Separated Parents, Separate Expectations for Children
December 14, 2015 9:21 AM   Subscribe

My ex and I share custody of our three children. She is very lenient and doting; I encourage self-reliance and responsibility within a structured framework. She is a helicopter, I am a safety net.

They are ages 12, 10, and 5. An example: My youngest is 5, and in kindergarten. My ex still wipes her butt after she poops. I think this is ludicrous; the child is well capable of cleaning up after herself, and does so at school and at my house.

My ex also tolerates lots of misbehavior. A typical interaction - child acts up; ex threatens loss of privilege or similar; child promises to behave; ex relents. The children are learning that they can talk their way out of anything. They try this with me and are shocked and throw tantrums when they figure out that I mean it.

They also absolutely do not pick up after themselves. They open food packages and just drop the wrappers on the floor, the sidewalk, wherever. The ex picks this stuff up for them; i do not.

Finally, their behavior in public can be atrocious. I know every parent has been embarrassed by their kids' behavior in public, but I dread taking mine anywhere all together. I have to ask them repeatedly to cease running, fighting, going the wrong way on the escalators, using inappropriate language, etc. This is every time out. I have a policy in place that we leave if they act that way, but sometimes I really need to get stuff done (and can't afford a sitter).

I use positive reinforcement as often as possible; I praise them, offer them small rewards, etc. for cooperation etc. But the thing is, I feel like every time they come to my house (they are with me almost half the time) I have to deprogram them. They throw their stuff on the floor, raid the kitchen (which is fine), and generally immediately start to argue. They are also much easier to deal with singly than in groups. I know a lot of the acting up is attention seeking.

They are hurting because of our situation (separated for 2 years now), but I also see a lot of this as a continuation of things that went on when we were together. I need to find some balance because I feel like I can't leave them alone for 5 minutes without all hell breaking loose. I am emotionally and physically exhausted, I can't keep up with the housework (because I need to keep them occupied constantly, and I'm exhausted), and I am really stressed, not sleeping well, etc.

I tuned in to my own thoughts the other day and realized how much I am preoccupied with worry about what they are going to get up to the second I turn my back (to do laundry or cook dinner or whatever). I don't think I'm being super-critical here, because almost inevitably, within 5 minutes there is a fight, there is screaming, there is something that takes me off task and puts me in the position of referee. I try to be consistent and calm and kind, but I am being worn down, I am losing patience, I am not as calm or kind as I should be when they act up.

By the end of a three-day stint we have usually reached some sort of balance, and then when they return... it all starts again.

I know it won't ever be easy... how can I make it a little less hard?
posted by Mister_A to Human Relations (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Have you ever had a talk with them that laid out explicitly that they have different behavior requirements with you than they do with their mom, and that that's okay? At those ages, when parenting before this point had been a united front, I can imagine it must be really hard for them to grasp that two parenting styles can both be "right."It's so easy for them to just think that the behavior at their mom's house is normal and yours is abnormal (since your standards probably don't stick for a few days at her house like her standards seem to stick at yours), you have to be explicit about teaching them that BOTH are normal, that it's normal to behave different ways around different people and different circumstances. They're not too young to understand.

Once you've got that out in the open, you can start reframing behavior modifications. They throw all their stuff on the floor? "Not here, kiddo. Wrong house! Whoops!" They start screaming? "Sounds like you want some attention. That's not how you get it here. What's going on?" Youngest one wants to be wiped? "Remember, honey, that only happens at Mommy's house. At this house you wipe your own tushie, just like at school." You can also have them save up attention for prizes; they each get three pieces of candy when you leave the house, and they can choose to give you a piece if they want some attention, or they can eat the candy, but once it's gone, it's gone!

For you? Man, you sound demoralized, and I can read your anxiety through my computer. I know it comes from a good place because you clearly care about those girls. But you might want to consider a therapist who can help you cope with this difficult period in your life, teach you a few CBT tricks, give you some tips on what hill to die on when it comes to parenting. You can get back to being as calm and kind as you have the potential to be, but self-care is important, and you can't be your best self if you are constantly anxious and run down.
posted by juniperesque at 9:49 AM on December 14, 2015 [13 favorites]

how can I make it a little less hard?

By doing your level best to avoid telling yourself stories about how your ex's parenting style is undoing all your good work, and putting all your focus on the relationships that you have with your children.

I can't keep up with the housework (because I need to keep them occupied constantly, and I'm exhausted)

Delegating slabs of housework to little ms. flabdablet (10) is a great way to keep her occupied. Either she's occupied doing the housework, intensely occupied procrastination, or occupied finding ways to avoid my attention so I won't be able to assign her the next job :-)

"OK, this place is a huge mess again. I'm gonna go sort out all that stuff on the laundry floor, and when I come back in here I'm gonna vacuum. I'm not gonna bend down and pick up Lego bricks and Squinkies: if they're on the floor, they're getting sucked up. So you'll want to put as much of this stuff away as you can before I get back."
posted by flabdablet at 10:02 AM on December 14, 2015 [18 favorites]

I see calm, kind, refereeing, positive reinforcement, praise and rewards, but I'm not seeing examples of discipline other than leaving a location if they act up. What kinds of consequences are there for not behaving or meeting expectations at dad's house? The clearer you are with expectations, consequences and follow-through for not meeting those expectations, the better. Instead of trying to be the positive praising nice guy at his wit's end, try being the firm, boundaried but loving parent.
posted by cecic at 10:05 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't have first-hand parenting advice for you, but I can identify with your kids in this situation. My parents divorced when my sister and I were very young. We could talk our mom into anything, but our dad always stood his ground. He would never give me a quarter for the toy machine in a restaurant, no matter how I pleaded. But we spent quality time together, and he taught us a lot. I only saw him one weekend per month, plus 1-2 weeks in the summer and winter holidays, so it was surely less exhausting for him than it is for you.

Kids don't like being condescended to or treated like kids, even when they are acting like kids (not saying you are condescending at all, just a general statement). It sounds like you get on an even keel as the days progress, which is great. Have you tried giving the older kid(s) some responsibility, without it feeling like a chore? Feeling like they are trusted and needed is a big confidence booster. Straight talk is another tool you can use. Explaining how their actions make you feel is a good way build trust and show them that it's OK to talk about feelings.
posted by stompadour at 10:08 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

You have virtually no ability to influence what goes on at your ex's house. All you can do is manage your household the best you can. You don't need to "deprogram" them if you stick to your house and your rules.

Speaking as parent of similar-aged children who fight often... you need to pick your battles. Siblings in this age range will fight - what are your limits? No screaming? No throwing things? Take your fights outside?

Definitely give the older two some responsibilities.

You're not going to be able to prevent mayhem with three kids between 5-12. A certain amount is inevitable. It sounds like you *might* need to adjust your expectations just a bit. Decide where your firm limits are for the time they are with you and stick with them.

Also, the stark contrast between your quiet "alone time" when the kids are with your ex, and the normal amount of chaos when the kids come back may be a hard transition *for you*. It may influence your perceptions of the children's behavior.
posted by pantarei70 at 10:14 AM on December 14, 2015 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: Hey all, this is really good food for thought. More answers are welcome! I will probably respond more thoughtfully later, I have to process some things here...
posted by Mister_A at 10:16 AM on December 14, 2015

If the kids are creating chaos while your back is turned, then it sounds like boredom and button-pushing might be teaming up to drive you crazy. It might be helpful to plan some activities for the kids to do while you get stuff done. If you are cooking dinner, can the kids sit at the kitchen table and do some age appropriate crafting? Or maybe create/practice a karaoke show to put on after dinner? Or hell, even a couple board games for while you're prepping food- Operation, Pie Face,.... They are all actually old enough to help prep dinner - extra work for you, but less chaos. For the outings, make a game of it. 5yr old needs to find (point out) oatmeal and apples as you head through the grocery. Maybe your kids need to spot 10 different animals while on an outing.... Who knows, but keep them occupied so their brains are busy.

As for the butt wiping, it's probably an attention thing rather than a laziness thing. Calling you to do that personal service ensures that the child receives your undivided attention if even just for that moment. I know it's hard, but remember that children need simple affection and acknowledgement. When my kids are out of control and the situation is resulting in escalating consequences, sometimes I just stop and hug them. Every once in a while we (the kids and I) seem to get into the spiral of misbehavior and consequences that just leads nowhere. Everyone is unhappy (for reasons usually unrelated to their actions) and we just need to hit the reset button.

Good luck to you.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 10:21 AM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

You need to give up any thought that you have any say or control over how your ex parents them. Unless she's abusive--and it sounds like she's not, her parenting style is just different--there is nothing at all you can do about it. It's also important to recognize that their behavior is a product of both your parenting styles and that attributing all of their misbehavior to her is a cop out on your part. You play just as much of a role in their misbehavior as she does.

So, what can you do. You need to sit them down and have a conversation with them that outlines your rules for your house. Acknowledge that they are likely different from the rules at their mom's and empathize with how frustrating it must be for them to keep both sets of rules straight. Write down the rules. You'll probably have different rules for the 10 and 12 years old than the 5 year old. It might help to post the rules around the house near the places where problems are occurring (e.g., a sign on the pantry that says "throw away your wrappers") so that they are immediately reminded of your expectations.

Finally, you need to let a lot of this go. Guess what, most kids are total slobs. Most kids (even those in intact families where both parents are not indulgent!) misbehave. Even "good" kids misbehave a lot. Don't expect them to be like little adults. Be patient. Remind them, gently, over and over again. Teach them instead of getting exasperated.
posted by scantee at 10:21 AM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

Have you ever had a talk with them that laid out explicitly that they have different behavior requirements with you than they do with their mom, and that that's okay?

Came in to say this. Mr. Llama and I have different parenting styles and we're in the same house. I tend to be less lenient and more 'put your backpack away, put your lunchbox on the counter, feed the dog, turn up the heat to 68, go get yourself a snack' and he tends to do all of those things for her, which winds up frustrating the hell out of him because that's a lot to deal with when you first come home and he has to do it himself because to him, I think, it's easier than all that ordering around that I do when it's me bringing her home.

But that's his choice. We have a lot of shared household rules (obviously!) but differing expectations about some things and I don't apologize for that and neither should he. Different people have different expectations. Rules are different in different places and different times. She's seven; she is expected to deal with this and seems to accept it as normal.

Maybe reframing and feeling less like there's so much pressure to have house to house conformity? We don't even have in-house conformity.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:22 AM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

I tend to be less lenient and more 'put your backpack away, put your lunchbox on the counter, feed the dog, turn up the heat to 68, go get yourself a snack'

I guess I should note she does maybe half this stuff on her own, more or less depending on what kind of day she's had. It's not like I sing this song every day but those are my expectations.

My other rule is 'physical needs first' which is often helpful in panic situations (like sometimes I'll put off peeing for forty minutes because I've also got to send a last minute work email and/or my little friend can't open a fresh box of Life cereal. So 'order of operations' keeps some despair from setting in in the chaotic moments of homecoming.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:27 AM on December 14, 2015

Your kids will rise to your expectations. Stop worrying about what your Ex does. Husbunny was an only child and his parents doted on him and let him get away with murder. He's still more messy than I'd like, but all in all, he's a self-motivating achiever who is perfectly capable of taking care of himself and the cats.

Kids with that kind of age difference are going to fight and argue. They are going to be a handful, that's just the way it is.

As a teacher, I found that scheduling every minute of the time I had the kids in the classroom made it a LOT easier to manage them (all 36 of them!) I posted the schedule on the whiteboard so everyone knew exactly where we were at any given time.

Predictability and consistency are your friends. So have a lot of routines starting with the minute they hit the door. For example:

1. Put suitcases/clothing in bedrooms
2. Cookies and milk in the kitchen
3. Walk the dog
4. Help dad set table and make dinner
5. Eat dinner
6. Clean up after dinner
7. Homework
8. Screen time (1 hour)
9. Reading
10. Bed

If you have them for a weekend, give them the weekend schedule:

1. Breakfast
2. 1 hour of screen time
3. Showers and dressing (reading for those waiting)
4. Activity (if activity is organized sport, save showers for after.)
5. Lunch
6. Kid time outside or in the Den while Dad collects himself and has some alone time.
7. Pre-dinner cleaning. Time for chores and tidying. Everyone is old enough to do chores.
8. Making dinner with Dad.
9. Dinner
10. Homework/reading
11. Movie that everyone can enjoy.
12. Showers (if needed)
13. Bed

I'll say this about bed--they don't have to sleep, they just have to be in a room, behind a door, being quiet.

Know when to intervene with arguments. I heard a lot of "That's kid stuff, you deal with it," as a kid. So I learned to resolve my own conflicts. Don't be so quick to jump in, but perhaps referee at first to teach them how to do it.

The 10 and 12 year old should be up to taking care of themselves and doing things on their own (getting dropped off at the movies.) The 5 year old is the wild-card. Kids that age are a total pain in the ass for tweens and they have completely different interests. Perhaps the older kids get a bump in allowance for including the 5 year old in certain activities, or for playing Candy Land.

As for keeping the house clean. That's not realistic. You can keep the health department from condemning the place, but kids are messy. Hire someone to do the heavy stuff, have the kids do small chores to give them a sense of responsibility and learn to relax.

You can't march them around and expect them to be quiet and play nicely. No one's kids do that. Your wife finds it easier to let it go and deal with it herself, you'd rather do it differently. Each way is a coping mechanism. To that end, disabuse yourself of the idea that if only your Ex would do things like you do, the kids would be trained, quiet and productive. That is just not so.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:28 AM on December 14, 2015 [8 favorites]

Any chance you guys could change to weekly switch offs in custody, rather than every three days or so? That seemed to work better for some of my friends, where the mid-week trade offs left them feeling constantly unsettled. But this was in HS, so I'm not sure if it'd translate that well to younger kids (especially with the 5 year old).

Also, if you think they're feeling attention starved, could you and the ex try to work out a regular afternoon/morning where each kid gets one on one time with one parent? Like you watch two while ex and kid A hang out, then ex takes two while you and kid B do whatever. I know it's tricky enough to do when parents aren't divorced, but it's something that really helped my dad (parents are still together) figure out what made each of us tick as individuals. It also got us out of the chaos that comes from being one of three kids. I don't think we even did it all that often, maybe 2-3 times a year.
posted by ghost phoneme at 10:43 AM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'd encourage a regular check-in with your coparent, not to change their parenting style, but to check in with each other about how the kids are doing. And on the different rules for different homes, kids can adapt, but also consider that when you think of your kids behavior as atrocious, maybe that's a loaded way to look at it, like maybe you're taking it personally when it's not unusual for kids in general to misbehave, partly to learn bounds and partly as a result of the stress of going between two homes.

I guess I'm saying, be kind to yourself and to them. Sure, guide them to appropriate behavior, structure can be very comforting, but try to do it with compassion instead of frustration.
posted by zippy at 10:44 AM on December 14, 2015

I recommend staying all the way from her parenting and being fully focused on your parenting. Easier said than done, but your kids are going to learn the expectations in your home and that's all that matters. Kids learn to act different at school/home/church/the local swimming pool/with grandma/etc. Infuriating as her parenting may be, they will actually be OK with the different expectations in different homes, and will benefit from you having as smooth and mutually respectful relationships with the other parent as is humanly possible.
posted by latkes at 11:50 AM on December 14, 2015

I would tie their behaviour into whatever activity they like doing. For example, screen time. New rules! Switch off the wifi and tell them when they've picked up after themselves or done their chores, they can get the new password. Then they can play for X amount of time. Won't stop arguing? Well, for every minute they argue, you'll deduct it off their screen time. If they're extra helpful, they can earn more minutes.

It works or different activities too, time at the mall or out with friends etc. I would also set a routine so that they know that after lunch is when they pack away the dishes or pick up after themselves so they know what's expected and eventually hopefully you won't have to nag, they'll just do it (before asking for their password.) Praise effusively and lots of hugs when they do the right thing.

I think the behaviour that you accept is the behaviour that you get and I don't blame you for being frustrated. I also disagree that having mess everywhere is something you should just accept because kids are messy, kids learn what they can get away with but with a combination of reinforcing positive behaviour and deflecting the negative stuff, you should get through it.
posted by Jubey at 12:46 PM on December 14, 2015

By the end of a three-day stint we have usually reached some sort of balance, and then when they return... it all starts again.

My parents started out having us switch every week and my sister and I later asked to have that pushed up to two weeks precisely because it allowed us to settle in a bit more. I know kids and families differ, but as a kid I found it much less tiring to do things in two-week intervals. Every three days seems difficult particularly if you two really do have such different styles, so maybe consider proposing a change (though, obviously, I recognize there may be other factors that make three days the right interval for your family).

Once in college, my friend Sarah came home with me for a long weekend and ended up staying at both my parents' houses. She saw the chaos and almost smothering warmth of my mom's house and the restrained affection and slightly cold order of my dad's house. It even went to the color and d├ęcor with my mom's house all rich wood colors, deep reds, and a furnace turned up too high and my dad's house modern art, clean lines, white walls, and cold air. On the drive home, she told me that she was having trouble imagining what it had been like when they'd been married. I'm telling you this just to say that very different parenting styles isn't a new divorce issue and things may end up just fine. My sister and I are both doing well and have healthy relationships with both parents (or, no more unhealthy than is usual).

I would suggest you focus on what you can control (time at your house) and items you might reasonably be able to negotiate with your ex and try to let everything else go. Please try not to let your kids see how angry and contemptuous you feel toward your ex. I really love my mom, despite being well aware of her faults, and my dad's occasional expressions of contempt for her were really hard for me to take.
posted by Area Man at 1:11 PM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

I personally hate switching kids every few days/half week. They never really get used to things, but it's long enough that you can't just do fun time and then recover when they're gone.

Consider switching the schedule to something like 2 weeks at one house (with dinner with the other parent or something similar in the middle) and then 2 weeks at the other house.

Although a lot of this is just kids being kids and isn't your ex's fault. It's really easy to blame everything on the ex (I do this too!) and forget that frequently, kids are a little nutty, especially siblings, and especially kids who have to uproot their whole life every few days.

It is also hard to cook and do laundry when you have 3 kids to wrangle! This is just part of single parenting, unfortunately. Even double parenting has a hard time with 3 kids. It sucks!

And the worry when you turn your back? That is also very typical parenting! That's why open floor plans are so popular, ha!

That said, I'm terribly sorry. This sounds rough.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:52 PM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

Seems like your kids are pretty unhappy.

You note that by the time the kids are settled after 3 days, they leave. I would assume it takes them 3 days to get settled at their mom's. And then they switch back to your house. This is bad. I think the first thing you need to do is change the 3-days schedule because that's a shitload of transition and little stability. Can you switch off weekly or even bi-weekly? I think if you can do that, they'll probably behave a lot better because they won't be switching houses every 3 days.

I think you need to try that and see if that doesn't change a lot of their shenanigans.

A few other things:

They drop their food wrappers on the floor, you calmly say, "Hey, I need you to pick that up."
They throw their bags everywhere, you calmly say, "Bags live in the backpack area."
They want their butt wiped, you calmly respond, "You can do that, sweetie."

Don't get into phrasing like, "we don't do that at this house," or "that only happens at mommy's house;" because it has no bearing on the conversation and it kinda slams mommy a bit.

Lastly, when you take them out in public you need to set up a reward that happens IF they follow certain rules while on said expedition. So, "We need to go to Target, where they have the best (insert bribe here) ever. At Target, we're all going to walk not run, keep our hands to ourselves and stick close to me. If everyone is on their best behavior, we can get our awesome bribe."

But I think if you can change the 3 day thing, you'll see a lot less misbehaving in general.
posted by kinetic at 2:15 PM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

almost inevitably, within 5 minutes there is a fight, there is screaming, there is something that takes me off task and puts me in the position of referee.

That's way too much fighting. What are they fighting about? Control of the tv? Toys? Ownership of things? Or is it more bickery, "She touched my stuff" or "He looked at me with a mean face"?

So I wonder, is it possible they're fighting as a surefire way to get your attention? I mean, every 5 minutes and screaming? Either they have a shitton of issues with each other which is a whole other thing or they've trained you really well by getting you to drop whatever you're doing and come running to them whenever they scream. This makes me wonder, when they're with you initially, how with them are you? Are you hanging out in the same room as them, without looking at your phone and giving them your full attention? Are you playing a game with them or watching a show with them or eating and chatting? How engaged are you when they first come over?

Do you bring them in and say you're going to make dinner or check email or something and leave them, then you hear screaming? I would ask you to reflect how much real time you spend when you first transition them into the house. They may be acting up because they know it's the only surefire way they have to get you to give them your undivided attention.
posted by kinetic at 2:37 PM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

Another thought, if your kids are hellions in public, get your shit done before they come to you. Going out in public is a privilege and if they can't hold it together, we all leave. It will suck a HAUNCH and you won't be able to get toilet paper, but after a couple of times, when they see you mean business, they'll straighten up.

When I was a kid, my Mom didn't drive so we went everywhere as a family. We acted well in public because our parents didn't push us beyond our endurance. We ate at regular intervals (8 burgers for $1!) We stopped to pee frequently. We didn't spend endless time fiddle-farting around stores. Dad was always ready to haul whoever was acting a butt out to the parking lot to await the finish of the others at their tasks. Trust and believe it didn't happen often.

We also were warned when entering areas where china or crystal were stored, "We're entering Finkyland. Keep your arms and hands at your sides." It was funny, but Daddy could say it so that it was menacing too.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:28 PM on December 14, 2015

Shared custody creates these situations, not parenting style. So, stop worrying what their mom is not doing and try to focus on what you can do to make the transitions go more smoothly. I'm blessed that I am a full time single mom and I only have to send my children to their dad's 3 times a year. After years of nightmare returns, we fell into a pattern where my parents get them first for a few hours for my girls and a few days for my son. They then settle into our home more easily. This clearly won't work for you but, you don't have them full time, so it is possible for you to run errands on days that you don't have them. Try to get as much done as you can while they are not with you and then spend as much positive time with them when they arrive. Don't pick, judge, over-correct, or say anything rude about their mom. Keep things positive. Make eye contact. Have a consistent thing that they can always look forward to, like pizza the first night they are with you or something. If they are invited to a sleepover during your time, let them go. Value them as humans with needs and acknowledge that they may want to sometimes have a say over where they are sleeping. Let them be imperfect.
posted by myselfasme at 5:25 PM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Want to pop back in and add that it seems you have a positive enough handle on different houses/different rules, but you need to be SO GODDAMNED CAREFUL with how you interpret stuff like:

My ex also tolerates lots of misbehavior. A typical interaction - child acts up; ex threatens loss of privilege or similar; child promises to behave; ex relents. The children are learning that they can talk their way out of anything. They try this with me and are shocked and throw tantrums when they figure out that I mean it.

Another way to view this is, child acts up, mom reminds them of social norm, kid stops. Kid isn't learning they can talk their way out of anything as much as kid is being reminded of appropriate behavior and control and given a chance to pull their shit together.

When kid acts up with you, you consequence them and they flip out, it may be teaching them that you're not consistent, you scarily overreact to stuff and instead of getting the message to stop whatever they're doing, it escalates to a place where the original issue is now over and forgotten because they're a tornado of flipping out.

Kids don't remember all the rules all the time and most want to do well and please people. Your ex's approach is actually very smart if it gets the kids to behave.

Sometimes parents who consider themselves appropriately authoritative aren't quite as even-handed and measured as they think.

This also makes me wonder if you may be a bit more grar with them than you realize, which would be understandable but should stop. Think about how often they're misbehaving (in your eyes) to the point of being consequenced with you. It shouldn't be all that often; for the older ones maybe once every few days, maybe a few times daily for the little one and that's only if they're hell on wheels.

As a parent and a teacher, I've seen a lot of this: kid misbehaves (calls sibling butthead which causes other kid to start screeching and raising high holy hell), parent swoops in and gives consequence (takes tv time for the night), kid with creative language skills is thinking, "TV time has nothing to do with any of this GRAR now I am angry because this is so unfair and GRAR and I only said butthead because they called me dickface but Dad didn't even ASK ME which is so unfair and I have no words to GRAR express this,"

and they have a tantrum.

Tantrums in healthy kids usually mean HALT. Is the kid Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired? If they're flipping out with you over rules, it may be that they're A: angry because you may be overcorrecting them or giving them a consequence that has no bearing on the original offense.

So I suggest thinking over how this all goes down in your place. Ensure that your consequences are fair, immediate and most importantly, pertinent to the crime at hand.
posted by kinetic at 2:48 AM on December 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

Why are you turning your back to do laundry or cook dinner or whatever? What if you include them in the chores? Set up a time for chores and everyone participates. You could have a list of what needs to be done and let them choose age appropriate things from the list, then you all work together for an hour to get things done. Offer praise and encouragement throughout that time, and/or put on fun dance party music, then have a big dose of fun or relaxing attention at the end.

And don't think that a 5-year-old can't do chores. She can put toys in the toybox; she can fold dishtowels and pair socks; she is especially suited for things like scrubbing the top edge of the baseboards where all the dust accumulates and the bottom edges of the cabinets where weird things have spilled or splashed. If you arrange your kitchen correctly, she can unload plastic items from the dishwasher, put away spoons and forks, and make her own snack. If you get her the right tools, she can cut vegetables for dinner, sweep the floor, and help in the garden.
posted by CathyG at 5:59 PM on December 19, 2015

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