Four rules that will change even the most chaotic home

chaotic home

We’re standing in a long line up to go to the pool when I see my sons in the corner of my eye playing with the pay phone.  My inner alarm triggers and I call out for them to stay away from the phone.  All looks well until we make it past payment only to find a security guard on the other side waiting for us.  My youngest had called 911 from the phone and the security guard had quite the speech prepared for me along with the glaring eye.  “What kind of mother are you?”, was spoken without words.  This happened not even a week after my youngest had called the police from our home phone, having the police show up at our door.  I was out at the time.  My husband texted me, “The police were just at our door.”   Note to husbands: this is not a good thing to text.  This would be now the second time my husband has texted this to me as a result of my youngest schemes.  He has a knack for trouble and my heart isn’t that strong.

My two boys are playing at the park when all of a sudden my youngest pulls his brothers hair, and hard.  Out comes the F bomb, megaphone style for all the toddlers, and their mothers, to hear.  From there it’s all slow motion to me; the look of horror from the 2 year olds, the mothers shifting their glare from my son to ME looking like a hoodlum in my hip hop teacher work attire.  “So that’s how you speak to your children?” Oh the judgment.  But then my eyes lift from my embarrassed state to my son completely horrified at the shame he has just experienced.

I have plenty of these. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “Why did we leave the house?” after coming home from similar moments,.  Different story, same feeling: embarrassment and shame statements like “What am I doing wrong??”.  It’s in these moments you see other families through rose coloured glasses.  The girls dressed in white, walking down the mall perfectly with their hand in their Mother’s while my boys either run through people like  moguls or using the mall as a parkour course.

The greatest barrier I have had to overcome in my parenting life is getting over what I wished my sons would be and embrace who they are.

I’m not saying the above scenarios are ok and I should just brush them off, however, if I don’t live by the truth that every child would do better if they could, then all I am going to communicate to my boys is shame.  Shame will tell them that THEY are a problem.  My boys both struggle with mental limitations.  They get frustrated and don’t know what to do with it, thus throwing fits of rage or breaking down in tears.  They lack the ability to problem solve when faced with something that overwhelms them.   My job isn’t to wish they “knew better”, but to help them “get better”.  Many adults struggle with thinking kids should just know better.  The ones who do get celebrated, and the ones who don’t get shamed.  As a parent, I see how easy it is to fall prey to this.  It’s a constant discipline to not resort to shame, and get down in the dirt WITH my kids to see things from their perspective and learn how to problem solve together.  (you can read more about this in my blog: The two things you can do right now to help solve issues with a difficult child).

So here are four rules, or rather, PRINCIPLES I like to use to help my boys.

  1. I know you want to do good.  Stating this verbally to my boys reminds them that I know they didn’t wake up wanting to be a jerk on days they are spewing horrible words towards me or one another.  It tells them that in when they call 911… AGAIN, that I know they aren’t trying to cause trouble.  I call out the good in them and correct the behavior.  It keeps connection strong and opportunity for me to hear their side.  “Oh you mean you didn’t think 911 worked from a payphone?  Well now you know that 911 works not only on the house phone and payphone, but it works on every phone, ok?  You understand that now?”  Phew, a nod of understanding learned through a hard lesson.
  2. Your heart matters more to me than your mouth.  My boys both have a problem with bad language.  However, it comes out in times where they don’t know how to manage their frustration or their anger.  I’ve told my boys that the most important part of ourselves is our heart and we need to guard it well.  When I hear harsh language it tells me that their heart isn’t doing well. We don’t correct the language, we work on the heart and how to manage frustration/anger.  If I believe they want to do well and give them the tools to do so, positive language will follow.
  3. Home is safe.  If we can’t make mistakes at home, then where will we make them?  When I am embarrassed yet again for something my boys have done I need to be thankful they experienced that with me and not out on their own.  If they know they are safe at home to not be shamed for mistakes, and given the proper direction to move forwards, there’s greater chances of them becoming who both they and I wish for them to be.  They can’t be shunned for feeling anger and frustration.  They need someone to show them what to do with it so one day they can not only function, but thrive as healthy adults.
  4. If you say “no” to me, then I will be saying “no” to you.  One of the greatest battles I experience with both my boys is opposition.  “NO” is a common answer to things like, “It’s time to get ready”, “It’s time to brush your teeth”, “It’s time to do school work”.  It’s hard to work with a strait-up “No” (with a foot stomp and arms crossed).  I used to get flaming mad.  My British upbringing told me this was outright disrespect and I would be up in arms demanding they listen to me only to find the arms stayed crossed, the foot would stomp again and the “NO” would get louder.  I have learned a much better response that not only works, but teaches them that in life “no’s” create more “no’s”, but “Yes’s” will invite more fun, creativity, and happiness.  So my simple response to them in their “NO” is this; “That’s fine.  However, I will also be saying ‘NO’ to you for the rest of the day if ‘no’ is the direction you would like to take”.  They know what this means.  NO your friend can’t come over, NO you can’t play your video game, NO you can’t have a treat.  They know it’s not to be mean, but to show that NO’s block out everything.  Their “no’s” quickly become “yes’s”. What’s really important here is not their compliance, but to afterwards show them what collaboration and cooperation does.  I often reward their yes’s with more fun and activities they’ve been wanting to do.  “Yes’s” create fun!

All of these principles get to the root rather than just shaming behaviour.  They also keep connection at the core of the relationship.  I’m not perfect at these by any means.  Living in constant chaos and their battle with toxic negativity can be challenging, but these four principles have changed my parenting for the better.



2 Responses to Four rules that will change even the most chaotic home
  1. Pam GrinevitchNo Gravatar Reply

    Well said Connie. So proud of you and all your efforts.

    Some of these rules for life could sure have applied to my old job. Thank you. (happily retired)

  2. kristy-anneNo Gravatar Reply

    I needed this today. Thanks Connie.

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