Showing Kids That Parents Are Not Furniture

"If Mama Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy".

We've all heard this saying, in some form or another.  It's been written on t-shirts, wall plaques, and refrigerator magnets.  In fact, I think that certain scholars are still debating on whether or not it was written on the original tablets that Moses carried down from Mt Sinai.  And in many ways, it's the absolute truth, because Mama's happiness has a trickle down effect on the rest of the family.  A happy mama bakes brownies, and offers cool lemonade to your friends on a hot summer day.  A happy mama sings upbeat oldies while wiping down the shower walls, or is that just me?  Anyway, the point is that a happy mama generally lightens the mood of the whole household.

But what about Daddy?  When the king comes home to his castle, after a full day of swinging his sword on the battlefield (otherwise known as his job), the last thing he wants to hear is the heirs to his kingdom bickering over the remote control.  Or complaining about not having the latest I-gadget.  Again, this is where that trickle down effect comes in.  A happy mama has the potential for the making of a happy daddy, if you know what I mean (wink wink nudge nudge).

So, how do we bring about all this happy happy joy joy?  It starts with a happy marriage.  Everybody knows that a happy marriage sets the stage for family bliss.  This is not a new concept.  But it doesn't matter how many times you hug or kiss in front of the kids, or the cutesie little terms of endearment you use.  In the end, most of the time, kids see their parents like... furniture.

Like the couch, you are always just there.  You are a soft place to land when the day was harrowing.  You are a comforting accompaniment to the evening entertainment.  And generally, you take up space in the room, so it doesn't feel so empty.  Let's not forget your obligations as an appliance.  You are the refrigerator, the dishwasher, and the washing machine.  You provide necessary and appreciated services, and they just can't even grasp the concept of living in a world without you in it.  But let's face it... even if they know exactly who invented you (Grandma and Grandpa), they rarely ponder how you came to be what you are, with all of your modern features.  They have no idea what it takes to maintain your full functionality on a regular basis.  All they really know is how to fluff your cushions (butter you up), and push your buttons (drive you crazy).

Now, how to get the younglings to view us as human beings, with needs, wants, and lives of our own, that have nothing to do with them.  I'm not saying that our children don't mean the world to us, just that they are not the center of our universe.  Here's what a family therapist suggested to me:

1) Don't drop what your doing to go help them with a task that they are more than capable of completing on their own, depending on their age.  Tell them you'll be happy to assist them, if they still need it, when you're done with what you're doing, and not a minute before. 
2) Don't let them interrupt your conversations.  Especially when you're on the phone, and it's so easy to put your hand over the receiver, to see what they're bugging you about.
3) Do a "date night".  It doesn't have to be a restaurant or a movie theater.  Date night could mean the kids go to their rooms for a couple of hours while Mom and Dad snuggle on the sofa, with Netflix and some microwave popcorn.  The enforceable rule is: nobody bothers us!
4) Go to McDonalds, the park, the museum, or anywhere else that they would love to go... without them.  They need to see that you have the right to enjoy these things too, in your own way.  They'll get their chance, but this one is yours.

These examples are small steps to teaching kids to love and respect their parents as people, not just need them, like furniture and appliances.  Nothing makes for a happier Mom and Dad, like genuine love and respect. 

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