One potential hotspot in the home with your family atmosphere is when you are short on time and you need to oversee a few things at once. You have to switch focus regularly between things and ONE of these switches requires you to go over and check something.
Examples to check
- check they completed a contribution
- check they tidied their room/ made the bed/ clean up a mess
- check they completed their homework
- check they followed all the instructions for the yummy cake/filling the washer
As you’re doing your thing your children are busy doing theirs. Once you have more than one child it’s easy to see how tensions start to rise.
What we often expect
- Each child to take our instructions as we speak it.
- They hear all of what we said
- They know exactly what to do.
- Do the thing in a timely manner.
However we forget sometimes that each child needs different instructions– simpler, few at a time, age and stage appropriate so they can take our instructions.
Unless they are standing looking at you their ears ‘don’t work’ well. Even if they repeat back the request we can’t be sure they heard or fully understood. Blank and glazed over faces with children still fully immersed in their creative worlds we just pulled them from. Doing the activity in a timely manner means as soon as I get to it after I do these few things.
Generally we arrive after a reasonable amount of time and find that whatever it was…. is not done/started. Our level of frustration goes up, our mere presence is enough sometimes for our children to magically remember exactly what they were to do and they immediately jump to it or many times they stare at you blankly knowing that something is not right but not knowing what!
Multiply this effect over a day with multiple children and it can feel like you are never making any headway. You’re shouting and angry which ruins the mood. It often makes it harder to do other things because you’re frustrated and so is your child. Is this a familiar situation to you?
It was in our family.
Change your mindset
Firstly, I needed to teach the children how to listen with posters like this one. I needed to make sure I had their eyes which seem to switch on their ears to what I was saying. I needed to recognize their age and stage and speak that language. I also needed to allow more time and space for do overs and a child to complete the activity in their best way.
Instantly this helped.
But it wasn’t enough.
Do over before the do over
I needed to give each child a chance to do over before I saw they needed a do over.
When the BigGuy comes over says, “I’ve cleaned my room. Can I.. ( go out to play/ watch a show/etc)…” First of all I’m happy that he’s come back to say he’s done. It’s been a long hard ( still for some of them) struggle to get the boys to come back and report. Reporting is really important to tell that you’ve finished if someone is waiting.
Now I wonder how he has cleaned his room. This is the next problem because our child’s clean room and our expectations of a clean room aren’t always the same. If we don’t get this dance right both of us are likely to be frustrated. To avoid that I have four questions to ask. Questions that help each child to reflect on what’s just happened and adjust and change before I come along.
It serves opportunity for me to restate my expectations. I get a chance to moderate my tone and perhaps appeal to their humor. It’s also specific enough that they can speak up to share their response.
1.What did I ask you to do?
Immediately know if they are doing the right thing. Were their ears switched on? Did they understand? Opportunity to go off and do the activity at this stage. Many times I hear, ” Ohhhhhh! I thought you meant……” No frustration from me. Now they know. It’ll get done. Result! 🙂
2. What does that mean you did?
No more guess what’s in my head. When you taught them the skill of tidying the room or other life skill they knew then. They are children so need reminders. Now’s the time between you, you say. If you know that they love to stuff things under the bed then now’s the time to support them. “Did you check under the bed and remove your books and things?” Again, chance for little legs to scurry off to check and often correct. It gets done better than a moment a go. Result! 🙂
3. Are you proud of what you have done?
I love this question as it radiates character, values and personality. When they look in your eyes you can tell and perhaps they can too know if they love what they’ve just done. Sometimes I follow up with, ” Would you be excited for your teacher/famous person etc to come into that room right now?”
Not expecting perfection just that they are pleased with what they have done. Did they give it a good go or where they in a rush and left a slap dash partial? Looking for honesty here. Many times they’ll say- no and I can accept that and decide whether this means do more or leave it be. It’s the conversation about the work and the activity that’s key here.
4. Ask your brother (sister- we only have boys!) to have a quick look
This final question helps with a little camaraderie. Often each child picks the sibling that’s the kindest and most helpful. That sibling encourages and maybe helps pick up things they missed or tells them a key thing. I’ve had that same helpful sibling come over and give a testimony of how hard they’ve seen him work. Not because I’m a task master but because they recognize hard work. Watch out for over zealous siblings who nit pick and inflame the situation. It’s not meant to be a power trip but a way to serve and support.
Now go see the work
Now after these questions I can go and see what they have done.
- I have a better idea of what I’m likely to see ( adjusted my expectations)
- I will know that they attempted to do what I asked ( Yeah!)
- They will be happier knowing that you don’t have keep repeating or hear a whining parent.
- We’ve kept the family atmosphere from spiraling in the wrong direction.
Before you go over and check that next thing for your children try and ask these four questions first as you continue to work on creating the family atmosphere you desire.
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