For the first month of this summer we have had a minimum of eight children with us wherever we go, all cousins ranging in age from five to 14. They all get along like a house on fire and after 18 years of living abroad, always a seven or 12 hour plane journey away from my family, I truly feel blessed to now be living one mile away from my sister and her family.
I always like to hear what the kids have to say, they always have a fresh perspective. So before my sister Erin heads back to California with her two boys, and our crew of eight goes back down to six, I took the opportunity to ask all of the kids their thoughts on our parenting. I asked each one the following question "what is something that we do as parents that drives you crazy." Here is what they had to say.
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From the tweens & teens:
Give us some space - "When you try to help us and we haven't asked for your help. Like when you kept on taking over when we were trying to make dinner for everyone and we didn't need your help." Guilty as charged, the girls are growing up and they are ready for the space to try things out and learn from the experience. Yet we kept butting in and it takes some of the fun out of it for them.
Less is more - "When I do something wrong and you go on and on about it. Dad, will just say "I am disappointed" and it really has a lot more impact, but you keep talking and by the end I have forgotten what your point was." My how we laughed, my sisters and I are all talkers and we could totally see the point. My sister recalled an article that stated women use something like 75 words to a man's one. We may have the ratio wrong on that one but it rang true for the kids and our husbands.
From the nine and 10 year olds:
Enlighten us - "When I had no idea we were even going to IKEA until we were half way there!" Another one that had us rolling on the floor. We could totally recognize the scenario that is usually accompanied by a few rounds of "get in the car, we have to go NOW!" We know what the full plan for the day is but do we always share all of the information with the kids? I will totally admit to expecting some amazing mind reading abilities some times.
Less is more (again!) - "When I ask if I can have a popsicle and instead of just saying "no" you say, "no, you already had this and this and this and this......" and a simple "no" would have been fine." We do acknowledge that for this particular child a simple "no" does work and that is not the case for all of the kids. But it was also a good reminder that our response to a simple question like that can sometimes come across as totally over the top for the kids.
Lead by example - "When you ask us to walk downstairs to find you instead of shouting for you from upstairs and then you always shout out for dad or us from downstairs instead of just going upstairs." Guilty as charged again. Since modeling the behavior you want to see is one of the most effective learning tools I really need to think twice before just automatically doing some of these things.
From the five year old:
Life is unfair sometimes - "When you don't let me go to my friend's house by myself." This seems so unfair for the youngest because everyone else can just run out of the house and go find their friends except for Donovan. He is still too young to roam the neighborhood on his own, which is what he really wants to do, but point taken that I do need to be better at taking him over to a friend's house and seeing if they can play.
Since I asked the question the kids keep sharing different examples with us as they arise. It has been fun to hear their perspective on what we are doing and nice for them to see us take their constructive feedback positively.