We had a Family State of the Union meeting yesterday morning. I’d been feeling bothered by the amount of nagging occurring in our house and felt that a quick review of some household rules was in order. So, after properly caffeinating, KJ and I called the kids together and informed them that we were holding a family meeting to discuss responsibilities and expectations.
As you can imagine, that announcement was met with excitement and glee!
That’s not true.
In reality, we first got some blank stares… then Happy Dude piped in with “I have meetings at school!” Then the Loud One moaned, “Are we in trouble? It sounds like we’re in trouble.”
I explained that they weren’t in trouble exactly but that I noticed that Daddy and I had both been doing a lot of nagging lately and we don’t really want to be naggy, annoying parents, but when nobody really listens to us AT ALL, we don’t have a choice.
Pick up your clothes, please.
Turn off the lights, please.
I already answered that question.
If someone says hello to, please look him/her in the eye and respond.
Hey, help clear the table, please!
I already answered that question.
Guys, come on, the clothes!
Goddamn it, say “hello”!
I told them that I sound like a broken record and I don’t like it. They, of course, wanted to know what a broken record was and that delayed our meeting for a few minutes.
Once we were back on track, we distributed the following agenda:
No, not really. I just held the agenda… most of these kids can’t read anyway.
Family State of the Union: Responsibilities & Expectations
January 19, 2014
- Always say please and thank you, without being reminded
- Basic table manners
- Napkin in lap
- Don’t talk with food in your mouth
- Respectful responses when spoken to (by adult or child)
- Look people in the eye
- Respond to greeting or answer question
- STOP leaving your clothes on the floor… everywhere
- No socks in the mud room
- No dirty clothes on the bathroom floor
- No pajamas on the bedroom floor
- Turn off the lights when you leave a room
- Clear the table after meals without being reminded
3. General Behavior
- Ask a question ONCE and listen to the answer. Do not ask that question again.
- Don’t be assholes.
4. Expectations of Mommy and Daddy… input welcome
If I had taken minutes of the meeting, they would have looked like:
Family State of the Union meeting called to order at approximately 7:20 am, (so the kids had already had a few hours of screen time).
General introduction: Mom & Dad (M&D) explain that it’s time to review their expectations of the children because they have been nagging too much. Kids look nervous and vaguely guilty.
- Mom reviewed parental expectations about the importance of basic manners.
- Nibbit argued that sometimes his napkin falls OFF of his lap and that is NOT his fault.
- Happy Dude wants all attendees to know that he has napkins at his new home.***
- Everyone agrees that looking at chewed-up food is gross.
- Loud One points out that sometimes making eye contact with grown-ups is hard because she’s so shy. M&D laugh hysterically and accuse her of being a liar.
- Pick up your clothes! M&D explain that they’re not asking for a lot here – children don’t actually have to DO any laundry, they just can’t leave your underwear wherever they want.
- Mention of “underwear” sends kids into fits of giggles. Dad joins in.
- Turn off the lights. Dad tried to explain why this is good for the environment but it sounded really confusing and also kind of like he was making it up, even to Mom. Loud One’s eyeballs rolled. The Nibbit started standing on this head and Happy Dude pointed out that they have light bulbs at his new home. And candy, too.
- Clear the table. This is pretty straight-forward unless soup was involved. A three-year old should never carry half-full bowls of soup from the dinner table to the sink. Nobody needs that mess.
3. General Behavior
- Do not repeat the same question over and over again. Mom shared a great article written by a fellow mother who was tired of the “child-nagging and negotiating” happening in her house and decided to put a stop to it with three simple words: ASKED AND ANSWERED. Mom informs attendees that she’ll be implementing the same policy. Attendees don’t really understand what this means, but agree anyway.
- Don’t be an asshole.** M&D reiterate the importance of being kind, in general and refraining from any douchey behavior as often as possible.
Note: At this point, M&D had to repeatedly ask the Nibbit to stop flipping around on the couch and several times, had to reaffirm that all attendees were indeed paying attention. M&D explained that not paying attention when Mom is talking counts as douchey behavior.
4. Expectations of Mommy & Daddy
- In an effort to show respect for their offspring, M&D asked the children if they had any expectations of their parental units. Responses included, “Maybe drink less coffee?” and “Take me to the toy store to buy me more toys everyday!”
- M&D swiftly rejected these requests but promised to address children’s questions immediately and clearly. And to always use kind voices.
- M&D added, “In other words, we’ll try not to yell so effing much.”
Conclusion: M&D confirm that everyone understands everything we discussed at the meeting and asked if anybody had any questions.
- The Nibbit DID in fact have a question and it was, “Will you play chess with me now?”
Meeting was adjourned approximately 7:45 am.
All things considered, the meeting went pretty well. Since we adjourned, we’ve only had to ask them to pick up dirty clothes and turn off the lights 16 times instead of 29. And yesterday, when Happy Dude asked the Nibbit if he wanted to do puzzles with him for the fifth time, the Nibbit responded, “ASKED AND ANSWERED.”
I’ve never been so proud.
*It’s possible that I’m taking my role as Board Secretary at the preschool a little too far.
**Obviously we didn’t really use the word asshole… or douchey… but I did want to make the point that even though there was only one discussion point under “General Behavior,” that doesn’t mean that that’s our ONLY expectation. Ask a question only once AND don’t be assholes. Equally important.
***Some kids have imaginary friends, Happy Dude has an imaginary alter-life. For the past month, he’s been referencing his “new home,” where he apparently lives with several family members and pets. This all began on December 20th, when I posted the following on Facebook: