My parenting tool of choice lately has been to decide what I will do. Often, it’s just easier to decide what I will do than decide what my kids should do do (and then get them to do it). My children constantly remind me that sometimes I give too many directions (“I know, Mom!”) and that they are quite capable of making decisions on their own.
Like all parents, it’s easy for me to see what needs to be done and dictate the steps necessary to get it done. Then, when of course there is resistance, I am left trying to work through a power struggle and cajole my child into doing what needs to be done.
Not only is it a drag for them to listen to (and for me to speak), but it gets discouraging. I start to think, “Why do I have to tell you all this? Why do I have to escort you through things you are perfectly capable of doing on your own? Why is this a debate?” By constantly telling my children what to do, I am not turning any responsibility over to them to think for themselves and take charge of their decisions.
So I decide what I will do and leave it at that. This week, I have said all of these things:
- It is time to brush your teeth and get ready for bed. I will be in my room reading, listening for you to tell me you’re ready to be tucked in.
- This will be my last throw of the frisbee. Then I’m going inside to make dinner.
- Will you please take off all your bed sheets and get clean ones from the closet? I will be folding laundry in the hall, so let me know when your bed is ready and I will help you make it.
- It is time to stop shooting arrows and go inside for lunch. I will watch you shoot this last set, then I will carry your arrows in for you.
- When the play room is picked up, you may go see if your friends are home and want to play. I will be in the kitchen doing dishes and cleaning up.
- I am going to lay down on the couch for 20 minutes and rest.
By deciding what I will do, I am leaving it up to the kids to fill in the blanks and answer the implied question, “What will you do?”
It’s decisive. It’s kind and firm at the same time. It encourages kids to think proactively. So often, the most empowering thing I can do–for everyone–is to decide my own course of action. And do it.