Moms are, generally speaking, ridiculously optimistic creatures. After all, if we didn’t have the ability to look at a difficult situation and assume it would all turn out okay, most of us probably wouldn’t have tried to raise kids in the first place!
As the kids grow up, we become optimistic about other things— like when we set simple household rules and expect our children to follow them. Well, we expect they’ll follow the rules eventually, after they’ve been hammered into their little brains repeatedly (or they grow up, have kids of their own, and realize in retrospect how right we were all along.)
In that glorious moment when we witness our children finally putting one of our rules into practice, we assume they’re following them for all the right reasons. Because why wouldn’t they? You’ve explained the reasons for the rules four bazillion times.
Except you are totally wrong and kids always have their own very special agenda. So the next time one of your little ones actually follows one of your rules, go ahead and pat yourself on the back. Just know that they have their own reasons for complying that probably don’t have anything at all to do with the reason you made the rule in the first place.
Let me demonstrate…
Rule #1: Wash your hands before you eat
Why You Think They Do It: They want to have clean, fully sanitized hands to avoid spreading germs, of course!
Why They Really Do It: They want to see how many quarts of liquid soap they can squirt into the sink before you yell, “Hey, what’s taking so long in there?”
Rule #2: Say Please and Thank You
Why You Think They Do It: You’ve taught them good manners.
Why They Really Do It: Asking nicely means they are more likely to get dessert and screen time.
Rule #3: Wear a coat when it’s cold outside
Why You Think They Do It: So they’ll be warm.
Why They Really Do It: So they’ll have a sleeve to wipe their nose on.
Rule #4: Share your toys
Why You Think They Do It: They grasp the spirit of friendship and generosity.
Why They Really Do It: They just licked that particular toy, and it didn’t taste good.
Rule #5: Don’t draw on the walls
Why You Think They Do It: They respect your property.
Why They Really Do It: They’re not finished drawing on their little sister’s face with a Sharpie yet.
Rule #6: Chew with your mouth closed
Why You Think They Do It: They’ve finally mastered the table manners you’ve been teaching them.
Why They Really Do It: They don’t want you to see that the last forkful of vegetables went in their napkin instead of their mouth.
Rule #7: Put your boots on when it’s raining
Why You Think They Do It: They want to keep their socks dry.
Why They Really Do It: They want to look like Peppa Pig.
Rule #8: Make your bed
Why You Think They Do It: They are beginning to value tidiness and an organized environment. Plus, they know it will make you happy.
Why They Really Do It: They need to hide the extra toys under the covers that they’ve been sneaking into their bed to play with after lights out.
Rule #9: Be quiet while Mommy’s on the phone
Why You Think They Do It: They understand that you can’t carry on a conversation while they’re making noise in the background.
Why They Really Do It: They’ve snuck off to dump the contents of your purse into the cat litter box while you’re distracted.
Rule #10: Rinse your plate off after dinner
Why You Think They Do It: They realize the importance of helping with household chores.
Why They Really Do It: They can “accidentally” douse a sibling with the sprayer attachment.
Rule #11: Take out the trash
Why You Think They Do It: They are really stepping up their responsibilities around the house.
Why They Really Do It: They broke one of your prized possessions/ate a candy bar/got a bad report card/etc; etc; and want to get rid of the evidence before you see it.
Rule #12: Don’t jump on the couch
Why You Think They Do It: Safety.
Why They Really Do It: It’s more fun to jump on your bed.
Rule #13: Put Dirty clothes in the hamper
Why You Think They Do It: They know it makes it easier for you to do their laundry.
Why They Really Do It: It’s way easier than folding things and hanging stuff back up. In fact, half the clothes they stuffed in there are clean.
Rule #14: Brush your teeth before bed
Why You Think They Do It: They’ve really internalized what the dentist said about cavity prevention and healthy gums.
Why They Really Do It: The longer they brush their teeth, the more they can stall bed time.
Rule #15: Clean your room.
Why You Think They Do It: For the satisfying sense of accomplishment, and so they might be able to find their favorite toys the next time they go looking for them.
Why They Really Do It: LOL, no kid has ever really cleaned their room; they just play with the first thing they unearth from the pile in the corner and then shove everything under the bed when they hear you coming.
This post was written by Robyn Welling. To read more from Robyn, visit Hollow Tree Ventures.
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