Do you ever have conflict with your children? I did. Know what I learned?
Often it was because they didn’t know what I wanted or what my expectations were. I assumed they knew. They should have known but the sad fact was that they didn’t.
My father used to say this all the time…When you assume it makes an a _ _ out of you and me. I hated that saying but unfortunately it’s true. When we make assumptions about what another person knows and understands we often find ourselves frustrated, angry, sad and the list of feelings goes on.
Today I want to share a poignant story with you that happened over the Christmas holiday. It could have happened to me or you but it happened to one of my sisters.
An Assumption Gone Wrong!
I have five sisters and we communicate with each other on a video phone app. In early December Rozanne made a video and we could all tell she was fit to be tied!! Mad as a wet hen!! She went on and on about the marvelous Christmas memory she had set up for her grandchildren by putting a wealth of wonderful games and books under her tree and how they had carelessly and thoughtlessly behaved.
She said that she had scolded them all, taken all the toys away and that the grandkids were so confused.
Now the children she was talking about are all fairly young. The behavior she spoke of seemed age appropriate to me. I mean, if there are unwrapped toys under the tree they are to play with, right. I was confused. What had she expected they would do with those toys? If I, as an adult, was confused about how they should have behaved how in the world could they not be confused?
Here is the story in Rozanne’s own words.
“I decided to put activities under the Christmas tree for the grandkids to enjoy. I did this instead of gifts because 23 grandchildren can be expensive and frustrating to shop for. I preferred to instill in their hearts a memory of Christmas fun at Grandma’s house.
I lovingly placed several coloring books, cardboard pop up books, activity books, etc. under the tree. I added several items from years past, such as a wooden puzzle my son made when he was in school and card games like Crazy Eights, Go Fish and Rummy. There was a pouch of finger puppets, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, etc. There were several Christmas storybooks including my favorite ‘The Gift of The Magi’ which is older than any of my 23 grandchildren. I anticipated all the children would create meaningful memories with one another.
To my chagrin, I was continually frustrated with the careless handling of the treasures I had thoughtfully placed under my beautiful Christmas tree. What was wrong with these kids!!!! Books were scattered on the floor or left in another room. Finger puppets were tossed under the tree and where was the Pouch?!? My youngest granddaughter proceeded to scribble on every single page of the coloring books. I began using the irritated mommy voice with my precious little angels. I’m sure I yelled a few times too.
Finally, I realized I hadn’t given my grandchildren any instructions or explained my expectations. I came to this realization after I had frantically removed every last item from under the Christmas tree to SAVE THEM from the horrible, no good, very bad grandchildren. That was a hard pill to swallow after feeling justified in my indignation.
After thinking about it for a few hours I felt sad. I put every item back under the tree and explained to the children why all that stuff was under there in the first place and the rules for using them:
• Put them under the tree when you’re done
• Only use them in the living room
• Play gently
Things went much better after that.
Over the years, I have weeded many things out of my holiday planning. I was always hoping to envelop everyone involved in my bubble of expectations but it became overwhelming and took away from the joy of the holiday.
I thought this simpler plan would accomplish the same as all my over the top projects of the past but my kids and grandkids simply were not on the same page as I was. I hadn’t let them in on what my expectations were. All they knew was that there was a pile of cool stuff to play with under the tree. Taking the time to give a simple explanation and a few instructions made all the difference in the outcome for the rest of the month. Memories were made, joy was felt and I am still Rozanne, the fun Grandma!”
Often when I’m mentoring an angry or resentful mom or dad, as we dig into what is actually the problem, this is what comes up – they just hadn’t made sure that the child or children in question knew what was required or expected.
It’s wise to understand that your kids don’t always know what you want. Even if you think they do or that they should know it’s wise to reiterate and make sure. If you take the time to do this you’ll have less frustration, feel less resentment and you will, as a family, have more joy.
Has this kind of thing happened to you? Please share your experience and what you have learned.
Here’s to more joy,
I WILL BE SPEAKING at the Winter Homeschool Conference on January 27, 2018, in Layton, Utah. This conference is designed to support and rejuvenate home educating parents who want to thrive, not just survive the homeschooling experience. You don’t have to be currently homeschooling to attend! I will be speaking about Process vs Outcome. Knowing the Difference Can Change Your Family. If the topic resonates with you I would love to have you join me.
You can learn more about monitoring your expectations in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!