Thursday, April 12, 2012

Family Harmony

fightless, whineless tv zombies
So, this week was the kids' week-off for spring break.  I have to admit, I was terrified.  They wear me out just in the hours they are home from school.  This is how I usually deal with their fighting and whining:
  1. Turn on TV. 
  2. Enjoy fightless, whineless tv zombies.
  3. Berate self for not being a "better" mother.
  4. Rinse, repeat.
Pretty sure I'm not the only one.  However, this week I promised myself I was going to do better.  Private school is expensive and I am hoping (perhaps to my own detriment) to homeschool them next year, since I'm not that thrilled with their private school, either.  I decided we would have a no-tv week, to try and practice/prepare for homeschooling.

My first plan, to compensate, was to start them on a bunch of chores, to give them a sense of ownership in our house, so a couple days ago we sat down and talked about what  chores they'd like to do and came up with way too many for them to be expected to do daily, so I scheduled it out over the course of a week.  My kids are 6, nearly 5, and 2, so we had to scale back a bit from the grand chore scheme they had come up with.  I made sure that the chores they had were age appropriate things that I knew they could do (and had done in the past).  I wrote the chores on a chalkboard, and change the chores daily (except make bed and help clean up, those stay).  It seems to be going well so far,  but I was still getting a lot of whining and fighting.  That would be when I came up with something sort of strange and shockingly simple out of the blue.  It could be something brilliant, but possibly it only works with my kids... or possibly only for a few days, we shall see, but so far it's worked beautifully.

So, what is it??  WHAT???

I realized what we needed wasn't my screaming at them to stop screaming at each other.  This seems like a no-brainer, but this is what it had come to in our household.  What we needed, I thought, was some way to impress upon them that when they're whining, or arguing for the sake or arguing, or whatever, it was ruining something that could be great.  It was ruining our family harmony.  So we sat down and I defined "family harmony" to them and talked about how great it would be if we all worked together and had some wonderful family harmony.  They agreed that it would be awesome.  So then I explained that family harmony is something we all have to work on.  If we all just argue for the sake of arguing, or start screaming when someone does something we don't like instead of discussing it reasonably, we'd never have any family harmony.  Beyond that, sometimes we have to actually compromise, that is, do something you don't WANT to do or not get everything YOUR way every time, just for the sake of family harmony.  I pointed out times that I had done it in the past, and times that I recall that they had compromised and things went more smoothly than other times when they didn't.  We have discussed compromise before, but only from an individual perspective... not from the family harmony angle.  So after a nice long discussion about family harmony, I asked them if they thought we could all work toward this this week.  They seemed sort of excited at the prospect!

Since that discussion, whenever they start fighting or whining (with the older two, the 2 yr old still doesn't get it, of course), I go to them and say "but, is this worth fighting over or is family harmony more important?"  or "do you think you can compromise on this one for family harmony's sake?" or something along those lines.  The kids are responding astonishingly well.  There's only been a couple times when we had to figure something else out, but *gasp* I actually had the energy to work with them on it because I wasn't so exhausted from dealing with all the fighting!  I'm thrilled!  I totally have my fingers crossed that this will work long-term.

Hope that helps someone else.


James said...

I think this is brilliant, but it's not just for the perspective of the children. It's a great reminder for parents to keep their responses within the realm of "family harmony" because maintaining it is just as much their job as it is the kids. To teach children emotional control and to think of others is invaluable, and of course the most effective method of doing so is by example.

I think long term there will be ups and downs, of course, but the only way this will fail is if we fail as parents to remember it is up to us to lead by example.

tunterre said...

What a beautiful lesson in Grace and Courtesy. You're looking like quite the Montessorian! Now that you've given then lesson, if you're looking to take your lesson to the next level (summer slough?) you can say "I've been noticing..." and ask "How do you think we should handle this?" and try to get LOTS of ideas, accepting both realistic and unrealistic, help them decide on one or two to implement (realistic or not), let them see how it goes, re-evaluate together, etc. This is a great way to promote critical thinking skills and let them know they have value, respect, and responsibility in the family system. I can't wait to read more!