Family Relationships
When making your weekly to-do list, try to add some relationship-building activity in.

Our schools are starting today and I’m in list making mode.

  • Call Orthodontist to change regular appointments to Monday
  • Call piano teacher to move our day to Tuesday
  • Call soccer coach and beg him to schedule practice for Wednesdays
  • Work with Billy Bob to set up homework schedule and tape it to the fridge (should we both sign it??)
  • Schedule an appointment with Billy Bob’s new teachers to talk about learning styles (or lack thereof)
  • Talk with Peter about hiring an ADD coach to work with Billy Bob
  • Remind Junior to sign up for the SAT
  • Talk with Junior about setting up a schedule to study for the SAT
  • Help Suzy Q find her library card and library books and figure out how to pay off her library fine
  • Make sure everyone finished their Christmas thank-you cards

The Devil is in the Details

It’s so easy in parenting to get caught up in the details. And let’s face it; it’s these details that make the difference between a relatively smooth week and chaos. If I can only get a handle on the details, I will have the time to guide, advise, set limits, and just basically care for and protect my family. It’s my nature to corral the details into lists. My lists allow me to live in the fiction that I’m in control. Don’t knock it; for me fictional control is better than no control. And even with my lists we dance pretty darn close to the chaotic abyss of missed appointments, re-wearing socks since no clean ones can be found, and adding water to the empty shampoo bottle since no one remembered to add it to the Wal-Mart list.

I take my role as the guardian of the details seriously, but it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the business end of motherhood that I risk missing the main point. My lists are the means to an end, and for me the end is “that relationship thing” as my 14-year-old son once called it. All the guiding, advising, limit setting, and checking up on are good and necessary, but what really matters in the long run is the personal connection with my family. Without a relationship, we’ve got nothing.

How to Get Teens to Obey

I always understood this in the abstract, but it has really become apparent now that I have teens. For the most part I don’t think my teens obey because they are afraid of the consequences of being grounded or having their electronics taken away. I think they obey our rules and limits because of the relationship we’ve established with them. Oh, we have been known to take the car keys or cell phones, or cut out TV on occasion to “give them time to slow down and think about their actions without unnecessary distractions”, but I think that they mostly comply because they believe we have their best interest at heart and that we are reasonable.

Teen Screw-Ups

I don’t want to give the impression that our kids are perfect because this is certainly not the case. A year or so ago, one of our teens and a friend screwed up, and in the scheme of adolescent screw ups, it wasn’t minor. There were definitely natural consequences to his actions, and we didn’t get in the way of him feeling their full force. He had to clean up the mess, but we stood with him, not necessarily helping, but supporting. Now here’s the controversial part– we didn’t “punish” him. The other kid was “grounded for life”, and I’m sure his parents thought we were way too lenient. On some level, we worried that they may be right.

About a week later I was talking with my son, and I said that his actions affected us all because we are a unit. I mentioned that I knew others were judging us as parents because of his misdeed. I really wasn’t trying to sling guilt around; I just wanted him to realize that as a part of a family you don’t act in a vacuum. And at that, my man-sized boy started crying. He said he knew that he had hurt us and disappointed us, and that knowledge was the worst part of what he had done. In the face of that, punishment seemed irrelevant.

Establishing a connection with our kids doesn’t guarantee perfect behavior or a trouble free existence—hardly! But it’s that relationship thing that will sustain us through the hard times—the sulks and moods of middle school, the peer pressure of high school, the fire-engine red dyed hair, and those gosh-awful drooping jeans exposing a good foot of boxers. More than anything I think our kids, and me for that matter, want to feel treasured in all our imperfect glory. If we don’t capture their hearts nothing else matters.

My Revised To-Do List

So here’s my addendum to this week’s list:

  • Schedule Family Night and add frozen pizza to grocery list for Family Night
  • Start practicing Wii so I won’t get creamed in the next tournament.
  • Order movie on Netflix for us to watch on Family Night
  • Find Clue in the game closet and set on the dining room table to play during dinner
  • Make sure deck of cards are near the chairs in front of the fire for quick game of gin rummy after dinner

What do you do on a weekly basis to build relationships with your kids?

Image credit: Heather Durdil