In my new book 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom, I share many stories from my own home with three kids (ages 5, 8, 10). Here’s one about how we can get the pecking order at home all messed up:
A few months ago, James wanted to try out a small group at church to meet other couples. This was something new to our weekly schedule and meant the kids would go into childcare at church while we went to someone’s home on Friday nights. The first two weeks were rough.
The kids complained, “Do we have to go? We want to stay home. We wish we didn’t have to go.”
I was very tempted to pull the plug. I thought about saying to James, “Honey, you know the kids don’t like it. I feel sorry for them. I don’t blame them for wanting to stay home after a long week of school. Maybe this isn’t the right time to join a group.”
But what does that communicate to the children?
If you complain about something, you might get out of it. If you don’t like something, you don’t have to do it.
Last time I checked, the real world doesn’t operate that way.
Perhaps more importantly, it gives decision making power to the kids instead of us parents. James reminded me and the kids of the many, many times he remembers as a boy going to a babysitter because his parents were going out, or his mom was taking a course. He didn’t like it one bit, but it simply wasn’t an option to refuse. As a child, he was inconvenienced regularly in order for his parents to do what they needed to do.
Somehow we’ve allowed the pecking order all mixed up. You’ll bend over backwards to inconvenience yourself to get a child to practice, create an over-the-top birthday party, or sit through endless hours of ice skating, piano, or gymnastics. But heaven forbid your children be inconvenienced once in a while for your sake.
As you may have guessed, we continued going to that small group for couples. The kids learned not to complain and even started enjoying themselves. Supporting James’ desire to go to the group strengthened our marriage.
The healthy pecking order was established. We as parents make the decisions. We are not to be led, manipulated, nagged, cajoled, or tricked into things by our kids.
How is the pecking order going in your home?