Would you make your bed? Please!

“Am I a bad parent? Did I fail Parenting 101? Do I need a parenting skills remedial class?”

These are some of the thoughts that came to mind while dealing with a preteen chore moment recently.

On the outside, my parenting skills as a single parent look good. My thirteen year old daughter does very well in school, she asks for little and she is courteous and polite. This is great, right? Of course it is! However, all of this means little when an action, or lack thereof, is performed so consistently that it smacks of something sickening and sinister.

Until recently, every morning, without fail, my daughter and I discussed the following speech:

Me: “Make your bed as soon as you get up.”

She is fine”.

Half an hour passes and just before checking to see if the bed is made, the speech turns into the following:

Me: “Have you made your bed yet?”

Her: (Slightly agitated) “Dad I heard you the first time!”

An hour passes and before it’s time for both of us to leave for work and school, I look in her room and make a shocking discovery. Her bed is in the same state she was in when she woke up! Suddenly and without warning the conversation changes from an exchange between two people, to one in which I could be mistaken for a crazy man on the street. Instead of a dialogue between the two of us, now I don’t realize that I’m talking to myself.

Me: (Slightly agitated as I tried to treat her with dignity and respect) “Would you make your bed? PLEASE!”

Her: Silence and no words come out. What can be discerned are low rumbling rumbling sounds reminiscent of an earthquake tremor. Meanwhile, she walks into her room and pulls the bed together as if he now she has become the enemy of all the nations that fought in all the world wars combined.

Is it me or did I miss something? If I didn’t know better, one might think that I had now become the unsuspecting enemy and his bed was a punching bag replacement for me.

Although there have been slight variations in the dialogue, this discourse has been commonplace in recent years with a constant. Even saying PLEASE didn’t make the bed quickly.

After a while, self-reflection and introspection on my part was in order. Maybe I expected too much from my daughter. Perhaps my thought of her doing this task every day without fail was asking too much. Why would you think that a child who regularly maintains a 3.75 to 4.0 grade point average, reads a minimum of three books per month, and participates in numerous extracurricular activities can handle such a task? “That’s all!” I thought. “They are my expectations of her. They are too much! Making her bed every day was more than I could handle.”

To verify my disclosure I contacted the supreme expert. My mother. Unfortunately for me, somewhere over the past thirteen years, what was once an unwavering loyalty to my mother and I was no more. Now it was my daughter and my mother who had formed the ultimate alliance. Instead of my mom rallying around me, she did the exact opposite. She now she had sided with the enemy. In fact, she told me that this was revenge and karma for all those times I didn’t make my own bed when she was younger. The exact words of her. “What goes around comes around.”

Although my mother’s new alliance wasn’t what I had in mind when I asked for her advice, it helped me see one thing. The more I waited for my daughter to make her bed, the more she resisted. Not in an overtly defiant way. She just never got around to it. A passive aggressive mode seemed to have taken over her. So I would get mad and she would get mad, then we would both get really mad about a bed!

Maybe she needed a parenting skills remedial class. She had previously learned that waiting for something to happen provides the reason to get angry when it doesn’t. Think about it. How can a person get angry unless a reason has been given first? Until I developed the expectation that my daughter should make her bed every day, there were many days when I didn’t even notice her bed. But once I waited for her to do it, I noticed it every day. Unfortunately for my daughter when she made her bed I didn’t say anything. No positive reinforcement. Why say anything when this is what she was supposed to do? However, when she didn’t make it, I got upset and had no problem letting her know.

But I had it backwards. She should have been reinforcing the positive action of making his bed and minimizing the negative when he didn’t. This new answer changed everything. As I began to reinforce her positive bed-making moments, the strangest thing happened. The more he began to make his bed! The more he minimized those moments when she didn’t make it, the more he made her bed! It was a win/win.

Reinforcing the positive was a direct result of letting go of my expectations. Now that I’ve released the expectation, the bed is much more made than it was when I had it. It hasn’t become an everyday thing, but it’s so much better. Also, I no longer get frustrated or upset because I no longer have a reason to. Fortunately for me, the stress associated with “Would you make your bed, please?” situations is now a thing of the past.

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