Saturday, November 24, 2012

A lesson in empathy

My children are spoiled. As hard as that is for me to admit, they are downright bratty children that tend to treat me as a maid. And, as hard as it is to admit, it is my fault they do so. For the last 4, almost 5 years, I've been cleaning their messes with little repercussions on their end. I usually just cleaned up the mess, and put them in time out because I didn't want to deal with the fight that would ensue, and I could clean it up faster myself. This all changed a few days ago.

My children are not allowed to have crayons or markers in their room.  They both know this, but that doesn't stop them from trying to sneak a crayon in there once in a while. Usually I catch it, but the other day, I didn't. My husband put them down for a nap while I was cooking for Thanksgiving. After their nap, I walked in to find all 4 walls, the dresser, the window, the closet door and bedroom door, and a toy bin all colored on.

Instead of putting them directly in time out, I called my oldest into the room. I knew she had done the drawings, as my youngest is just too short to reach where the crayon marks were. And, it was a continuous line around the room. After I pointed this out to my oldest, she admitted she did it. So, while I put the laundry away in her room, she was scrubbing the walls with a magic eraser. Yes, I made her clean up her crayon marks. She whined, complained that it wasn't fair, and pouted about it.

I took that opportunity to talk to her about her feelings. I explained that it was okay to feel that way, but to remember that mommy feels the same way when mommy has to clean up a mess that mommy didn't make. I also explained that it was okay to not like cleaning, but it is something that has to be done. And, since this is a rental, I explained to her that it is not nice to vandalize other people's property. It was a light bulb moment for her, she finally gets it. I'm hoping this is the start of something better, less big messes, but it was a good moment.

She didn't clean it all the way up, I did have to finish it. But, she had to sit in time out while I finished. When I finished, we reiterated our earlier chat.

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