Sometimes they drive me crazy . . .

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My kids were happy to oblige when I asked them to pose for some “misbehavior” photos.

I dearly love my five wonderful children (ages 8-13) and feel so blessed to be their mother. I think they’re generally really great kids. But lately these precious children have been giving me a serious run for my money.

Have you noticed that sometimes all of your children seem to be having issues simultaneously — and that their various issues are exacerbating each other’s issues? Well, here’s a little glimpse of some of what’s been going on in our house (some of it just might sound familiar).

  • One kid is constantly being called “annoying” by another kid. We’ve had to institute a new (and somewhat effective) policy that anyone who uses the word “annoying” owes me a dollar.
  • One kid is going through this phase where they take every possible occasion to point out every little thing that anyone says slightly wrong. (Like someone will say we watched a certain movie Saturday night and it was actually Friday night, and the error has to be thoroughly pointed out repeatedly until other family members chorus together “Who cares???”
  • One kid is just plain grumpy most of the time lately, seems to have a perma-scowl on their face, and has something ranging from not-so-nice to downright mean to say to pretty much everyone.
  • One kid (or two) cannot sit still – always seems to be bouncing off the walls.
  • One kid wants to sit still way too much – wants to sit and read or be on the computer all day and resists all suggestions to get outside and do something active.
  • One kid will never admit that they are ever wrong about anything – even in the face of pretty darn obvious proof.

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  • One kid generally will not give complete answers to questions that my husband and I ask and insists on being as evasive and vague as can be. I’ll ask something perfectly nice and normal like, “So what homework do you have tonight?” and they’ll say, “Math” then I’ll say, “What do you need to do for math?” and they’ll say, “Some stuff,” and I’ll say, “Can you please be a bit more specific? How long do you think it’ll take?” and they’ll say, “As long as it takes.” It’s painful.
  • One kid is really into “dog-piling.” If my husband or I (or anyone else) points out some little thing that someone else could work on, this kid likes to really drive the point home by reiterating whatever we’ve said and adding some more criticism.
  • One kid gets their feelings hurt very easily and is not easily consoled (there are actually a couple kids who seem to trade off taking this role).
  • One kid uses superlatives a whole lot: “I NEVER get to _______.” “You ALWAYS make me do ________.”
  • One kid bursts into tears over what seems like nothing sometimes and then can’t seem to identify why the tears are happening.

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  • One kid keeps getting sick and needing lots of special attention (not at all their fault but adds to the stress around here).
  • One kid cannot  seem to leave the computer alone and keeps sneaking onto the computer when their computer time is up.
  • We talk about our “sweet” – the best thing that happened to us — our “sour” – the worst thing that happened to us — and our “service” – something we did for someone else that day – every night at dinner. Last night, one child said that their “sour” was the nice dinner I’d worked hard to make.
  • One kid wants to talk to me all the time and gets offended when they don’t get the full attention they require.
  • One kid takes off whenever I try to talk to them or has next-to-nothing to say.
  • One kid is just plain messy and cannot seem to remember to clean up the crayons and paper pieces and craft supplies that they are always spreading across the table and floor.
  • One kid is super smart but can’t seem to remember to turn in school assignments so their grades are suffering (or make that two kids).
  • One kid is always late to the table for breakfast and moves in slow motion as we try to get out the door for school, often making us late. (It sort of switches off week by week which kid this is.)
  • One kid says “I know” in response to pretty much everything I say. “You need to clean up your room.” “I know.” “I’ve got to take so-and-so to such-and-such.” “I know.” I’ve tried to point out that if they know they’re supposed to clean up their room, then why is it that I need to point it out? And how could they possibly know the things I’m just telling them for the first time?
  • Several kids tend to interrupt me and everyone else constantly. I keep suggesting that I really can’t listen to them when I’m in the middle of saying something. It’s not sinking in.
  • One kid leaves school assignments until way too late in the game. I sat up until 11 p.m. with one kid last night, helping them write a book report for the THIRD time because the original draft was inadvertently lost by the computer randomly shutting down and losing it. Then the second version was inadvertently lost by the kid not saving it correctly. (We really do try to faithfully follow the great ideas in the School Paper and Homework Mastery Kit April created last fall, but apparently we need to go over project planning again with this particular kid.)
  • One kid has very selective hearing and can seldom hear anything I ask them to do.
  • One kid does about 5 percent of any assigned job and then needs to go the the bathroom – pretty much every single time.

But you know what? I guess I’ll keep these kids of mine, warts and all. I’m sure some of this behavior is the result of the fact that we’ve been off on our bedtimes lately (daylight savings wasn’t kind to us this year). And I’m sure I’ve inspired some of this behavior by my own behavior in some areas.

Some of this stuff needs to be ignored. More positive reinforcement is definitely needed. More one-on-one time with each child always helps. So in simply writing out this list, I’ve seen some places where I can change, and it’ll make a difference for all of us. My mom always says, “You can’t really change other people, but you can always change yourself,” and the studying I’ve done on child development has helped me realize that it’s important to ask, “What’s wrong with the situation?” rather than just focusing on “What’s wrong with the child?” To start my own change process and get my mind and heart in a better place, I’m going to share some of the great things going on around here – many of which are the flip-side of the behaviors laid out above:

  • One kid produces beautiful artwork (and messes) constantly. The artwork is totally worth the mess.
  • One kid has an amazing smile that is all the more beautiful given how seldom I get to see it lately.
  • One kid tells me interesting facts about what’s going on in the world of technology and helps me fix any computer problem I have.
  • A couple kids are developing great senses of humor. I love it when we laugh together.
  • Most of the kids are generally very respectful and obedient when asked to do something or not to do something. They seem to appreciate and embrace the logic of our family rules.

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  • One kid loves talking with me and tells me all the details about their day and I learn so much when I really pay attention.
  • One kid is so tender-hearted and loving (and sensitive) and notices whenever I or anyone else needs a little extra love.
  • One kid’s teacher told me they were so impressed with this kid’s kindness as they continually helped a child with special needs in their class. The teacher said, “That kid just has a kind and good spirit – really unique and special.”
  • One kid points out all the little beautiful things in the world around us – and I need to take the time to really cherish those moments of enjoying beauty with this child.
  • One kid loves to help me with any project I need to do (and is actually very capable and helpful).
  • Three kids always say, “Thanks for the ride. I love you” and blow me kisses when I drop them off at school.
  • One kid has had their grades improve quite a bit this year. Another has had them improve dramatically this year.
  • One kid is totally great (almost fastidious) about making sure they do all their homework in a timely manner.
  • One kid offered to do their brother’s after-dinner job when the brother was sick a few days ago.
  • Most kids happily eat everything I cook for them.
  • One kid (or two) is at the table on time for breakfast every morning (even when I’m a bit late).
  • One emotional kid is more full of happy and joyous emotions than sad emotions.
  • All the big kids are so very kind and helpful to all the younger kids at church and in the neighborhood.
  • One kid practically trips me with big hugs several times a day.
  • One kid gives me a spontaneous hug once every few months and that hug is priceless.
  • One kid sings me this sweet song they made up about how much they love me several times a day.
  • One kid tells me every night that I’m the best mom in the whole wide world.

I’m learning to accept that some days – and some weeks and months – are just going to involve more hard stuff than others. Sometimes there are clear causes we can find and fix. Sometimes there aren’t. Sometimes it feels like we’re being “pecked to death by a duck” (one of my aunt’s favorite phrases to describe motherhood).

Sometimes we forget that the disrespectful and bickering children who drive us crazy are the same angel children who make us laugh and give the sweetest hugs and look so beautiful when we peek into their bedrooms late at night to watch them sleep.

Ultimately, we’ll get some things right and some things wrong, and we’ll keep loving and explaining and trying and correcting. I’m realizing more and more that there is no all-or-nothing. There’s very little black and white. There’s just a lot of up and down and around and around. And as we keep working and adjusting, we’ll hopefully take more steps forward than we take backwards and all will be well in the end.

QUESTION: Do your kids drive you crazy sometimes? What do you do when it seems like everyone’s having issues and getting on each other’s nerves?

CHALLENGE: Make your own list of behaviors your kids are exhibiting that are problematic and decide on a few things you could change about yourself or the situation that might help change the behavior. Then make a list of what your children are doing that is wonderful. Add to this second list every day to see how that changes the way you feel and they way they act.

5 comments

  1. Cat

    So when did you visit my house? Since I have 6 kids that are somewhat widely spaced (21 to 5) it’s starting to seem that I just get one kid through a phase and another one enters that very same phase.

    My technique to deal with kids getting on each others nerves is to calmly get their attention (sometimes with a loud whistle) and give them choices like play nice or take a nap. Or play nice or time out on a chair. Sometimes I have to physically take them to take a nap when they are so cranky that they can’t be nice. Sometimes I just send them outside to get what ever is in their system out. If I have a kid that just can’t move fast enough to get to breakfast on time, they miss out. It only takes 2 or 3 times of going hungry for them to figure out what they need to do. My 5 year old has to be ready to go to daycare when I leave for work very early in the morning. He doesn’t always like getting ready. I just tell him “No problem. You can go to day care in your PJ’s and get dressed there.” For what ever reason he doesn’t want to so he always is dressed and ready on time. He also knows that mom can’t always remember his snack. If he wants it, he remembers to bring it. I’m in too big of a hurry in the morning to go back to the house and get it. He just misses out.

    Now this is not to say that sometimes the kids push me a bit too far and I’m just a bit too tired and I loose my temper and shout at them. However, I don’t shout as often as I used to so I’m learning too.

  2. Danny Chipman

    I try to talk less, do more. Talk is cheap. Kids don’t need a dozen warnings before consequences are imposed, whether it’s confiscating property they don’t care for or clean up, removing them to another location where they can consider their misbehaving, or taking the hit to their grades when homework doesn’t get done on time. Just a while ago, after 10 and 5 minute warnings, my kindergartener got to walk out to the car in her socks, in the snow, and put her shoes on in the car because she was making our carpool late. Needless to say, she hasn’t dawdled much since.

    And when the behavior is positive, I try not to overpraise. My daughter presents me with a bazillion “masterpieces” of art or literature every day; I try to be sincere and constructive in my feedback and say things like, “So why did you decide to make the sky purple?” or “I really like all the colors you put into this.” Then when I tell her how fantastic she is, she knows it’s genuine, not an automatic response.

    Even still, I blow up on the rare occasion. When that happens, I make sure I apologize to the kids, explain what set me off, and we work things out from there. It’s no less than I’d do to any adult, and kids respond pretty well when you treat them with the same respect you would another adult.

  3. gee-enn

    HA! This is so great! Much better to read a well balanced and realistic article like this than some of the syrupy sweet articles extolling virtues of their perfect families and perfect kids and all the wonderful things they do so perfectly :)

  4. George of the jungle

    Repeat after me: Every day and in every way I am getting better and better. Negative energy can not effect my mind, body or spirit. I have a friend in Jesus and I accept life, the way to wisdom and the truth. I will protect my liberty and I will pursue happiness. But by the grace of God go I.

    A daily mantra of mine.

  5. Jeanie

    Just know stages a not permanent. Chances are your kids will grow up and turn into delightful adults. I was a stay-at-home mom of 5 kids like you, all close in age. It was a series of overlapping tensions many days. Now I am a specialty teacher that teachers k- 6 th grade weekly. It is so fascinating to see the developmental differences of these ages daily and compare my experience as a mom. I understand better what was happening in my home as the kids were growing up.

    How I dealt with it:
    When my kids would fight I would explain that we are family, not enemies, that we will treat each other as we would a friend because family stays – friends come and go, and it a wise person who makes their family their best friends. I would ask the arguing parties to leave the house if they could not be respectful because we don’t talk mean or rude in our house. When they could behave like brothers (loving, or at least respectful) they could come back in. It was especially effective in the winter. :)

    I would also tell them that they had permission to treat each other the way their dad and I treated each other. As soon as they saw us yelling or name calling they could do it too. I know they relied on my husband’s and my kind relationship and it put things into perspective to picture their dad and I behaving rudely or disrespectively. It was clear that picture was unsettling to them, I would explain, just like their rude behavior to each other was unsettling to me.

    Mostly, you do your best and time passes and they grow up. My kids are now 22-13 and I can say they all truly love each other. There is a deep friendship and caring that is heartwarming to see.

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