My wife just stumbled across a book in a secondhand store called “A Little Secret for Dealing with Teens” by Jennie Hernandez Hanks – a single mother of SEVEN who has not become completely insane! That’s saying a lot.
It’s a very short, small, paperback – we were able to read it in two sittings. We’ve started applying the simple techniques contained in it and IT’S WORKING after only a couple of days of applying the techniques in it!
The general idea is that relationships are generally based on exchanges. I do this for you, you do that for me. The problem with these exchanges in a parenting situation is that most of the exchanges are hidden. This is just how it is – we take care of babies completely and they give back just the happiness of their presence.
As the kids grow up, they keep the same idea about the relationship – we do everything and they grace us with their presence – that’s all they know and that’s all we’ve taught them.
Parents on the other hand start expecting more from their kids in helping around the house, etc. and assume that the kids will pick up on this change all by themselves, but we didn’t ever lay it out on the table for them. We didn’t take them aside and come up with a list of everything that has to be done to make the family work – bringing home money, washing dishes, doing laundry, paying bills, etc.
We list what part of that we do and they list the part they do and then it hits them – “Holy cow, I’m really not doing much in this relationship and I am able to do much more than I currently am – I’ve got it easy!” They then start doing their chores with more gratitude and if they need a ride somewhere, we can make an exchange that’s not hidden – that is, the exchange is spoken – what will you do for me if I take you to your friend’s house?
When I’m not putting these exchanges out in the light, out on the table, but keeping them hidden, I expect things from my kids that they don’t even realize and then I get grumpy about their ingratitude and things just go downhill from there. I’m excited to see how things will continue to change for me as I start applying these principles and actions in my own relationship with my kids. My wife is three days ahead of me in applying these principles and she’s the one who’s already seeing miracles – I can’t wait to see my own!
Don’t take my incomplete description above in place of the content of the whole book – there’s a lot more to it, but what I described is one part of it and is my understanding of the foundation. The book goes much further and gives many examples of real stories to help us understand how to apply the principles in it. The coolest part of this is that it’s not based on theories or philosophies – it’s based on experience and what works and what doesn’t work.
Go buy the book (it’s only $2.95 used, 8.95 new – we got ours for 50¢ at a secondhand store 🙂 ) and read it over and over and try it out. It’s helped us out a ton in just these few days. Good luck!