I’m getting really tired of hearing “I’m sorry”.

I am not a punitive sort of person.  I believe in second chances, and third, and fourth.  I get that development is a process, not a destination.

That said, I’m getting really sick of my kids doing the same thoughtless things over and over again.

  • They ask to eat in the living room, and I ask them to please be careful, and to clean up after themselves, but still I find bowls of (dry) cereal on the floor, and ice-cream sandwich wrappers by the Wii.
  • They ask to use the markers in their room, and I remind them about the markers that I had to throw out, and the sheets I had to wash, because markers dried out before or after turning solids into prints.  Yet I still find uncapped, dried out markers on their floor, and find spots of color where I wish I didn’t.
  • They use anything and everything for pretend play, which I am completely good with, except then they either hit me with it, or leave it on the floor where I trip over it, or where it could get broken.

I always say that “I guess I won’t be able to let you do that again”, and perhaps take away the object or privilege for a while, then I get an apology, then I give them another chance, then they invariably do the exact same thing again.  And again.  And AGAIN.

Certainly, I could not let them have that second, third, or hundredth chance.  I could take and box away the toys they’ve left in the bathroom sink every single day of the last week.  I could give them lengthy time outs.  I could spank them.  I could deny them other privileges. I could yell.  I could stand over them until they comply.

I could deny them the chance to appreciate and internalize the values of order, non-violence, and personal accountability.  I could teach them that rules are made by the strong so that they can control the weak.  I could tell them that they are obviously incapable of changing their ways until some arbitrary period of time has passed, and deny them the chance to set and meet goals for their own behavior.  I could begrudge them the chance to work out and discuss logical compromises and alternate solutions.  I could express to them that clean floors and complete sets of markers are more important to me than are their autonomy, creative self-expression, and opportunities to try again.  I could tell them that an empty sink is more important than their chance to succeed.  I could make sure they knew that this was MY home, and that they live here by sufferance.  I could let my kids think of themselves as failures, as prisoners, as the worst things a parent can call a child in my mind: as disappointments.

Maybe my kids see me as a push-over, letting them do things over and over again.  Maybe they don’t even think about honoring my requests.  Maybe they DON’T CARE if I box up their toys, or if their markers dry out, or if I send them to time out.  Maybe they don’t care  if they cause me pain.  Maybe, on all those times I have tried to engage them in conversations about showing respect for others, oneself, and property in general; on all those times when I’ve tried logic, compassion, and actual communication, I’ve just been talking to myself.  Maybe they manipulate me, giving me the apology I want, then carrying on just as they please.

But maybe not.  Most days I think my kids actually ARE sorry, that they want to do better, but somehow just forgot, or got distracted by the stuff of childhood.  Sometimes I observe them remembering to try to do better, to think about their actions before they do them, to watch where they are going, to clean up after themselves, to do something with their anger other than lash out.  Sometimes I see them trying *to grow*.

Of the seven markers I picked up off their bedroom floor tonight, only one didn’t have a cap.  Yes, they could be cleaning their room themselves, but hey, they DID get the tops back on six out of seven markers, and that’s something they wouldn’t have had the chance to do if I didn’t allow them to have the markers in their room in the first place.

I AM getting really tired of ice-cream wrappers, strewn cereal, and broken household objects.  I’m tired of hearing “sorry” and seeing so little to no change in behavior, of getting hit again and again by the same little boy who doesn’t yet have better ways to express his frustration.  Maybe their development into civilized human beings is going far more slowly than I’d like; maybe that progress is downright glacial some days, but I do know that they ARE getting there:

I have capped markers to prove it.

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This entry was posted in ain't a bowl full of cherries, life skills, parenting and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to I’m getting really tired of hearing “I’m sorry”.

  1. Carolyn & Murph says:

    Invest in Crayola washable markers. If the caps are left off and the marker dries out, it can be revived if not too old. Simply soak it in warm water for a couple of minutes, cap it, and let it set over night. The folks at the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA gave us this jewel of a tip when we toured their last year. So worth the $$ we spent on the tour just to learn that little tip.

    All that aside, it’s our job as parents to hound, remind, penalize, beg, negotiate, and eventually educate our offspring. What good would it do society to raise someone to be thoughtless, selfish, wasteful, careless, and/or annoying? Like a lovely pile of Crayola’s Model Magic, kids are at their best when gently kneaded, softly pinched, lovingly molded into a piece of beauty, and then left to air dry for a few days. 😛

    • Siggi says:

      Oh, these ARE crayola washable markers, otherwise I’d be much more irked about the sheets! 😉 I’ve tried that trick, but with limited success. Maybe I get to them too late.

      I totally knead, mold, and sometimes pinch, but I try very hard not to penalize or hound. I’m not beyond begging though, and I love to negotiate. 😉

      I totally ‘spare the rod’, but I have NO intention of allowing my kids to grow up spoiled. Raise a hand, and kids learn to fear, and do things out of fear, and do *other* things behind one’s back. I try very hard to talk to my kids with love and logic, and hope that they will come to understand and compromise, and internalize their own versions of our rules, so that when they are adults, they have codes of behavior of their own to hold themselves accountable to. I want them to go grow up to be good people (as they choose to define it) because they believe in being good people, not because they are afraid of being caught for being otherwise.

      Their developing definition of what that good person looks like will probably have differences, even significant ones, from MY vision of what a good person looks like, and that’s ok. (My version of ‘decent behavior’ is certainly different from MY mother’s!) That’s ok though – we, as parents, can nudge them in certain directions, and give them a push-start down that path, but where they go from there is up to them, as it should be. If adults want obedience they should get dogs, and if they want control, they should try programming robots.

      Want to do another skype playdate soon?

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