I remember the moment I became my mother. The words, “1,2,3! I mean it!” came out of my mouth. At that moment, I had already used every tool in my Mom bag to get those dishes done and so, out of gas, I did what I knew. I reverted to counting and using first, middle and last names as in, “Joseph Scott Schwigerhurst, I mean it!” Three names is always a sign of a mother about to go nuclear. And when all else failed I threw out an “Ulta Threat.”
What is an “Ulta Threat,” You ask? I will tell you. It is the ultimate threat. It is when you threaten something like this, “If you don’t get that room cleaned right now I am going to call all the girls in your school and parade them through here and serve up the peanut butter and jam sandwich I just found under your bed!” In other words, it is a threat you never ever intend to carry out. These should not be used under any circumstances. Once used, a mother finds that all of her super powers are gone, as if she swallowed kryptonite, and she is never ever believed again.
It was moments like this that made me decided I needed more tools in my mom bag. I went to mom college, parenting classes and a few universities. What I learned is that my child didn’t need to change, my focus did.
Here is what I learned about teaching your children, getting the chores and homework done and still find joy in the journey of life.
Review what you want to teach your children, and choose principles that are important to you. Don’t try to teach everything all at once. You will overwhelm yourself and your children. Chose the most important issues and focus on a few principles at a time. Do you want to teach honesty and integrity, kindness and empathy or how to work and enjoy it? Do you want to teach them to have an interest in family life and how to be good mothers and fathers someday, or do you just want your dishes done?
Decide what is important
Ask yourself, is it all about you? Or, is it really about the big picture and where these small day to day moments take us. When you find yourself becoming the kind of mother that frightens flying monkeys, stop and take a mental photo of the moment. Take a break and ask yourself, what am I really trying to accomplish? What pictures am I putting in my child’s built in scrap book memory bank.
If your focus is on teaching correct principles, rather than getting the job done, then you will need to slow down and talk with your children. Hopefully you will smile and convert them to the principles that are important to you. Instead of pushing them to do what is important to you. You can become a missionary and convert them to correct principles. You are inviting them to believe, with you, that a clean home is more pleasant than a dirty one.
Remember children learn best by example and better when it’s fun
When we stop, and take time to teach children daily, working side by side, things take longer. But, work is also more pleasant and fun. Children become involved because they love spending time with you and because you have set an example and converted them to an idea, not because they are afraid of threats.
When I was a child, I loved wearing my tiny homemade apron, washing dishes side by side with my grandmother. Just a few days ago my daughter asked whatever happened to the little apron she wore when she washed dishes. She loves making healthy meals and having a clean home. She is converted to the idea that a clean kitchen is a happy kitchen and finds joy in cooking and being in the clean kitchen with family. I find great joy in watching who she is becoming.
My son loved playing soldier. He dressed army, talked army and was always holding plastic soldiers. When it came time to clean the yard, his dad sent him on a search and destroy mission. He gave him a garbage bag and told him to patrol the perimeters, imprison all the garbage and eradicate any weeds. After a salute the soldiers went to work, side by side.
When you are frustrated with your children, ask yourself, what am I really trying to do?
Am I trying to get the dishes done or am I trying to raise a man who knows how to work? Am I trying to buy school clothes for my daughter or develop a relationship with her? Focusing on principles you are trying to teach and goals you are trying to achieve will help you respond to your children positively and maintain your patience.
Remember to play and have fun as you work side by side with your children. Find joy in the journey and the bonus will be time to talk about what is really important and teach correct principles.