copied from a FB comment:
MAMAS (and papas) AND TEACHERS: please give me some examples of EMPATHY that 5 year olds can understand (or 4 year olds, as Kieran's cognitive/social development dictates). our first venture as a one-room schoolhouse will be virtues training, and lesson 1 is empathy. my book seems geared more toward older children, so HELP ME PLEASE. TIA
i'm not trying to "teach" it, per se, i know it can't be taught, and i know they all have it (or are on their way to it). what i want to do is draw attention to it and encourage them to think about it consciously. i suppose you could say that this "virtue training" is more of a glorified vocabulary lesson
the thing that spurred me wanting to start this ASAP (i've had the book for months and have been putting it off due to the older-child aim of it) is when my hormonal preggo self went off and sobbed/screamed to them the other day about how sometimes their actions/words/decisions hurt other people, and that they should think about how it effects others -- like the messes they make and then don't want to help clean up, and using their bodies instead of their words when they are angry. i have been an emotional mess lately, and being alone with all of them for 50 hrs a week is starting to break me down... and that wasn't the first time i have cried in front of them because their behavior pushed me over an emotional cliff.
incidentally, when i told robby's therapist about this, she cut me off in the middle of an earnest explanation and said, very firmly, "now THAT'S gotta stop." my jaw dropped -- it made me feel like a naughty child myself. i don't like her very much. glad she's resigning . i don't think there's anything wrong with telling my children that their actions are hurting me - or others - and apparently the easiest time for me to explain these things is when they've driven me to tears.
there has been disobedience left and right, downright ignorance of my requests and rules -- and i reserve the word "rule" for essential, safety-related things whose reasons i explain thoroughly to them... like if you're playing with neighbors, you must stay where you can see the house and you can hear me holler for you at dinnertime, etc....you MUST wear shoes and helmet to ride your bike...sticks and toy weapons stay outside, keep the kitchen door closed so connor won't go dump my purse again or make a mess of the pantry or open (a childproof top!) and eat an entire bottle of omega-3 gummy fish ...or worse [by the way, i have one kitchen entry blocked with a self-closing/self-latching walk thru gate (thanks sarah r!), and i have since ordered another one for where the door is]... blah, blah.
so, there really aren't that many "rules", but several expectations that, even after being lowered, are not being met -- e.g. when you wake up at the crack of dawn, be courteous and play quietly, get some breakfast, watch PBS quietly, etc.
...oh! and the constant "it's not fair!" and i keep correcting them with "no, what's not fair is that *i* end up cleaning up messes i didn't make because no one will help!" or "no, what's not fair is that i bought a special treat for dessert and i didn't get a single bit because you all snuck it and ate it ALL for breakfast before i woke up!" ridiculous. there i go again with the vocabulary lesson; trying to teach the correct usage of "it's not fair"...
this would be yet another opportunity for my mother to inform me that i have too many children. like that helps. thanks for the support, mom, love ya!
the weird thing is that robby's behavior has been much better lately than it has been for...ever? at least the past few years. he's starting to act a little more mature, responsible, and obedient. only about half the time, of course.
kieran is another problem, though. his autistic brain cannot wrap around the majority of the things that i'm trying to get through to them all. his stereotypical "parroting" is starting to seriously annoy me. he repeats things that don't apply, and insists upon them, even as i try to explain things on his level, to the point where i (in order to avoid stimulating a meltdown) just throw up my hands, say "whatever, nevermind" and walk away to someone else who actually understands me.
i feel like i have NO PATIENCE or energy for the gentle, patient get-them-to-help methods -- i can't even think of any that would work at this point. it turns into begging or threatening (to throw their things away) or yelling (which usually turns to tears on my part, as of late) ... i'm at the end of my rope here...
"I know this isn't "virtue training" , but the rule in our house (not ALWAYS applied, but when needed) is, if I put it away, I'm putting it up. That means, what ever is in my hand, goes on the mantle, not back in the bin. It motivates R to get to work and I always offer to help. Most of the time." -HS
we do that occasionally, too. the problem is that the mess slowly accumulates. not the everyday stuff; we (i) pick up pretty much every day, but the little things. things that get kicked under furniture or stuck in corners, apple cores that are dropped and not noticed until there are fruit flies swarming around ... all of a sudden one day i look around and my jaw drops in horror at how bad the mess has gotten. by that point, threatening to throw away anything that they don't pick up is a ridiculous, overwhelming threat to follow through on, and i'll never do it (okay, i HAVE done it, but i just can't these days). when daddy takes over clean-up supervision, it's drill instructor time...it's effective, but not pleasant AT ALL.
in general, i don't mind a little mess in their rooms -- it is their space, and i don't tend to hang out in there too often. i don't require them to clean up their rooms every day. i don't have the discipline or energy to enforce that. but when it gets to the point where there are clothes everywhere and you can hardly walk through due to fort remnants, etc., i want them to clean up. and they think i'm kidding. i've spent too long doing it for them (on occasion) that they just won't do it themselves. robby is getting better at it, but then again, none of them have very much left that "lives" in their rooms (in fact, robby isn't allowed to keep anything in his room at this point (except his journals, pokemon cards, lego creations, etc). he can play in there, but toys do not live in there. he can take in 5 books, but has to exchange them for new ones at the bookshelf in the hallway.
we did a great purge about 6 months ago, and if i think about it, it has helped, but there is still so much CRAP. i have 4 kids in a 2 kids sized house, so of course there will be a lot of toys. i have had people with one child tell me (after i have purged) that there's too much stuff, and i'm incredulous. how am i supposed to have one kid's worth of toys with four kids with different abilities and interests?? i'm all about simplicity, but it's an uphill battle, especially with overly doting grandparents who apparently don't understand the meaning of "only one gift per child, please"
i dream of a home where things are organized and stay that way. i am a meticulous organizer by nature. the chaos of 4 children (and a hubby) who care nothing for organization is excruciating for me. day in and day out. i wish they would put some big messy thing back before taking out another one. or at least put SOMETHING back, period. i would literally have to hover over them 24/7 to make sure these things got done. and i'm busy, and they're busy with their play, and our house is not laid out very well for supervising from any other room... so that's just impossible. there are "locked-up" activities that require permission to use, and they just ignore that request and break right on in. we have put away (like, in the garage) nearly-new games because the pieces got scattered and lost and there's no point in trying to locate them all in order to ever play the game correctly. it's now junk. and let me just say, it's a good thing playing cards are so cheap. cuz if they play with a new deck, it's as good as garbage.
it's always a hassle to get them to pick up their own crap, and the reason why i have given in and done it for them so many times is that i'm just tired of fighting about it. it's exhausting and i feel like it grates on our relationship. however, letting them walk all over me certainly causes a bit of resentment toward them on my part... i just can't win. on one hand, i feel if we lived an extremely minimalist lifestyle, this would not be a problem, heheh. but i like them to have toys. i like to have games to play. it's seriously a daily internal struggle for me...
"Honestly I think you need a little break. Sell something and get a sitter for 1-2 hrs and do something for you. Mothers must take care of themselves to take care of the kids, if you are getting that frazzled (and you are pregnant) you may only need a rest or a break. Kids aren't going to be quiet in the morning so that is probably an unreasonable expectation given their ages and number of kids (1 kid might be quiet, but 3 or 4, forgettaboutit).
What do some of the moms of more than 2 have to say? Will that mother of yours come over and play with them for a bit, so you can just lay down or put your feet up?" -JP
i wish i could afford a sitter. drew is home in the mornings, so that's not a big deal. it's from noon until bedtime that i'm alone with them every day.
as for the mornings, i know they CAN do it. they have. and it's wonderful. it just seems like they forget almost every day... that running up and down the hallway and yelling might actually wake someone up OMG. and that if they let connor out of our room, they have to make double sure the kitchen stays closed, or there's gonna be a BIG mess. the only other option is for me to drag my booty out of bed as soon as they wake up, and i just can't do that every day. not that early, and not fast enough. esp since i know i don't go to bed early enough to get up that early, because i spend all the "me" time i have after they go to bed catching up on things i didn't get done while they were awake (or simply decompressing after the day -- a much needed ritual).
my mother is NO help at all. she and i have been butting heads for nearly 10 years. she pretty much thinks i need to just lie in the bed that i made by choosing to have lotsa babies. she doesn't even want to try and IMAGINE what my life is like. every explanation i have for anything i do (or don't do) is "just an excuse". we had a huge argument from january-april (yeah), and i have spoken to her twice and seen her once since then. i have chosen to walk away from that toxic relationship, because frankly, she makes me feel like a worthless piece of shit excuse for a mother/wife/daughter/sister/granddaughter/niece/friend/human being.
my dad retired last month and they are in the process of moving to georgia. my mom has already started her new job at brunswick memorial hospital, so she is living up there more often than down here. when they are here, they are working on getting their house ready to sell, or tending to other appts in town. they might as well not be here at all, ever, for all the help they are. never really were much help, but somehow it feels better knowing that their first excuse these days is "i don't live there anymore". oh, do i have some mommy issues...
"One thing thing I have started doing is trying to combine toys for the kids, like even though I have a lot of girls, we still only really need a couple dolls. We only need one or two containers of blocks, we only need a few books per kid (everything else comes from the library), etc. If each one of the kids has as many toys as an only, than we become seriously overrun with toys, books, etc.
Things like puzzles, art supplies, and board games get put up high and out of reach so that even my oldest has to ask. Then I make sure that they put it up before getting anything else out." -JH
we pretty much already do that. Robby and Kieran have pretty much the same interests. legos, blocks, toy weapons, pokemon/yu-gi-oh cards, etc. i suppose we have more than one child would need of some of those things, but not much, and it's not all in rotation at the same time (e.g. legos and blocks). Devin is into pretend play (dolls, dress-up, kitchen), so we have that stuff too. not an excessive amount either. Connor is pretty much into cars. and cars. and cars. he has quite a collection, but they are mostly small and could easily fit into a file box. as i type this, i think of the actual volume of these things, and it really doesn't seem that bad. okay, that's not including all the confiscated/purged stuff that clutters the garage and is either waiting to be gotten rid of or brought back into rotation eventually (e.g. 80% of the dress up stuff that was taken away after being dragged out and not picked up EVERY DAY for far too long). i really think, as far as toys in the house, the real problem is keeping it organized and picked up.
puzzles and art/craft supplies are already "locked up". i put that in quotes because the lock is a child-proofing thing. only robby can open it, although lately he says kieran has learned how. the problem is when robby thinks he can sneak in and grab something without asking, and then he forgets to lock it back. both of those actions piss me off. he has left kid scissors out and devin has cut her hair or connor has cut holes in our brand new, very expensive slipcovers i swear, i need to get a chain and combination lock! that seems so extreme, but is apparently necessary. we actually did that to the twins' closet, because they kept dragging clean clothes out and they'd get mixed with dirty ones and i'd end up washing things over and over... it didn't last long, and that's not such a problem anymore...hmmm, i think i will have to re-purpose that lock now... i just hate the thought of treating them like inmates like that -- a "real" lock just looks so...i don't know. but i guess it's the only way until things shape up a bit. on the other hand, teachers tend to keep cabinets locked in their classrooms, right???
i am a huge fan of the duggars. not that i would EVER have that many children, but i have taken a lot from them. i just wish i had begun instilling some of these expectations more firmly/consistently in my children when they were younger. maybe the fact that we don't have regular cable anymore (and thus i don't watch the duggars' show anymore) has something to do with me losing my way, haha! i used to TiVo the show, and so i was constantly inspired by them...
"My parents didn't have any regular expectations of us; it was all random and arbitrary, and so nothing really stuck, and we didn't develop HABITS like some of my friends did whose parents had very clear and systematic rules about maintaining order in the house. I wouldn't ever want to be obsessive or overly anxious about it, but I *would* like to give my children the gift of basic life management skills - like cleaning up one thing before you start another, taking care of your belongings, taking pride in your environment, noticing when something needs to be cleaned and doing it without being asked......The one thing I will say is that I think consistency is really critical in this endeavor (and I know this because my parents were lacking in it!) We can't enforce things only periodically, when we get overwhelmed. We need daily rituals, and once they become automatic, it's not a struggle anymore." -SM
i have struggled to establish rituals for my entire motherhood! some things have stuck over the years, but most haven't. or we/i'll do something for a while, and then it slowly slips out of the routine. i guess that's just my nature -- i'm inconsistent, heh.
i think my main obstacle is exhaustion. my back problems pose so many more problems than one would think...it makes the physical side of homemaking and parenting impossible at times, so i have had to be very careful in picking my battles so i don't wind up pulling my back out and on pain killers and in physical therapy for weeks/months. it has been a long time since that happened, but i had to learn the hard way 3 times (majorly, and multiple minor incidents) before finally surrendering to listening to my body and recognizing what i really can and cannot do. that causes the deep-cleaning spurts to come in waves...the mess gets horrible, i go nuts taking care of it, strain my back, have to take it easy for several days, rinse, repeat... and there is a firm connection between physical pain and emotional pain. i feel inadequate and lazy when i can't keep do things the way i want or as often as i want (and this includes assisting the children in establishing said "life management skills"), and this causes lowered self-esteem, shame, and depression. this vicious cycle is one of the things my mother dismisses as "just an excuse" (seriously, i have become a psychological cliche lately with all my mommy issues ).
it does seem like it would be much simpler to just divide everything evenly and tackle a little every day. on most days, i do a good bit; it's just never enough. and there are days that i do next to nothing to get ahead, whether we are away from the house, or someone doesn't feel well, or i'm just plain tired. when the children were younger and i was in and out of college, they went to campus childcare from about 18 months on. i had plenty of time to get the housework done and it was amazing how put-together i was. now, i have more children, and have chosen to homeschool. i will not go back on that choice again -- i tried public school with robby twice, and it was disastrous. even the preschool, while not interfering academically, caused problems with the bonds i had with my children. i chose to have lots of babies, yes, and i need to act like a mama. my mother also used to wonder aloud why it was that i would "pawn them off" when i wasn't doing so to go to work or school. uuuugh. wow, guilt trip, mom? okay, i'm laughing at myself for bringing up my mom so much, but a lot of crap has been laid out on the table with her over the past 6 months, old wounds reopened, blinders ripped away, etc. very heartbreaking; i'm still processing...
ANYHOO, since the big changes have happened over the past few months for us (Drew starting police academy and pre-k ending for the twins -- so, me suddenly alone with all the kids full time...and i'm pregnant to boot ----also my choice! you're right, mom, i made my bed!). the cycle has been: mess---> mama freak-out---> kids reflecting my mood---> uncooperative rebellion---> more mama freak out---> no progress on anyone's part---> more mess (rinse and repeat again). *SIGH* for a while there, i had someone coming to help clean and fold laundry once a week. i justified the expense as medical , because really, it is preventive medicine for me, on a few levels. but that's been over for several weeks now. and my therapist resigned to spend more time with her children (go figure), so i haven't had that to rely on as a sounding board/venting opportunity in well over a month now -- i'm waiting to be placed with a new one as soon as they find the right fit for me. hmmm... i think i am starting to figure this out, haha!
the only problem is that having someone else come clean does not help the children acquire habits and responsibilities in this department. my long-time friend was supposed to replace our helper (and for cheaper!), but she's now in a play in orlando, which she is balancing with a full-time job here in gainesville, so she is not available until the play is over, really (and i don't know when that will be). being the childless, doting "aunt" that she is, she would be great in helping motivate the children in a fun, patient way, but i'm just WAAAAAITING for that to start now.