I am sitting here trying to breathe through this iron band around my chest. I lost it with one of the kids this morning. This child is not a neat child by nature. He is the type of kid that makes himself at home wherever he is, takes off his socks and stuffs them in his trouser pocket while reading or watching TV, or under the sofa cushions. He doesn’t notice mess of any sort. Mind you, neither do the rest of them unless I point it out. Is that perhaps a boy thing?
I am not a perfectionist when it comes to the house. I like clean, I like tidy, but I am not OCD about it. My house looks lived in – not immaculate. BUT there are certain standards that I expect everyone to adhere to. Beds need to be made in the morning, there needs to be NO dirty clothes on the floor, clean clothes must be put away and I need to be able to navigate through a bedroom without stepping on Lego.
This morning I asked ALL the boys to neaten up their rooms, make sure all their dirty laundry was brought to my room to be sorted, and I went to investigate. 3 out of 4 had done what I asked. The fourth was doing his thing (lolling around doing nothing) and I asked him why he hadn’t cleaned up. “I cleaned up yesterday”. I pointed out to him that there was mess that was made since yesterday and I wanted it taken care of. At this point I am still calm and rational. “But, Ima…..”. I pointed out to him exactly what I needed him to do, told him it would take him 5 minutes. I got lip and aggravation. “It’s always me that you are nagging to clean up, you never nag the others” – I never nag the others because they always do it straightaway and properly. Begrudgingly he said he’d do it. I went in 5 minutes later and nothing was done.
I reminded him that I asked him to take care of it, and would he please do so. No. He was in a very contrary mood and it seems that I was asking too much of him. He felt very put upon and singled out and refused to do it. Somehow, it just set me off. I am not proud of myself but I told him there was no maid service here, and he needs to learn personal responsibility and I hope that he marries himself a rich wife who can afford to pay someone to clean up after him. Of course I got into the whole “I do so much for you and you take me for granted” business. I hate when that happens. I got so angry with him, and he was mad at me. I shouldn’t have yelled like that, very not like me. He isn’t talking to me now, but his room is clean.
When I ask this child to clean a common area – like the bathroom or living room – for Shabbat he has no problem doing it. In fact, yesterday he and his brother cleaned up my spare bedroom (read “junk room”) together – and it looks awesome and is sparkling clean.
How do I teach this child (one of the older ones, I’m not saying whom) to care about his things? How do I teach him personal responsibility – his brothers seemed to learn it from an early age. I have tried charts and rewards. I even told him that once we move if he cannot keep his room clean (he will have his own room for the first time) he will lose the privilege of not sharing a room and will have to move into shared space. He is a bright kid and understands the consequences of his actions, he just cannot bring himself to care enough to follow through with the right behaviour.
My heart hurts. I lost my temper with a child. I will apologize to him when we have both calmed down. I just hurt so much that I cannot get him to care. Do you have any ideas how I can get him to do what I need for him to do, without it being a battle every single time? Without him telling me I am obsessed with cleanliness?
(I know I am human…..and most parents lose their temper occasionally…..but I hate how I behaved. How will I ever make it up to him??)