Sunday, January 07, 2007

Passive Agressive Parenting Books - ARGH!

I'm reading "Chores without Wars," a book that purports to turn 'housework into teamwork.' And something's been bugging me about this book but I couldn't put my finger on it. Until now.

After all, the book promises to do away with nagging and shouting and the usual arguments that go along with household work. Sounds great. Who wants to be that person anyway? I mean, I'm pretty sure that's core to the "mom" job description, but if these ladies have a better way, great! I'm all for it. I hate being that way.

First, the book starts by telling me I need to change my behavior and my way of thinking. Right off, that's annoying, because I've spent years trying to be a better me and I've had just about enough of it. It's a lot of work and frankly, the dividends just never came. Instead, people take more advantage of me and I'm a seething teapot of anger half the time because I never say what I really think because I'm trying to be a better person.

And since I've had my daughter, I realize that's all a load of crap. It may make you look nicer, but it makes you much less nice in actuality. It also makes you something of a patsy. And I don't want that for my daughter.

So, right off, I'm on my guard, but I still haven't pinpointed why. All of the above I figured out later.

Then I come to this scene, wherein mother Margie decides to give up reminding her seven year old of his promise to pick up his toys everyday. So here's what she does: She tells him their plan wasn't working, because he's not picking up his toys. He promises to remember - this time for sure.

Margie responds thusly:
'That's great. I'm glad to hear that, but I want to tell you want I've decided to do if you don't keep your agreement.'
You can almost feel the Grinch-like smile.

Lance asks what she means and the books says, I kid you not:
In a friendly tone Margie said, "I'm not going to remind you or nag you anymore. I expect that you'll do what you say. If you haven't picked up your toys by 5:30 each evening, I'll figure you want me to do it. If I do it, I'll put the toys in a box called the Sunday Box and you can get them the following Sunday."
Okay, on the surface, there's nothing wrong there. But after a few tries at this kind of logic, I realized I was turning into that mean girl who smiles at you so kindly just as she slips the knife between your shoulder blades. It's just so...cold and sterile. Like Margie's just waiting for the chance to take those toys.

And the whole book has been like that. You can almost feel how angry Mom is - and rightly so - but the 'better way' touted by the books is to set aside your emotions, smile and come up with consequences, which you then put in like a cold piece of steel. Not a good way to build a team, in my humble opinion.

Oh sure, there are caveats: Let them know in advance. Work it out together. Yadda, yadda. But in the end, every situation boils down to a passive aggressive move by mom. Teen not taking out the garbage? Change the night. Still doesn't do it? Set the garbage bags by the door and refuse to cook the next meal until he's moved it. It reminds me of first grade, where one dude would do something bad and the teacher would punish everyone. It's so institutional.

I'd much rather do it like this:
You know, it makes me really mad that you said you'd do this and you haven't. So I want you to pick up those tosy right now. Fom now on, if you don't pick up those toys when I ask you to, I'm taking them and you'll have to work to get them back. And if you don't miss them, well, I'm going to assume you have too many toys and we can talk about what we need to get rid of.
See the difference? One is emotionally honest and forthright. The other is just...passive aggressive and really mean. One is the person I really am. The other is...the mean girls who picked on everybody in high school.

Plus the book is all about how you're the coach. Have you ever in your life heard a coach talk like Margie? No. Coaches are no-bs kinda people. I think Mom's should be, too. Otherwise, you're just a bit Joan Crawford, aren't you? Yes, my sweetie, you are.

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Blogger Housewife said...

You are one rockin' Momma.

Hooray for honest discipline.

When Adam and Eve have waaaaaayy too many toys I tell them that for every 10 they donate to Goodwill I'll buy them one really good new one.

We end up dropping off bucket loads and a house without an over load of junk is much easier to keep clean, for all of us.

I'm loving your blog!

11:56 AM  

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