My 12-year old Amy is my perfect child. She cares about neatness and being responsible. Being a Peaceful Parent with her is easy. But my 10-year old daughter Rebecca is my challenge. She has been diagnosed ADD, is chaotic, irresponsible, messy and forgetful. I try to help her, making lists, insisting she empty her school back pack with me. I’ve been using another parenting process called Love & Logic but it is not working. Please help!
It is easy to parent a child who has similar pictures to our own. It sounds like you and Amy share similar ideas about how orderly and neat your environment and scheduled life should be. Because you share similar pictures, there is very little conflict between the two of you.
It sounds as though Rebecca has different pictures from yours. What you describe as messy and chaotic does have order and patterns. But the order and patterns are what suits Rebecca’s pictures. Her sense of order and patterns are different from your own. Believe it or not, Rebecca probably sees you as her challenge! You want things a certain way, and this is a different way from how she wants things. From her perspective she is probably feeling as though she constantly has to accommodate and change to suite you. When you ask her to make lists and empty her back pack as an attempt to help, Rebecca may not feel helped. Instead she may feel criticized and bossed into changing so you feel better. From Rebecca’s point of view your orderly life probably feels rigid.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that your ideas and pictures about life are wrong. Neither are Rebecca’s. You just have different ideas about how chaotic, orderly, listed or free-flowing your lives should be. Neither of you are right or wrong. You simply have different ideas.
What you need to do is to work together to create ideas that you both can live with. This means that life may be messier than you would like and more rigid that Rebecca would like. You are both going to need to compromise to accommodate each other’s style and point of view.
Start with the most important aspect of your complaint list. Is it the mess in the shared family space that you have to deal with that you would most like to change? Find a time during the week when you, Rebecca, Amy and any other members in the household can have a meeting. At this time tell your daughters that you want to come up with an agreed upon picture of how you each want family room to look. Listen to everyone’s point of view. Include your own ideas as well. Then ask the girls to work with you to come up with an agreed upon understanding of how the room will look so that you can all live with it and agree to it’s condition. Then come up with a plan for how you will achieve this. Ask each girl how you should handle it if she leaves her stuff dropped in a heap. Ask the girls what you should do if you find dirty dishes left behind. In other words, anticipate the potential difficulties and work out a plan to handle these problems ahead of time. Plan for a follow-up meeting a week later. Continue this process for as long as it takes until you are all feeling successful about your plans and achievement.
In addition, give Rebecca her own space to keep in the condition she wants (within reasonable limits). In other words, don’t insist that she keep her bedroom completely picked up and spotless with her bed made, all toys put away, etc. This just isn’t her style. If you allow her space of her own to keep in the order/chaos that suits her she will be more willing to work with you and the family and maintaining the family’s idea of order in the family room.
When you feel tempted to make lists for Rebecca, ask her if she wants your help first. Then ask her if you making lists for her is helpful. If she is having difficulty forgetting assignments, library book returns, etc, ask her if she needs your help in solving the problem. Ask her what her plan is for solving the problem. List making may be a solution that works for you, but it may not be Rebecca’s style or plan. However, this does not mean that you don’t intervene at all. Simply ask Rebecca for direction in how you can help her.
Finally, I beg of you to stop labeling Rebecca as your challenge and Amy as your perfect child. I’m sure it is not your intention, but by comparing the girls where one comes out on top the other will perceive herself on the bottom. Just imagine that one of your girls told you that her father was the perfect parent and you were the challenging, difficult parent. How would you feel? Rebecca is different from Amy. She is no less perfect!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nancy S. Buck, Ph. D. established Peaceful Parenting, Inc.in 2000 to bring her knowledge and experience with effective parenting to the greatest number of parents and other caretakers of children. She developed the Peaceful Parenting ® program from her 25 years of experience as a developmental psychologist, trainer and educator with The William Glasser Institute and as the mother of twin sons. Her genuine, warm and authentic teaching style is clear and concise, helping learners move from the theoretical to real life situations.
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