Not My Monkey, Not My Circus; Thoughts on Parenting

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by Angela

Have you heard this popular saying? “Not my Monkey, Not my Circus?” It is my new favorite quote!! Have you said that saying in regards to your parenting? Maybe your kids are your monkeys and your home is your circus!! Uh- oh!!! Let’s talk about how to parent your monkeys!!

As children grow physically they continue to be able to handle more and more responsibility. Babies need everything done for them, but as they they grow they can and often want to do things themselves. I hear a lot of moms who wrestle through how to get their children to clean up their toys, get their chores done in the morning, and stay on task when doing their homework.  Many moms have shared the battle is often wearisome and seems like an area that will never change.

When I had young children I read the book On Becoming Childwise: Parenting Your Child from 3-7 Years by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam. In the book they shared the best concept along with a great visual picture. They wrote how parents  take responsibilities and control of things that really belong to our children. They called that “Taking the monkey on your back”.

Here’s the principle: “Taking a monkey on your back” is when the mom carries someone else’s responsibilities on themselves.monkey 2Monkeys can be cute at first. But have you ever tried to hold a monkey? Well I haven’t either- but I can imagine. They would be wiggling and constantly crawling all over you. Have you felt that in your parenting? In trying to get your kids to do what they need to? Getting them to do those tasks is about as easy as holding a wiggly monkey. And by the time your children are teenagers,  the teenage size monkeys have turned into full grown gorillas! Yikes!

Here is an example:

The mom is in freak out mode… ranting, yelling [it’s one of those mornings]… her kids aren’t doing ANYTHING she told them to do – even though they already arranged a chore list for the kids! She’s exhausted, frustrated, can’t seem to ever be gone for a second and you know what else??? She’s carrying the monkey’s on her back!

Sound familiar? Your kids are happy with the arrangements of Mom remembering everything. They are happy to hand you all their monkeys if you will take them! So does it have to stay that way? The good news is no it doesn’t! You can stop carrying around the monkey.

How to drop the monkey:

Use one of these phrases: “Do you have the freedom to” (go outside because your homework is done)? OR, “You have the freedom to” (eat breakfast once your bed is made) OR, “You don’t have the freedom to” (run in the store.)

Here’s what these phrases do – they set the boundaries of what is expected.

Eva diapers 2

Laura’s “delight” helping 🙂

When you start using these phrases the first few days will be critical in establishing the boundaries. By following through on this stage you have not invited the monkey back to your lap. By asking if the child has the freedom instead of listing the chores out it funnels the full responsibility to the child.

What happens if the child answers yes to a freedom when they really don’t?

One, be redirected to do the chore. Two, they lose the freedom to do what they wanted to do. Three, the child has been disobedient so deal with that in the way your family has determined.

Recognize it could be the child’s desire to not want to take responsibility but would rather have Mom tell them exactly what to clean up. Hand that furry monkey back to them with a smile and reset the limit.

Couple Last Minute Thoughts:

Lead by example. Do your chores and responsibilities before you move into something else. Children learn by watching!! Try asking yourself, “Do I have the freedom to (sit down right now)?”

If your child is old enough to be able to pick up his toys after he is done playing, and yet still struggling. Consider that he has too many toys. Do some cleaning out and keep the toys manageable for them. If they are younger children that are just learning this stage. Begin cleaning up the blocks yourself leaving a reasonable amount and say, “You have the freedom to go outside once you put these blocks away”.

By using the same Freedom Phrasing, it is clear to the child what is expected. No yelling/nagging from Mom needed. When you are out and the child is getting wound up, telling them, “They don’t have the freedom to run here” is going to be a clear directive. Setting limits before you start something, “We will have the freedom to go to the park this afternoon, once we do our errands happily” will set the tone for what you expect.

John and Kids

Here are my “delights” way back in 2001.

Biblical Principle: Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old her will not depart from it”. I like how the Message reads Proverbs 19:18 “Discipline your children why you still have the chance. Indulging them destroys them.”

So you really can say, “Not my monkey!” about your parenting. This IS your circus though mom. You are the Ring Master!

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