Monday, 15 October 2012

Family responsibilities

This past weekend wasn't one of our finest in terms of parenting. Boundaries were tested, buttons were pushed and tempers frayed.

Something had to change. We've learnt that Bigger responds much better to rewards than 'punishments' but lately I know we've been focussing on the negative instead of praising the positive. I was also aware that the behaviour that had reduced the husband & I to gibbering wrecks by Sunday evening, resulting in 2 fraught children tucked up in bed by 6pm, wasn't just 'naughtiness'. Bigger was testing boundaries for a reason. I just didn't know why.

Maybe he was feeling insecure. Maybe he was feeling some of the anxiety that *must* be seeping out of us around The Great Escape. Maybe it's just part of being 6 years old. I didn't have the skills or knowledge to get to the root of it and I'm pretty sure he doesn't have the introspective, self-analytic abilities to discuss them either.

I wanted a reward system of sorts, but something a bit more grown up than a sticker chart. So I decided to talk to him about responsibilities and consequences. This is what we came up with over cheesecake (because everything can be solved over cheesecake right?), written by Bigger, typed by me, proofread by Bigger (fierce eye for detail that boy):

*Family responsibilities*

1. Breakfast

Mummy or daddy are responsible for announcing breakfast time.

Bigger is responsible for getting his own bowl & spoon, choosing his own breakfast cereal and putting it into his bowl. If Bigger wants porridge, he has to tell us as soon as he gets up.

2. Getting dressed

As soon as breakfast is finished, Bigger is responsible for getting himself dressed. At the weekend, this means choosing his own clothes. During the week, this means laying out his school uniform the night before.

3. Brushing teeth

Bigger is responsible for making sure he brushes his teeth immediately before bed at night, and when he finishes breakfast in the morning.

4. Teaching Littler that our hands are not for hitting

Bigger promises to stop hitting other people and only use his hands for kind things - like helping or giving cuddles

5. Cuddles

Everyone is responsible for making sure we all get an equal share of cuddles from each other every day.

6. Stories

Mummy and daddy are responsible for reading Bigger & Littler a story before bedtime

7. Bigger's torch

In the morning, Bigger is responsible for making sure his torch is safely on his headboard

8. Bedtime

Bigger is responsible for doing a wee and having a small drink of water before bed. Mummy & daddy are responsible for making sure Bigger gets a good night kiss & cuddle and we tell him we love him. Once in bed, Bigger MUST stay in bed and go to sleep (unless he needs to be sick)

10. Being nice to each other

We are all responsible for using nice words, listening when other people speak and answering questions nicely. If someone or something makes us cross, we must speak nicely and let them know why we are cross. We must try not to shout or scream as it hurts other people's ears.

Everyone starts on green :-)

Failure on 1 responsibly = YELLOW = a warning

Fail 2 responsibilities = ORANGE = name on our kitchen blackboard :-(

Fail 3 responsibilities = TV privileges suspended

The 10 responsibilities were chosen to solve or diffuse situations that often result in conflict, either between us and Bigger or between Bigger and his little brother. The consequences colour system was Bigger's idea and is modelled on the system they use in his classroom.

I really hope this works. I hope that by giving him the responsibility of being in control of his own behaviour and knowing clearly what the consequences are if he doesn't fulfil his responsibilities, will help him. I tried to make sure that it wasn't all about him though. We all have responsibilities and roles to play and we're all accountable.

Hopefully this will help create a more harmonious household and Bigger will feel that he has a voice, one that he doesn't have to use at full volume.

The cheesecake was rather lush too.


  1. I like the RAG approach - we've been trying to do something similar with ours, trouble is being consistent across 3 different adults and not getting played off against each other

  2. I think this is a great idea - it's useful for everyone to know where they stand, isn't it? I'm sure you'll find that boundaries will be constantly tested for many years to come and responsibilities will change but starting off with an open dialogue and a regular forum in which to discuss it will be very beneficial.


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