So last night I had a long talk with the kids about important things. To be specific, about identifying what are the most frequent causes of fights in our house, which are sometimes too stressful and upsetting for all of us.
Basically it comes down to two things: homework, and chores.
When I was a kid, it was fairly easy to have a boundary between homework time and playtime. I sat down usually at the kitchen table or at my desk and did my homework. Play time was something else. But the boundaries aren’t as clear for my son. For one thing, he does his homework on his computer. Khalil has always struggled with handwriting, and even after several years of occupational therapy, his handwriting is still slow and extremely difficult to read. He can type extremely fast, so, he does all his homework that way. But when a teenager is sitting with his computer, and you aren’t staring at the screen right beside him, well, God only knows what he is doing. He tends to divide his attention, not pay attention at all, or simply pretend. And that, of course, generates conflict.
Amirah simply fights it. She doesn’t want to do it, she struggles, and that, also generates conflict.
Both of my kids have a tendency to drop whatever they have in their hands wherever they happen to be. And, to be honest, so do I. And that really generates conflict in our house.
So the talk was about identifying those things that cause conflict, and try to head them off. For Khalil to really create his own boundaries, sit down, do his homework and get it done so he can go on to fun things. For us to have, as much as is possible, a life where we don’t have lots of threats, yelling, “WILL YOU SIT DOWN AND DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!” moments.
It wasn’t always this way. I look at parents with toddlers with a little bit of envy these days, and just a little bit of “just wait, you’re in for it,” too. Because teenagers are tough to parent compared to the little ones. We didn’t have much in the way of terrible twos until they became two terrible teenagers.
On the other hand, when they were very young, I could never have had a conversation like last night. Because I simply asked them, “What do you two think are the things that cause the most fighting in our house?”
The nice thing was, they were able to answer that question. And make suggestions on how to make it better. Reasonable, smart answers. Will we have follow-through? That’s another question entirely, and one to work on going forward.