Time flies, especially when you are arguing with the world’s most determined litigator, who hasn’t even grown arm pit hair yet.
I simply don’t have time to convince and cajole each child to do their individual tasks. Especially, when all they are trying to do is stall for play time while I cook dinner… those ungrateful locusts. I try to bring about the end of argument as soon as possible.
Their primary argument and stalling tactic: “But Why?”
But why do I have to do chores?
But why can’t I go to bed without a shower?
But why do I have to flush the toilet?
First you do what I say, and then you can ask me questions.
Do you really not know, or are you just complaining?
Is there any reason I can give you that you would accept?
The “first and then” end of argument has, by far, saved me the most time. I’ve only once had to deal with a child that had the follow-through to remember to come back and ask “but why” after he was done with his task. He thought he was so clever.
The “complaining” end of argument saves me from being drawn into unnecessary teaching moments. Sure, I could go on and on about the science of germs and man’s mission to make stronger germs by eradicating the weaker ones; but let’s face it, at 8:00 at night, I’d rather them take a shower and go to bed than be smart. Sometimes I can see the struggle between appearing ignorant and admitting that he/she is just complaining. The answer is always given with a cheeky grin.
The “acceptable reason” end of argument is usually reserved for the full-on logically superior teenage Being that refuses to accept what I like to call, “reality”. This response is more of a “let’s agree to disagree” sentiment; similar to the “because I said so” decree, it drives home that sometimes the answer is just “no”. Asking if there is an “acceptable reason” might sound flippant at first, as if I just want her to give me the easy answer. What I am really doing is asking my teen to ponder different points of view. I don’t think that actually happens, though.
“End of Argument” works well for me because I will listen to valid complaints. I work with them to find a better solution.
More than a few times, a “but why do I always have to do this chore?” has been answered with, “what chore would you rather be doing?”. Occasionally, the end result is the complainer getting a more complex chore, while a younger sibling picks up the slack. As chores move up the ladder in this way, minds are occupied with something “new” for a while; and then I get to say things like, “you chose this chore, so you can’t complain about it”.
Though I used a chore scenario (I think about chores a lot – sorry), I will listen to any type of gripe that is presented respectfully, and attempt to work out solutions together with the child. I am also in the habit of explaining my plans and reasoning (short explanations, mind you). The kids behave better and cooperate more when they have an idea of what is going on, and what is expected of them. They understand I care enough to listen when things are important to them. In this relationship, their feelings don’t get hurt on those occasions where I have to shut arguments down.
I’d like to say I’m a stellar role model and as such, above crying “but why”… but I can’t. One day, when I was feeling particularly mature, I melted on the floor when my toddler demanded more milk after spilling the last of it. “But why?”, I wailed. He answered sweetly, “because I love you.” Fine – End of argument.