Easing into it

At our last family meeting we asked the girls how it went with their first week of having contributions:

Ellen: “Taa-daa!” she grinned and gestured toward the white board with her column all checked off in full.
Charlotte: “Good,” she said in a small voice.
Fenner: “I was too tired a lot. Like after camp, I just really didn’t feel like doing it, especially when it was mostly other people’s mess.”

Ok, good information. Fenner and Charlotte had skipped several days each, but when you’re starting from zero, even one day is a good thing! So I said, “Well, I’ve definitely seen a difference. I’ve had less to clean up in the kitchen, and the mudroom shoes are all put away, and the floor in the living room has been mostly picked up.” Smiles. “So Dad and I have just been observing so far, but this week we’ll start to give you some instruction and encouragement. So you’ll be hearing more from us.”

After that, they negotiated among themselves to practice the same contributions for another week before they rotate.

Fine by me.

ps Ok, this one didn’t make me smile, but hey, if it helps Fenner get her anger out then no skin off my back:


She did this because of my following through with our system of privileges and responsibilities. She and Charlotte had a squabble in the car and she ended up pinching Charlotte hard on the leg, so back to zero she went with her friends privilege. The toughest part was that it caused her to miss her cousin’s birthday party. She cried and begged and cried and begged and left me that note.

“Why, mom, why? Why won’t you let me go?” “I know this is really hard, but it would be irresponsible of me to let you go as long as you think it’s ok to pinch people like that. What if you get annoyed with someone at the party?” “Moooooom, that’s only with my sisters! I’m nice to my friends!” “Well, I need to know that for sure. I need to see it at home – that you can choose something besides pinching when you feel annoyed. … And by next year, I’m sure you’ll have this totally under control for her next party.”

She stayed upset for several hours and even devised an elaborate plan involving my mother to try to go to the party anyway. On the inside I had my wavering moments, but on the outside, I stood firm and at the same time tried to keep it light: “Geez, c’mon, I can’t cave! What kind of an example would that set?” Then a couple of times she gave me a little punch on my back as she passed by. “Hey, I don’t like being hit,” I said. “If you feel like hitting, go in the playroom and punch the beanbags or throw some pillows around.” She did exactly that and afterwards told me how good it felt.

The most remarkable thing was watching her recover. Within 24 hours she had come to terms with it and was perfectly pleasant toward me. The party came and went and she didn’t complain once. Not only that, but her relationship with Charlotte has continued to slowly improve. Last night they painted each other’s toenails.

Tough love really can work. But you don’t know it until you plow through all the way to the other side. Phew.

Explore posts in the same categories: Weeks following: Contributions

3 Comments on “Easing into it”

  1. Vicki Says:

    I LOVED this post.

    I just went through a similar situation with my oldest daughter. In a nutshell, she reminded us, that every time we save her, or refuse to follow through because it might be a hard lesson for her, or think that lecturing will be as impactful as the full on experience, we DENY her the right to LEARN from her mistakes. She pointed out to us, that over the last few months we had begun to break our own cardinal rule – Say what you mean, mean what you say and DO IT.

    It is so damn easy for parents to delude themselves into thinking that a good old fashion lecture will do the trick. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING teaches as well as a natural consequence. Particularly when behind the consequence is a loving, supportive, calm, thoughtful parent who understands what is at stake.

    I am so grateful to Hannah for holding me accountable, for reminding me of how important it is for me to have FAITH in her and for trusting that our relationship is strong enough to handle difficult conversations.

    Your children are so lucky to have you. Stay strong. KNOW that what you are doing will shape their lives in ways that we as parents can not even imagine at this moment.

    Thanks for posting.

    • flockmother Says:

      Knowing that even you can backslide into rescue/lecture mode — I feel simultaneously encouraged and scared! It really is a life-long exercise to keep this up, isn’t it? Like running a 40-year marathon complete with uphills, downhills, and stretches of flat … But, again, what else have we got to do that’s this worthwhile?!

  2. Vicki Says:

    Yes, a 40 year marathon. Beautifully put. Keep blogging and I will keep sharing. This is turning out to be a great relationship. LOL. Enjoy the day.

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