Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Family Meeting

It's a well known fact that grandparents have their own set of rules. The first and most important is, "If it isn't fun, we aren't doing it." My mom and dad have been known to take them to ice cream at 10 AM, watch four movies in a row, buy out half the Dollar Tree and eat popcorn in bed all before naptime. We let all of this go because, well, it's fun. But on the advent of a getaway with my husband, my oldest called a family meeting to reset these expectations.

"Everyone! Everyone? I would like to talk about the expectations you will have of us while you and Daddy are on your trip. You need to understand that the only thing that will be different will be the adults that are here to care for us. We will have the same rules with bedtime, school, naps and treats. One special treat after dinner. That's it." He turned to his brother and sister. "How does that sound guys?"

"That sound terrible," my four year old said. "I want to eat candy."

My oldest's shoulders slumped. "But Drew, we should follow the rules!"

"Buddy," I began, trying to cut off the fight before it could take hold. "Thank you for setting expectations. If you would like to do that, that will be just fine with us but you can't make anyone else do it. I am comfortable with Granny making the rules. And I really trust your judgement. You'll do the right thing. I know you will."

The lines on his face relaxed into an easy smile. "Okay."

My husband and I face timed home to check in on the kids a few days later and we were met with a tense face on the other end. "I owe you an apology for all the times I have told you that you were too hard on Luke. He's making me insane."
We laughed the hearty laugh of people that have been away from the chaos of children but my mom stayed straight faced. "No, really. I can't do anything right. I don't put the baby to bed on time. I don't do math at the right time of day. He even was made at me for bending a pipe cleaner I found on the floor! What can I do?"

We put our serious parenting hats on and counseled her a bit. We encouraged her to demand his respect and give him consequences if he didn't follow through. It wasn't until we hung up that I put it all together. He was simply trying to do what he promised. Follow the rules. Keep things the same. And my poor mother was getting the brunt of it. 

"Buddy, I heard you had a rough patch with Granny," I said gently on our first day back home. "Yeah," he said flatly as he continued to play with his Legos. "I think you were just trying to follow the rules. Am I right?"
"Yeah but she didn't want to do them. She didn't want to keep things the same."
"I know, love. But you can't ask other people to do things they way you want them to be done. You only have control of yourself. It hurts people's feelings when you tell them they aren't doing it right. Make sense?"
"Okay," he said.

I have a distinct feeling that we will have this same conversation many times throughout his life. He is so clear about the right way (his way) to do things and he is adamant that it be done that way. Still, I know that his intentions are pure. His heart is good. If I can help direct this toward, let's say, getting a surgery perfectly right or designing a bridge perfectly right, I'll have succeeded. Wish me luck.

Do your children have controlling tendencies? How can you encourage their leadership while maintaining respect?

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