I’m a proud mom to a full house that sometimes seems like a three-ring circus.
I tend to be a slightly negative person and criticize my kids more than I should.
Surprisingly, it’s not the teens who bring out the worst in me. Though they definitely know how to push my buttons, I’m on better behavior when they’re around because I know that this is the picture of home that they’ll carry with them for the next while. Plus, they’re even more sensitive to criticism than the younger ones.
The challenge is not determined by their ages but by their natures. Some of my kids have personalities that “get” me; others don’t. It’s the personalities that rub me the wrong way that lead to explosions.
I put the reminder on my phone and set it for 6 a.m. I don’t dismiss it the whole day! Every time I look down, it tells me: “Don’t criticize!”
Tuesday’s my day. Not a word of complaint, criticism, or correction, not to mention castigation, chastisement, or comeuppance, will be directed at my family all day.
For the purposes of this attempt, I’m ignoring the clause of the 80/20 rule that says that even things like “time for bed” count as negative (Sorry, Mrs. Radcliffe). I’m not going to eliminate everything that’s not a feel-good comment, just those things that are actually critical, like, “Why aren’t you in bed yet??”
I know the trouble spots will be hauling my kids out of bed, the getting-out-the-door rush, and then the late afternoon — the supper-homework-bickering-bath-bed routine (Please tell me we’re not the only household where bickering is enshrined as part of the routine.)
My working hypothesis is that my attitude will make things more pleasant. I hope the kids will be happier and more relaxed, but I assume they won’t notice. We’re going for the subliminal effect.
How It Went Down
My day is actually less difficult than I thought it would be. The challenge turns out to be staying in the right mindset the whole day, rather than having to bite my tongue. I put my brain on auto-repeat: Don’t criticize, don’t criticize... It helps but it’s exhausting.
Already in the morning, I feel a difference in the home’s energy. Some mornings, I’m on top of everyone as I make sure they’re ready on time. Today, instead of being all over them, I inform them what time they need to be ready, and that I’ll be davening. I can’t say it was my most focused tefillah ever, but we did make it out the door even without my drill sergeant routine. Apparently, they can manage very well without me scolding over their shoulders all the time.
Then there’s the bored eight-year-old drumming on the dishwasher and irritating me no end. Normally, I’d have stopped her, but not today. Does she notice? I like to think it makes a subconscious impression.
The day turns out to be pretty smooth overall. I’m totally exhausted and on edge from a poor night’s sleep; when my husband calls to discuss something, I tell him I’m so tired I can barely remember my name. A lot of potential for crabbiness but with a little mental effort I keep the “don’t criticize” record playing all day, and take heed to its call.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 631)
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