Our “Refusing to Help Each Other” Problem
Recently we have found another great use for the “bean counter” motivational system in our home. A couple of weeks ago I noticed a behavior which was working against our family mission and vision. And the behavior was not isolated to one person. The problem behavior was spreading, like a disease, through the whole family. The feelings of frustration and contention were definitely on the rise in our home. The culprit was selfishness and the problem looked like this.
Youngest son says, “Dad, will you get me a drink of water?”
Dad says, “Porter, you know how to get your own drink. You can get it yourself.” Following this response, the son becomes frustrated and chooses to whine. The whiney behavior earns negative consequences and the son doesn’t get a drink because he is now busy learning how to accept a 'no' answer.
Why did Dad give Porter the response he gave? There could have been many reasons. Maybe Dad was in the middle of something and didn’t want to be bothered with serving drinks. Maybe Dad was trying to encourage his young son to be more self-sufficient. Or maybe Dad just didn’t want to get up off the couch right then because he was feeling comfortable on the couch.
Don’t misunderstand me. Children should be given 'no' answers sometimes. If a parent can’t tell their child no, then the child will rule the home and the parent/child relationship will be strained. I don’t agree with being a parent who pampers their child’s every desire. However, constantly being too busy or giving a message that you don’t want to get off the couch to help a child with a need gives the child anxiety and a feeling similar to abandonment. Ignoring the needs of a child just creates more problems for the parent to handle in the long run.
What could Porter have been thinking? He could know things that Dad doesn’t understand. Porter could have been thinking that the cups in the dishwasher are dirty and so he would have to climb up on the counter to get a clean cup. This could be a concern to him because he has been told multiple times that he should not climb on the counter. Most importantly, he felt he had a need and might have felt that Dad didn’t think the need was very important. No parent would ever want their child to think this, but how often do we take the time to understand what they might be thinking?
Another example of our problem is as follows:
Oldest daughter is making lunch for her siblings. She looks at older brother and says, “Quin, please get me the jelly out of the fridge.”
Quin doesn’t even look at her while he walks past the fridge and says, “I’ve got to go feed the dog.” After this short statement he walks out of the house.
Why would Quin give a response like this? Maybe he forgot to feed the dog earlier that day, and just remembered; leaving him to feel it was really important right then. Or, maybe he just didn’t want to bother doing something for his sister right then.
What could Paije, the oldest daughter, have been thinking with this kind of response from her brother? She could feel unappreciated for making lunch. After all, she was making food for all the children, not just herself. She could feel angry at her brother for not taking her request seriously and choose to become angry herself. The list could go on...
To Be Continued-Our Solution...
*Wife, Mother, Foster Parent
*Author: Parenting A House United,
*Public Speaker and Star of BBC program The World's Strictest Parents
Photo by: Juanmonino