Last night, Greg and I told our kids we didn’t want to be parents anymore. They looked at us with wide eyes and open mouths, thinking we had officially lost our marbles.
I could almost hear the thoughts dancing through their startled minds: “This must be what happens when you turn forty; you go crazy.”
Little did they know what we had in store for them.
“You have all been a part of this family for your entire lives, ” I explained, stating the obvious for good measure. “You are well aware of what we expect from you. If you live up to those expectations, Dad and I will not have to get involved, thus giving you a whole lot more freedom and allowing us to take a back seat in the parenting department.”
They were all ears now that more freedom and less parental intervention were on the line.
We went on to explain about the impending “Sheppard Revolution” where we, as parents, were going to put the kids’ responsibilities squarely back on their shoulders where they belong. We have been pretty lazy about that in recent months with our oldest leaving the nest and all. It is time to get back to the basics.
This is how it is going to go:
1. No More Reminders
While I know that reminding my kids to complete their chores, laundry, homework, and other household obligations is not in my best interest because it puts all the responsibility on me (micromanaging at its finest), I have fallen into old habits lately. Consequently, I have felt like the chore police, reminding and reminding ad nauseam while the kids conveniently ignore my pleadings.
We have a chore chart in the hallway by the kids’ bedrooms, making each of their weekly responsibilities crystal clear. I will no longer even mention chores. At 7:00 pm, the new deadline for work completion each day, I will quietly check to see if each child completed their job.
Consequences will follow for those who did not do their part. Not immediately; mind you, but when it is most inconvenient for the kids.
“What? You want to go out with your friends tonight? I’m sorry, but you will not be going anywhere because you failed to complete your chores on time yesterday (or the day before…or the day before…you have a good memory).”
The consequences will be memorable; that is for sure. Not always the same, but memorable.
2. Tell Them Once, Then Walk Away
As Dr. Kevin Leman says in his book, Have a New Kid by Friday: How to Change Your Child’s Attitude, Behavior, and Character in 5 Days (A must-read, if you ask me…seriously – read it!):
If you want your child to take you seriously, say your words once. Only once. If you say it more than once, you’re implying, ‘I think you’re so stupid that you’re not going to get it the first time, so let me tell you again.’ Is that respectful to the child?
Now, there is some food for thought.
I am going to expect my kids to listen the first time. Like I said, no more reminding. No more getting upset when they fail to comply.
It has been my experience that my kids generally do what I expect of them, so I am going to start expecting them to listen the first time. If they do not, insert consequences mentioned above.
3. No More Competing for the Last Word
I will admit that I like to have the last word, especially when my kids are sporting a huge attitude. But, honestly, trying to win arguments does me no good, so I’m not going to play that game anymore. It takes two to argue, and I’m no longer going to be one of them.
If one of my kids doesn’t like something that I have said or done and makes that clear with all manner of angry words and actions, I will retreat instead of engaging. I will calmly say something to the effect of, “I would probably feel the same way if I were you, but I am not changing my mind because you are upset.” Then I will walk away. (I got that great idea from John Rosemond. His book, Teen-Proofing, should be required reading for parents of teens!)
Worth it? Undoubtedly, for the sake of the relationship.
4. No More Tolerance for Selfishness
I have pretty good kids, but they can be downright selfish. This “the world revolves around me and what I want” attitude quickly puts a damper on family unity and creates an environment of contention. Selfishness is the root of most of the problems we deal with in our home:
” I am going to be mad if you will not play the game I want to play.”
“If I can’t have a friend over right now, I will make everybody’s life miserable with my bad attitude.”
“Why won’t you take me to the store right this very second? You are not doing anything important.”
“I am right, and you are wrong. If you don’t agree, I will insult your intelligence by confirming my superiority.”
“I want to eat at Smashburger even though everybody else is craving Cafe Rio. I will pout and complain if you don’t take me where I want to go.”
While the kids do not always verbalize their selfish desires, they communicate them loud and clear through attitude, actions, and body language. We, as parents, have been letting them get away with this garbage for way too long, but that ends right now. There are going to be consequences when they act too big for their britches.
Society needs a whole lot more unselfishness, and that starts at home.
Last night, we went over these strategies with our kids (minus the one about having the last word…that will be a pleasant surprise), clearly telling them what we expect and what will happen if they fail to comply. We will stick to our guns here, despite the inevitable push back, because this isn’t just about today or tomorrow, it is about teaching our kids to be responsible for their actions for the rest of their lives.
Our goal is to work ourselves out of a job. We hope to teach our children that freedom comes as a result of living within a set of boundaries – at home, at school, at work, in the community, and beyond. The more they step up and take responsibility, the less we will have to intervene, thus giving them more freedom because they have learned the beautiful art of self-discipline.
That scenario is mutually beneficial; I tell you. It means there will ultimately be less work for my husband and me in our parental roles, and more independence and flexibility for our growing kids (most of whom are teens) who desperately crave our confidence and trust as they spring into adulthood.
We will not reach our goal overnight, mind you. At first, it will likely result in more work for us as parents because I guarantee the kids will not like our revolution. But I am confident that it will pay off a million times over in the end.
Let’s get started!