building fences and a barn, growing seedlings, planting gardens, attracting birds, pruning trees, beekeeping, blah blah blah.  Most of the time, he will choose to be inside reading, playing, or staring at a screen.

 

I really wonder if I'm doing him a disservice by allowing him to miss out on how to run a life and farm.  It doesn't help that I'm reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder to my daughter right now.  I know it's a book, and has GOT to be sugar-coated a little, but those kids were busy helping every day!  They were useful to their families and knew it.  They were learning valuable skills and striving to be grown-up enough to handle serious things, like the training of animals.

 

Meanwhile, my ds can really only talk about Pokemon.  Has meltdowns regularly pertaining to screen time.  Will hurry through anything to get to screen time.  I would be content to have video games in our life if they didn't seem to have a strangle-hold on my kid's brain.  

 

Last week, ds decided he wanted to buy a $150 new DS gaming device.  We understand why and think it's reasonable (unless I trash all screen activity!!!).  He lacks $48 in funds to make this purchase.  We've offered to pay him $7/hour to move leaves or mulch into the garden.  He is physically capable of doing this.  It takes him 6 minutes to do one load of leaves.  He spent two days moping around complaining that he didn't want to do the work.  Basically just waiting/hoping some magical $48 would be given to him.  What!?!  How is it that my kid is waiting for something to come on a platter?  This must be my fault!?!  

 

I am really at a loss.  Part of me wants to screech our screen life to a halt and ditch all of it.  I mean, isn't there a better use for his mind than pokemon, go-go's, and angry birds?  I am so sick of it.  I would like to have a curious, industrious boy around who was simultaneously pursuing some different things, possibly including videos and games during down-time.

 

He does enjoy reading, and I've seen him with several wonderful books lately.  But what really occupies the center of his heart, mind, and body right now is gaming.  That's really not ok with me.  

 

Any advice wise mamas?

 

 

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#2 of 9 Old 04-01-2012, 09:01 PM
 
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If you had a family meeting, plying your children with warm drinks and nice snacks, and asked them what they consider a reasonable amount of daily "family work" for a child to contribute, what do you suppose they would say? I've asked my kids this question before, and they usually say something like "I dunno, half an hour maybe." It sounds like very little. And it's not much. But it's a lot more than they tend to just naturally do in the course of a day. It's a reasonable answer. I'm constantly amazed at how reasonable my kids are when control battles and other emotions are taken out of the picture.

 

"Okay," I say, "that sounds like something that would make me much happier, because I would feel like we're all helping each other. Are you sure half an hour is okay? Do you have that much extra time in your days?" [Duh! Of course they do ... but it's worth getting them to emphatically agree that they have.] And then I ask "How would you like to make sure that this 'reasonable amount of work' happens every day?"

 

At that point we have an expectation that they have created, and we start brainstorming ways to meet that expectation. We come up with a strategy together, try it for a week, then have another meeting and discuss whether it has worked well, making any tweaks or trying new approaches or initiatives as needed. 

 

It's important to set the emotional tone properly for a Family Meeting like this. Ply your kids with warm drinks and yummy snacks. Talk at first appreciatively about family dynamics, about how you know everyone in your family is a good person with good ideas. Recall some issues that you've overcome as a group in the past, problems you've solved, things you've accomplished, positive experiences you've had. Say something like "I want to figure out how we can apply what's really good about our family to areas where we're not doing so well." And then ask if anyone has any problem areas they'd like to discuss, or any areas they'd like to see improvement. If they do have such ideas, discuss them open-mindedly and graciously. Eventually move gently on to the issue of household chores. Not as in "Okay, here's what's driving me crazy about you kids..." Instead say it gently: "Something I've been thinking about lately is how we can help each other out as a family a bit more. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing almost all the housework. I know you guys help sometimes. But I feel like I can't count on your help, and sometimes I expect some help and it doesn't come, and then I get in a bad mood -- and my bad moods are no good for anyone!" 

 

I dunno. This sort of approach has worked really well for us. Usually my kids know that one or two of them are more "guilty" than the others. But we treat the discussion as a family problem and look for general, shared solutions with occasional individualizations as requested. Not to say that we have definitively solved our housework issues. But overall, when we have trouble, we revisit this approach and make progress. Even better, we come away feeling like we're all on the same side, working towards a common goal. A lot of the conflict, negativity and resulting resistance disappears.


miranda


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#3 of 9 Old 04-02-2012, 08:19 AM
 
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I think it's hard to be 9.  My kids seemed to struggle with a lot of stuff at 8 and 9 that they handled easily at 7 and 10.  

 

That aside, I think that if it were my kid, I would try to have a private conversation with him, maybe leave the younger kids home with your Dad, if that's possible, and take him out to dinner?  Then I'd talk about your discomfort with how things have been going, and ask if he has any suggestions for making things better.  I am not you, and you may feel differently, but I would not have a problem with telling him that he's old enough that he needs to take on some responsibility around the property, and then help him choose what he wants to be in charge of, and how he plans to see that it's being done.  My oldest really likes being shown the path to Team Grownup.  

 

Since you aren't aiming for him to do the same amount of work as your 5 year old, I don't think I'd go the family meeting route, but I LOVE Moominmama's suggestion for how to start the conversation.  It sounds like a wonderful way to set a positive tone to what could seem like being called on the carpet.

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#4 of 9 Old 04-02-2012, 07:22 PM
 
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We're going through this right now with DS(9). None of those reasonable family meetings work with us. (a) it's 2:1 parents-to-kid, so he always feels outnumbered and (b) usually we get snark, even when we are trying to get him to vote for his own interests in a democratic way. He refuses to participate.

 

I originally bought Minecraft after a long time of not getting him any kind of online game or video game, because of the addictive nature (having seen kids seemingly unable to function in the world, walking around stores with their faces in hand-held devices is horrifying). But then I realized games are not all created alike; some are actually creative, and all the really nice homeschooled friends like that game....so this skeptical Mama was actually the one who suggested getting Minecraft!

 

But we, too, are faced with the wanting-to-do-nothing-but-Minecraft syndrome. Rushing through things to get back downstairs to play it. After a few weeks I told him outright, we are seeing a horrible lack of balance with you. We are your parents and we think you're going down a road that is harmful, we're going to step in and try to get you back on track. That being said, he still gets to play for hours on end. There are no arbitrarily strict limits. It's just that he needs to take breaks every so often, show up for meals without moping, get outside and help with the gardening (helpful to me, but more importantly keeping him in touch with nature.....which he always says he loves AFTER we've done it), and with the tasks and stuff that I ask of him. I don't ask much. I organized his room once so that his floor was finally clear and there was a place for just about everything. So if I see the floor cluttering back up, I say "I will sign you onto Minecraft after you pick up the stuff on your floor." or "I will sign you onto Minecraft after you put the wet laundry into the dryer." And then he's down there for hours. I am very fair. He's doing good work down there. For him, that's what it sort of is.

 

I have explained that loving a game does not excuse him from being a part of the family, though. I saw bad tendencies forming and, with his personality and a history of addiction throughout our extended family, I thought that a certain amount of balance needs to be maintained by me in order to keep him well-rounded and functional. 

 

I am not sure what you meant by "that's not the kind of parent I want to be." Well maybe I do. I got sucked in by Unconditional Parenting and Radical Unschooling at first, but with us we never had the rosy picture of cooperation painted by some of the advocates. DS didn't just naturally develop a desire to help. He developed a very entitled attitude. And he wasn't developing habits or skills that he needed, and as a result was developing a real lack of confidence which was keeping him from activities with other kids, etc.  So I said look, you have tons and tons of freedom here, but we want the best for you and we don't see some things that we need to see, for your well-being. And we learned not to be afraid to insist on a few things. I think that fear of insisting on anything at all was really damaging to us, and we are happily coming out of that dark period. The more my son does, the better he feels about himself. But he doesn't have it in him to do it himself. Yet.   :-)

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#5 of 9 Old 04-02-2012, 07:41 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NellieKatz View Post

 

I am not sure what you meant by "that's not the kind of parent I want to be." Well maybe I do. I got sucked in by Unconditional Parenting and Radical Unschooling at first, but with us we never had the rosy picture of cooperation painted by some of the advocates. 

I think I understand.  I prefer not to make top-down decisions if I can help it.  For me it is not a matter of agreeing with RU philosophy wholeheartedly (whatever that would entail--that's up for debate), but I do understand how kids (and husbands orngtongue.gif) operate so much better when they are a participant and not a subject.

 

 


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#6 of 9 Old 04-03-2012, 08:28 AM
 
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I hear you, SweetSilver. I have a feeling that the reason my son doesn't take part in decision-making on his own behalf is that he has the experience of his first years being much more authoritarian. We were both raised that way and even though we thought we weren't doing it, it turns out we were still very reliant on force, power, whatever. Decidedly not democratic. I don't think he trusts us much in this area, and frankly I don't blame him. He doesn't have a huge track record of us NOT telling him what to do. So at this point, the proverbial barn door having opened and the horse having escaped, it seems that unless we are making something happen, it won't happen. And he gets a bad self-image as a result. Yet when I make him do this or that so he can play his hours of video game (yes, I know it's "conditional") he, oddly, gains experience being helpful, which helps him see himSELF at helpful. Like when I made him do the bathroom floor one time. Turns out he liked doing it. He seems proud when he says he knows how to clean the bathroom floor. But I guarantee you he'd never ever have done it himself.

 

Personalities are so different.

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#7 of 9 Old 04-03-2012, 09:11 AM
 
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And it's not like they are against any work.  My oldest happily does housecleaning alongside me at my clients, and will bust her ass for pay.  She slogs in the stables for their riding instructor.  She likes to scrub the tub or sink every now and then.  She enjoys dusting now and then.  She likes gardening.

 

No, the real problem is that they would more often rather be doing what they are doing.   When chores are something of an option, they make their decisions based on that.  I don't have a problem with that theoretically (or practically--this is how it is currently in our house.)   The trade off is that I don't really have time for other things they might want to be doing with me.  For now, they just don't care about that, they want to play.  I'm starting to see inklings of interest in baking and cooking and the kitchen needs cleaning up before and after.  

 

Well, I didn't mean to wander off the OP's situation.  I guess I'm pondering her own troubles within the framework of my own life.

 

I do think that giving someone the reins of real responsibility has something like magic in it.  I often think of Farmer Boy as an unschooling idealist's Bible--even though Almanzo goes to school and there isn't anything democratic about the way the family dynamic works.  Mainly what I think about is that the kids are given real responsibility and they rise to the task.  Most of that is something they have no choice in.  But then Almanzo is given the *gift* of two calves for him to teach.  He is shown how to make a yoke and how to use it.  Then he figures it out himself.  What motivates him?  He wants to show Father that he is old enough to be in with the colts.  Father's actions always convey a sense of trust in his son.  He give him 2 bits for lemonade, but tells him that if he buys a suckling pig and raises her how that 50 cents can bring so much more profit.  The decision is *his*.  Distractions?  Fishing, perhaps, but the whip would not be far behind.  Ah, well, it's not a parallel precisely, is it?

 

Hm.... now I've wandered off even further.  I saw some of this same kind of magic when I handed over the camera to my then-6yo daughter.  She treated the camera respectfully and took some really great pictures.  She continues to have full access.  Cooking becomes more fun when they get to use the equipment, turn on the burners and flip the pancakes.  The automatic citrus reamer is fun to use, as its the blender.  Machines and gadgets are loads of fun.  We started every-other-week riding lessons--lesson, the girls share one-- and horses are highly motivating.  I know exactly what Almanzo was thinking.

 

My girls like circle time, but haven't been thrilled with the family meetings.  Like my dh, I think they expect some ulterior motive and try as I might I guess I just can't hide it.  They *know*.  I'll keep working on it.  It seems like such a nice way to be together as a family.


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#8 of 9 Old 04-03-2012, 12:17 PM
 
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My girls like circle time, but haven't been thrilled with the family meetings.  Like my dh, I think they expect some ulterior motive and try as I might I guess I just can't hide it.  They *know*.  I'll keep working on it.  It seems like such a nice way to be together as a family.


The issue of family meetings is kind of tangential to this thread, but in case there are people reading here who want to pursue the option and are struggling with this "ulterior motive" thing, here are some further thoughts concerning how we made meetings work for us.

 

First, I made sure that the first few meetings were primarily about children's concerns and that these were responded to with parental concessions. I wanted my kids to feel empowered, and to realize they could trust that empowerment. (I have baggage about this: when I was growing up my parents tended to agree to give me new independence, but would then take it back the instant I used that independence to make any choice that didn't jive with their way of thinking, pronouncing "Oh, see, we knew you weren't ready for this!") Anyway, I wanted to prove to my kids that they were empowered within the family, that I wasn't simply giving lip-service to the ideal of collaboration, that I was willing to walk the walk. This meant that I collected an informal "agenda" of issues my kids had complained about before the first meetings, and we focused mostly or maybe even entirely on those things. Inter-sibling belittling, perceived inequities, too-stringent expectations about bedtimes, not enough priority put on things like playtime at the beach, we don't like that casserole with the broccoli, I hate getting hand-me-down pants ... that sort of thing. And I would ask the kids for their suggestions on how to deal with these things. Unless the suggestions were totally unreasonable, I'd agree to try them, at least for a week. And I was happy to be genuinely surprised when their ideas worked, and to continue along that track.

 

Second, we never strived for "democracy" in the sense of majority rule and voting, whether formal or informal. In that model the person or persons who are in the minority lose out and are left feeling resentful and unempowered, and are less likely to be cooperative in general. Instead we were shooting for collaborative solutions that everyone was willing to try. Not necessarily solutions that we were all convinced were right or would work, but solutions that we were willing to give an honest try for a week to see if they might work -- and then to re-evaluate. Generally if there was a disagreement, we would tend to lend more weight or more benefit of the doubt to the opinions of the people who stood to be most affected by the issue. 

 

Thirdly, and this was sort of an accident in our case, but we left the dad-guy out of our meetings for the first while. We did this because he wasn't home much and was hardly involved in the day-to-day issues that we were grappling with early on, and it was awkward to find times when we could involve him. But it had the advantage of avoiding the appearance of having a united parental front facing off against the kids. No matter how much we strive to avoid an authoritarian parenting model, I think children perceive that parents have more real power in the world at large, are bigger and more experienced and expected by our culture to be "in charge." So not having my dh involved at the outset made the parental voice highly outnumbered at our family meetings, making the kids feel like they had a bigger say, more voices, a stronger presence. We did make efforts to include him as time went on, particularly when we were grappling with issues that affected him. But in the early months, in our family at least, I think it was helpful to have a 4:1 kid-to-parent ratio.

 

Lastly, I think it helped that I framed the whole Family Meeting experiment in my own mind primarily as a way to improve family relationships. The secondary benefit was that we got more co-operation, more helpfulness and more efficiency in whatever work and experiences we wanted. But my primary hope was to improve the good feeling within our family, because I believed that happy family members will naturally want to please each other.

 

Don't know if this will be helpful to anyone, but there it is from my perspective.

 

Miranda

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#9 of 9 Old 04-06-2012, 12:44 PM
 
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That was very helpful. Thanks!!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post


The issue of family meetings is kind of tangential to this thread, but in case there are people reading here who want to pursue the option and are struggling with this "ulterior motive" thing, here are some further thoughts concerning how we made meetings work for us.

 

First, I made sure that the first few meetings were primarily about children's concerns and that these were responded to with parental concessions. I wanted my kids to feel empowered, and to realize they could trust that empowerment. (I have baggage about this: when I was growing up my parents tended to agree to give me new independence, but would then take it back the instant I used that independence to make any choice that didn't jive with their way of thinking, pronouncing "Oh, see, we knew you weren't ready for this!") Anyway, I wanted to prove to my kids that they were empowered within the family, that I wasn't simply giving lip-service to the ideal of collaboration, that I was willing to walk the walk. This meant that I collected an informal "agenda" of issues my kids had complained about before the first meetings, and we focused mostly or maybe even entirely on those things. Inter-sibling belittling, perceived inequities, too-stringent expectations about bedtimes, not enough priority put on things like playtime at the beach, we don't like that casserole with the broccoli, I hate getting hand-me-down pants ... that sort of thing. And I would ask the kids for their suggestions on how to deal with these things. Unless the suggestions were totally unreasonable, I'd agree to try them, at least for a week. And I was happy to be genuinely surprised when their ideas worked, and to continue along that track.

 

Second, we never strived for "democracy" in the sense of majority rule and voting, whether formal or informal. In that model the person or persons who are in the minority lose out and are left feeling resentful and unempowered, and are less likely to be cooperative in general. Instead we were shooting for collaborative solutions that everyone was willing to try. Not necessarily solutions that we were all convinced were right or would work, but solutions that we were willing to give an honest try for a week to see if they might work -- and then to re-evaluate. Generally if there was a disagreement, we would tend to lend more weight or more benefit of the doubt to the opinions of the people who stood to be most affected by the issue. 

 

Thirdly, and this was sort of an accident in our case, but we left the dad-guy out of our meetings for the first while. We did this because he wasn't home much and was hardly involved in the day-to-day issues that we were grappling with early on, and it was awkward to find times when we could involve him. But it had the advantage of avoiding the appearance of having a united parental front facing off against the kids. No matter how much we strive to avoid an authoritarian parenting model, I think children perceive that parents have more real power in the world at large, are bigger and more experienced and expected by our culture to be "in charge." So not having my dh involved at the outset made the parental voice highly outnumbered at our family meetings, making the kids feel like they had a bigger say, more voices, a stronger presence. We did make efforts to include him as time went on, particularly when we were grappling with issues that affected him. But in the early months, in our family at least, I think it was helpful to have a 4:1 kid-to-parent ratio.

 

Lastly, I think it helped that I framed the whole Family Meeting experiment in my own mind primarily as a way to improve family relationships. The secondary benefit was that we got more co-operation, more helpfulness and more efficiency in whatever work and experiences we wanted. But my primary hope was to improve the good feeling within our family, because I believed that happy family members will naturally want to please each other.

 

Don't know if this will be helpful to anyone, but there it is from my perspective.

 

Miranda



 

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