Trying to parent five kiddos is a challenge. Trying to navigate and motivate their varying personalities while meeting their needs as a mom is a challenge. Oftentimes, when I feel at my wits end with one of them, I opt for the phrases that I have heard/remember as a child: “[you are going to do such and such a thing] because I said so” or “as long as you live under this roof, you will follow my rules.” I have even quoted the parenting advice of Bill Cosby from his 80’s TV show,”I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.”9 It is like I hit a certain point when my kids won’t listen and I turn on autopilot and begin spouting things I heard as a youth–but I don’t remember if these phrases worked to get me doing what was expected of me and toeing the family line.
Parenting by authority or by power dynamics is not how I want to parent. Rather, I want my kids to help out around the house because they know that living in a household is not like living in a hotel. I am not their maid, nor chauffeur, and although I do provide dinners and rides, these services are not free. I expect ‘payment’ in terms of helping around the house as well as a reciprocity of respect that I show to each of them. Furthermore, I want them to try their best in school not because I told them to, but because they want to succeed and because they have an appreciation and a satisfaction from learning and mastering a new skill set.
So how do you get your kids to do what is expected of them without falling back on the autopilot phrases/default autocratic parenting style?
- First, I suggest listening to your children–really listening. Oftentimes we only half listen to them while they are talking. I am guilty of this as it seems like one of them is always talking to me, and honestly hearing all of the details of my 10-year-old’s day is not all that exciting. Sometimes I agree to what they asked and I don’t even know what the question was.
- Just because our parents raised us with the “do as I say” parenting style doesn’t make it right. Dialog is so important in today’s families. Open lines of communication between parents and children are essential. I am not suggesting to be your child’s friend, rather, I am suggesting to be your child’s counsel and guide. Children can contribute to the family workload while still balancing school and friendships. While there are so many pressures placed on this young generation, successfully working in a family household through chores and general upkeep tasks, teaches children and teens alike the value of work –as well as the added benefits of self-assuredness and self-confidence to finish tasks on their own. You will be raising children and teens who will be independent adults.
- Make community outreach/volunteering part of your family schedule. Volunteering fosters feelings of thankfulness and empathy in children, teens and adults alike. Feelings of thankfulness and gratefulness can transform a family household from tense and authoritative space to a peaceful and cooperative space. Fostering feelings of thankfulness and empathy make mornings run smoother and family dinners more pleasant and fun.
I am a work in progress at this parenting thing. Although I recognize that I shouldn’t revert to back to the “because I said so” to get my kids to do something, this response is still ingrained. I am continually trying to be a better parent and better human being. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and frankly neither was I.