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Ask Brenda

Here's your chance to get some new ideas on how to solve a problem. Of course, you have to weigh all suggestions against your own personal situation, knowledge and experiences. Be sure to seek additional help from a professional if you need it.á (See also our online agreement and disclaimer)

 

Dear Brenda,

Every morning my life is in chaos because my 10-year-old can never find her shoes or her school backpack. You can ask, how many places can it be and you wouldn't believe it. One morning we just couldn't find her backpack anyplace. I took her to school and then came home and continued to look for it. I finally found it in the backyard on a lawn chair. I'd love to just have an organized, quiet morning that doesn't end up with yelling or a fight. This is getting really tiring. What should I do?ááá Ramona

 

Dear Ramona,

Sounds like you are doing more work than your daughter. Whenever that happens, its important you sit down and look at whether or not a pattern has developed. We all learn from having natural consequences, but you're protecting your daughter from learning from these.á At the same time, you're feeling lousy every morning because of the conflict it is causing. Of course, you have probably already suggested that she put her shoes and backpack in the same place every day so that she will know automatically where they are. Here's a bite the bullet solution. Have a sit-down talk with her and lay the problem out on the table. Very briefly, speaking in I statements, model assertiveness. Tell her, "I think that there is too much conflict in the morning. I feel frustrated, angry and hurt. I need to let you know today that I think you are capable of being responsible for your own shoes and backpack. My running around here like a goofball every morning has to be giving you the impression that I don't think you are mature enough to know where your own shoes and backpack is. So,á I'm retiring from feeling responsible for them and being a nag. From here on out, it is up to you. I'm just letting you know that we will leave the house at 7:30 in the morning, with or without your shoes and backpack. You're going to get in the car and go to school -- that is my responsibility. If you choose to have your shoes on and your schoolwork, that's up to you. I know we'll both be happier when I'm not angry in the morning and I can control that. I obviously can't control whether or not you get into your shoes and get your backpack to school."

áThen, do it. If your child has to sit in the office all day because she doesn't have any shoes, she'll remember there is a natural consequence to her actions. She may also be embarrassed.á (You may want to quietly inform the counselor of what you are doing.) If she doesn't have her school work, she may not get as good as a grade.á It is best to stick to your terms, and emphasize it is her choice -- even if she doesn't comply right away. If you veer from that the first day and cut her a little slack, make sure you tell her it is a one-time event and that she will have the consequence of being late to school. Don't relapse by getting up and looking for the backpack. In general, you want to stay on target with what you have committed to do. If you open the door a little, you open it for a lot more manipulation.á Consider also whether or not she is doing this every morning because she is trying to get your attention, get a power surge, or get you to prove that you love her. Once you have moved out of your daily conflict, you'll find it easier to sit down and listen to what she has to say in other areas. Let us know how it works.

 

You may want to check out our online course Improving Your Parenting. You'll see the results when you receive therapist-tested techniques that have aided many parents in improving their home life, while building their child's sense of responsibility and accomplishment.

Brenda Crawford-Clark, LMHC, LMFT, NCC

Author: Body Sense Balancing Your Weight and Emotions 

ęCopyright 2001 Brenda Crawford-Clark