Every time we do anything, they are offered a choice. What TV show should we watch? What should we have for snack? To the park, or to the library? Should we take our bikes, the wagon, or walk?

Every time, three voices pick something different. If one says the park, someone else says the library, and a third wants to just stay home. One wants to bike, one wants to scooter, one wants to just stay home. One wants to have a playdate at our friends’ house, one wants the friends to come over to our house, one wants to be a hermit and see no one, ever. One wants spaghetti for snack, one wants to “help” me make muffins, one wants to think about it for another hour or so.

Do you think they do it on purpose? Are they trying to assert their personality and independence by picking the opposite of their brother and sister? Is this what sibling rivalry looks like?

I can’t get involved. To side with any one of them results in someone gloating, others sulking. Mom always picks you! Mom likes me better! Mom never gives me my way! Mom! Mom! Mom!

So I usually tell them they must sort it out amongst themselves, or we can’t do anything. Find a way for everyone to be happy, and leave me out of it. But that’s almost like siding with the one who wants to just stay home – if we can’t compromise, then “do nothing” wins. There’s no happy solution.

In the end I have to be the one who takes a stand. I’ll tell one of them they can have their way, and the others will get a turn next time – and everyone is invariably upset. Rare is the day when we can get all the way through with us all making the same choices. Forced compromises are the norm.

Why do I even bother to offer them options? I want us to be a Family Democracy, but Dictator Mommy works better for everyone. If only I had a big enough personality for that – Idi Amin I am not. I’m not even a Stephen Harper. I’m more of a Joe Clark. I just want everyone to get along. FOR ONCE.

More than anything, I need to choose to take charge. Consensus is not an option.

This post is for Brie’s series of Mommy Moments over at Capital Mom. This week’s theme was choice.

17 thoughts on “Consensus

  1. CapnPlanet

    Frankly I like the idea of letting them work it out themselves, and I do this whenever I can. It frequently doesn’t work out, but I think exposure to the idea is still useful and my hope is that they’ll take it more seriously as they get older.

    1. Me too, I think this is the ideal. It actually worked suprisingly well when they were a little younger. Recently though Gal Smiley (who is the Great Compromiser) has started digging in her heels a bit, and while I can’t fault her for standing up for herself for a change, it’s hard when they butt heads purely for the sake of butting heads.

      I’m still committed to letting them work it out as much as possible, though. I think it’s really important and worthwhile. Plus, then I don’t have to get involved!

  2. I want to be helpful, but I got nothing. It’s raining again and I’m full of snot and I desperately need a haircut and my husband’s whining about all the cancelled baseball games because of the rain and my foot hurts and did I mention the rain? You could flip a coin if you’d stopped at two kids (that’s totally why I stopped at two kids).

  3. When it comes to TV shows, my general rule is “NO TV AT ALL unless you agree”, and sometimes it actually works! Sometimes.

    1. CapnPlanet

      Heh – yeah, if it matters enough to them, they’ll find a way to come to an agreement. Kids are very resourceful that way (sometimes…).

      1. I used to think that – that they’d work it out rather than do nothing – but lately they’ve been happier to just say, FINE, NO TV THEN. Which I guess is okay. But seriously, children, you will NEVER win that Pulitzer Prize for negotiating peace in the Middle East this way.

  4. It is such a fine line. We want our kids to be involved but sometimes having them involved just makes everything more complicated.

    That is exactly how I feel about dinner around here. Sure family dinners are a great idea, but when it involves me having to listen to my kids complain about the food (even if they helped to make it) I’d rather just eat after they go to bed.

    I really have no suggestions. But I totally get where you are.

  5. My boys are currently in the “I’ll pick the opposite of what you want to aggravate you phase”. And they’re only 3 and 5. I didn’t think it would be this complicated this early in their lives.

    1. EXACTLY. They do it just to be contrary, don’t they? I have long suspected it. Hopefully there will be lasting lessons in negotiation that pay off when they are 12 and 13!

  6. You could do rolling the dice – with 3 kids one kid gets 1 and 2, another gets 3 and 4 and the third gets 5 and 6. Let the chips fall where they may! Sometimes you can divide and conquer. Or else they can take turns being “in charge”. But really, it’s a real-life world lesson for them in negotiating and influencing. And a real-life world lesson for you in flexibility – when to be the benevolent dictator (which, rumour has it, is the most effective form of government) and when to be the consensus-builder and when to just get the hell outta the way. 😉

  7. I really like the idea of letting them work it out themselves. I’ll have to save this post for a couple years down the road 🙂

  8. When ALL else fails (and it usually does) we rely on drawing straws. I’m always amazed at how they respect The Straw more than my *helpful* suggestions and how the “loser” solemnly accepts their fate. The Straw has spoken, I must accept the outing to the park.

    1. Also good – see Lisa’s “rolling the dice” idea above. I’m really impressed that this works. I am definitely going to try it.

  9. Mine have to sit together and come to something they can both agree on. I stay out of it. For things like family fun night, we write out on the calendar who’s turn it is to pick what we do. That seems to work out well.

  10. I like the political analogy at the end! LOL.

    Perhaps you could say, o.k. today we’re doing what Captain wants to do, tomorrow we’re doing what Gal Smiley wants..etc.

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