Mother vs. Father

I’ve had an especially trying week.  Rich started back to work on Monday and didn’t get home until 8:00pm Friday night.  So that was five full days with me having all the kids and doing “it all” without his help.  Everything just runs much more smoothly when he’s here.  Two parents are better than one, afterall.
Now, being the wife of a fire fighter, I will say I’m used to this doing it alone stuff.    I don’t mind being alone with the kids, really.  I can handle things just fine.  But what I’m struggling with lately is the way the kids, especially the boys, respond to me verses how they respond to their father.  There are simply too many of them for me to follow each one around to make sure they are doing what they are told to do.  If I hand someone a pile of their clean laundry and tell them to put the clothes away, I then have to add, “Put them AWAY away…not just on your bed.  Put them in the correct drawers and hang up the shirts.”   (am I the only one out there who actually has to be specific like that?  I swear, if I don’t…all the clothes end up on the bed, and then later fall to the floor, and then where do they go after that?  Right back into the dirty clothes pile!)  Even after I say that, half of the time they ignore me or forget or whatever the case…and I later find the clothes in a pile on their bed.    If I ask them to clean their rooms, they tell me “It’s clean.  I did it already.”  and then when I go to check, the room is a mess.  Then they whine and drag their feet when I call them back up to clean it.  If I see a dirty sock on the floor and tell someone to pick it up, they whine, “It’s not my sock!”  If I ask someone to help clean up the toys on the floor, I hear, “I didn’t get them out!”  or  “So-and-so played with them too!  How come he isn’t cleaning it up?”  or sometimes simply get the, “I’m not doing it!” response. When I send them out to the backyard to clean up after the day’s play, they will go out there, but nothing will get done.  They will come back inside when I’m not looking, and then later I will see that nothing had been picked up.  Then I call them all back out again to do it, and I get whining and dragging their feet, and they come back in and the job is only about half done.  If that.
Okay…but when Rich is here?  I have a completely different set of children.  When he says, “Go pick up your room.”  they run upstairs and get it done.  When he says, “Pick up this dirty sock and put it in the laundry hamper.”  the sock gets picked up right away without another word, no matter if it’s that child’s or not.  When he says, “Go out into the yard and pick up all the toys and any trash that you find.”  then they all go out and it gets done quickly.He doesn’t yell.  He doesn’t even raise his voice.   But yet they respond to him so much better than they do me.

Now, why is that?  I askt nicely the first time.  So does Rich.  But the thing is…they listen to him the first time. Me? Not hardly ever.  I have to say it again and again and then I yell.  And then it gets done.  But even then it won’t be done the way it’s supposed to be done.  That takes even more follow up on my part.  Getting them to do it is one struggle.   Getting them to do it correctly is another struggle all on it’s own.The fact is this: I cannot be in 9 places all at once.  Our house isn’t huge but it’s big enough that I cannot see into all rooms to be sure every child is doing what he or she has been told to do.  I get distracted a lot by different kids, and then those who were told to do something just won’t follow through…and I find out later that the job wasn’t done, and it’s just a cycle of frustration on my part.  What makes it worse is that Rich will come home after being gone for almost a week and will get upset at the way the house looks.  He doesn’t understand why I can’t get the kids to do what they are supposed to do.   For him, getting them to clean up after themselves or to do their chores is never a problem or a struggle.  So he just doesn’t get my frustration.  In his mind, I must have a time management problem, and that’s why the house isn’t as clean and tidy as he’d like it…because I’m not “managing” my time right.   Ha!  If only that.  That would be an easy fix.  (and hearing this critique from him doesn’t exactly put him  as my favorite person at that time, and can you blame me? when I’m trying my best to keep up around here and I have to hear that?  Please….)

So my question is this:  Do kids typically respond better to a male authority?  Do they naturally respect the man of the house more?   Or is it just ME?I will admit that Rich has a tone that clearly says  I-mean-business-so-do-as-I-say-when-I-say-it….while I suppose I have a tone that says I-am-mommy-come-here-and-give-me-a-hug.  But even when I try to sound like Rich, it doesn’t work.  When I try the no-nonsense, stern voice…they still don’t respond the same to me.

We used to have a Rottweiler named Bogie.  We had him for about ten years.  He was a great dog.  But even Bogie would listen to Rich better than he would to me.  If Bogie ran out front and I yelled, “Bogie!  Come!” he would look at me, tongue hanging out of his mouth, and continue on his way.  If Rich said the exact same thing, he didn’t even have to yell the words… that dog would cower, head drooped, and come right to Rich’s feet.

It’s not fair.

Now, my girls listen to me so much better than my boys do.  I really think that if you are going to be a single mom, even if for just a week or two here and there,  it’s best to have all girls.  I have found that boys really, really need their father around daily. DAILY! At least my boys do.  Right now what I have going on is a 4 year old boy (yes, my sweet Andrew)  who thinks it’s okay to mimick me when I tell him something.
“Andrew, please put away your shoes.  Put them in your cubby right now.”
He’ll look at me, smile, and then say, “No. I don’t want to.”
I’ll say, “Andrew…don’t tell me “no” — do it right now.”
and he’ll say, “Andrew… do it right now!” and giggle.  He might even run off, and I’ll have to chase him down.  Should I not chase him down?  is that a game that I am being tricked into?  I hate that he tells me “no”  so I go get him and make him do what I say.  Should I not be doing that?  Seriously, what do you do when kid does this?Sometimes I feel like a first-time parent.

A.J., who is 7 years old, is one of the better ones about doing what I say.  If I tell him to go tidy up the garage entry way (his chore) then 99% of the time he will do it.  He’s good like that.  Where he’s disrespectful is in his anger management.  If he gets angry at something, he will kick the wall or slam a door.  Or hit the child that upset him.  But when Rich is home? He would never do that. Never in a million years would he kick a wall or slam a door when his father is around.
Alex is 11 years old. Where I am having trouble with him lately is that he will only do his chores half way.  His job is to empty ALL trashcans throughout the house.  This means all bathroom trashes (there are 4 of them)  the kitchen trash, and the trashcan in the office.  Sounds simple enough.  But 99.9% of the time he will only do a few of them but yet claim that he has done them all.  His other job is to pick up the dog poop.  We have a Pooper-Scooper and 99.9% of the time he will leave the poop in the scooper instead of putting it into a bag and throwing it in the outside trashcan.  But when Rich is home?  He does his chores completely and correctly.  With me, I have to constantly follow up behind him to see if he did it correctly, or I find out later on in the day that he did not.  By that time, he might be outside playing or at soccer practice or something.
And Anthony? who is 19 years old and you’d think shouldn’t need to be followed up on?  Well, that kid gets to me, too.  His daily chores is to wash the kitchen floor every night, clean the downstairs bathroom, and hose down the backyard sidewalk.  Then once a week he also mows the lawn. (remember, this is an adult child who lives at home for free so that he can work and save all his money and go to school – so we don’t feel this is asking too much of him!)   What he does that drives me crazy is that unless he is told, he will not hose down the backyard.  He will conveniently “forget” to do it.  Unless he is told, he will sweep the kitchen floor instead of mop it. He will say, “Oh, well…I mopped last night.  I didn’t think it needed it again.” even though I’ve told him time and time again that it needs mopping every single night no matter if he thinks so or not (sidenote: our floor always needs to be mopped! It gets sticky every single day!)    Unless he is told, he will not do the bathroom each day, but will skip a day here and there, or just do a lazy wipe-down of the sink.  (with four boys, believe me when I tell you that bathroom needs to be cleaned everyday!)  It drives me crazy that this 19 year old boy has to be TOLD to do his chores each day.  What the heck?  But if Rich is home, it’s a different story.  When Rich is home, Anthony is getting it all done. And done correctly.  No half-jobs when Rich is home.
I’m frustrated with all of this.  I feel like it’s so much more of an effort for me to run this house because I have to work 3 times as hard to get the kids to do what I say the first time.  The kids don’t listen to me like I want them to.  They don’t respond to me like I would like them to.  Chore charts, reward charts, discipline charts…I’ve done and tried them all.  Outside of beating them all with a stick, how can I get them to mind me?

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  1. says

    Make it non-negotiable. Figure out what their “currency” is, and take it away: TV, soccer practice, computer time, whatever…when they don’t mind you. And for heaven sakes, I certainly hope the nineteen year old is working full time and going to school full time! He shouldn’t have any time to be naughty.

  2. says

    I like the way you think :)
    Yes, the nineteen year old is working just under full time hours (Home Depot…they keep him at just under full time so he won’t get benefits, but his hours are practically full time) and he’s also a full time student at our local junior college. He does help out a lot, but he won’t do it on his own. That’s what bugs both me and my husband. It’s the having to tell him that gets old.

  3. Anonymous says

    i agree with the poster above. start giving them warnings when they don’t listen the first time and let them know the consequences for not listening–and follow through with it. it might be a lot of work with all of your kids but it’s worth it to get them to mind you. after all most of the time, it’s you and them. good luck with everything.

  4. says

    Well, it works for him (your son). (To wait to be told before doing anything…)

    I don’t want to sound all negative. Your family looks and sounds beautiful. One more tidbit of advice: Our children are grown now, but my husband would always remind me that either YOU can be charge, or THEY can be in charge, which is a scary thought (And…we only had two!)

    Which do you want?

    BTW, my husband is a retired fire captain…

  5. Anonymous says

    I agree with Deb and Mike, but that hasn’t worked with my two- who are still fairly young- so if you find something that works, please share the secret…
    Most of the “problem” is they know Mom will love them no matter what and they think they must “earn” love from others…

  6. says

    Oh Katrina, I feel your pain. Lately I feel like pulling my hair out and I keep praying to the Lord to make me a more effective mother. There are times that I can repeat myself up to 7, 8 times and they’ll say o.k mom and totally ignore what was asked of them.
    I hate yelling because it stresses me out, and I’ve taken privileges away for weeks. They are definately more afraid when dad will yell at them, I just think there’s a better way and I’ve yet to figure out what it is. If you figure it out before me please tell me right away!!

  7. says

    When I sit back and really analyze things, I realize that I had much better control over my first three children. Those three would listen to me and did as I said the first time (for the most part). Four years after our 3rd was born, we our 4th and then from then on just baby after baby and wow, now there’s nine of them! LOL It’s all good and wonderful and we are so happy with our family. But the thing is, I’m much more distracted with nine than I ever was just having three. So there is not as much follow up on my part. And therein lies the problem. Kids take advantage of divided attention. They know that if I tell them to clean the upstairs bathroom….that it will be a long time until I actually go “in” to see the upstairs bathroom (because I don’t typically use that one myself) and so they take advantage and just won’t do it or will do a lazy job. Multiply this many times over in a day with directions that I give, and there you have my problem. I wouldn’t change my family size for anything, but it IS harder to keep after nine children than it is to keep after three. I know, because I can compare. I’ve been to both places, lol.

  8. says

    Katrina, I feel your pain. I agree w/ the dog story too. My hubbie and I both did obedience school w/ our dog, and yet, she still treats him as the alpha, and I’m somewhere near epsilon…

    Maybe try giving your kids their clean laundry still soacking wet. Or, serve a dinner-table filled w/ ingredients but not cooked. Tell them that you only got around to doing half of your chores, and see what the response is!

    In the long run, though, I try to remind myself when I’m just as frustrated as you are that your role in the family is the be the nurturer. The mother nurtures, and the father disciplines. We’ll be thanking our lucky stars someday when our kids (as adults) still come to us for comfort. I try to emulate the Holy Family. Do you think Mary ever nagged Jesus to pick up his sandles from the middle of the kitchen floor? Doutful. Then again, was Jesus the kind of kid to leave his sandles out? Double-doubtful!

  9. Anonymous says

    @KatieMartin- i also believe that the mother should be the nurturer but that doesn’t mean that she also can’t be listened to and respected and it sounds like with some ofthe kids, it’s a slight lack of respect. they don’t take her seriously and they should. there are ways to discipline AND nurture-without being tough or mean. it’s just about finding out what they value and using that to get them to do what you want them to do.

  10. says

    It sounds like Rish is ‘alpha-dog’ and the kids know it! Same thing happens in my house and I only have two! If I had a dollar for every time Shane said “Listen to your mother!” then I’d be a rich woman!!!

  11. says

    SO FRUSTRATING! I am so sorry. I totally get it, but not with the DAD thing. I am the one the kids listen to here. Brandon isn’t firm enough and when he gets firm enough, I freak out that he is being too firm.

    So I pretty much run the show around here. That doesn’t mean I don’t have to tell them three times to do the same thing, but for the most part, the kids listen to me.

    When I yell and freak out, it happens a few times a year, like I really flip my lid, I ALWAYS start crying mid rant and THAT is what terrifies my kids. When I just sit on the couch with my head in my hands and sob. They freak out and do a really good job at the things they are supposed to do.

    For a few weeks after, I hear the whispers, “Do it Dalin. Do you want mom to cry again?”

    Huge hugs. Brandon is gone for two weeks, so if you want to run away one night and meet for a drink, call me. I would love to run away from here!!

  12. Anonymous says

    May I respond with a little thought. I have 7 children and I have learned over time that the best way to respond to the vice of laziness/sloth is to give the child a little practice in diligence. We define diligence in our family as “See each job that I have been given as an assignment from the Lord and cheerfully doing my very best job.” if they can’t do so, then they need more practice, go mop the floor or wash the baseboard. LOL!

    I also am fond of writing verses. If a child whines about a particular task they get an immediate 5 sentences “copy,”Do everything without complaint or arguing, so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children” Phillippians 2:14-16
    If they continue to whine they get another 5 and so on until they do them.

    Or obedience problems, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1

    Teasing or causing trouble. “The fools lips lead him to strife, and his mouth provokes a beating.” Proverbs 18:6

    Or hitting or fighting. “You must all have the same attitude and same feeling; love one another as brothers, and be kind and humble with one another. Do not pay back evil with evil or cursing with cursing; instead, pay back with a blessing, because a blessing is what God promised to give when He called you. ” 1 Peter 3:8-10

    Unjustified Anger “There is no excuse for unjustified anger; it can bring about your downfall. Wait and be patient, and later you will be glad you did. Keep quiet until the right time to speak, and you will gain a reputation for good sense.” Sirach 1:22-24

    For my older kids, I will sometimes skip the sentences and just give them a verse in the bible and tell them to find it. Write down a verse but not where it is. One time it took my 13 yo 3 hours until he found it. He never made the same mistake again.

    I also have what are called nasty sticks. Popsicle sticks with nasty chores (washing out garbage cans, taking everything out of pantry, wash shelves and put everything back on, clean out all cabinets and replace neatly. Long chores that are either gross or take a long time). If my kids complain or whine about a particular chore or do it half fast, they get to pick a nasty stick.

    Just some thoughts. I love your blog. It is nice to know there are moms out there who I can relate to. LOL! Thank you.

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