I am constantly asking nicely for my family to help with simple everyday chores, or just get ready for family outings. My family waits for me to wake them up, tell them what to do, and even though I tell them how much time we have, they drag their feet and I find myself loading the car and doing all the work to get there on time by myself. By the time everyone's in the car, I'm stressed and upset and they’re all mad at me for rushing them. If I just leave to be there on time, my husband gets mad at me for leaving him behind, but he lays in bed until right before we have to leave then gets in the shower. I'm left yelling at the kids to help me get everything else ready so we can leave. The kids feel like I make them do all the work their dad should be helping with, but no matter what I say or do, I'm the bad guy all around. Can you help me get my spouse and kids to be responsible?
I can help with this, but you are going to have to be more responsible too if you want to fix this. You have taught your family how to treat you, and you have accidently taught them to be lazy and make you feel guilty about rushing them. Or you may be so controlling that you have created natural resistance against whatever you try to make them do.
You may also be what we call an "Organizer," which is one of 12 psychological inclinations that all humans fit into. (If you want to read more about them, you can on my website.) Organizers have a strong need for order and control, and it can feel, at times, more important than people. If you are like this, you may need to do some work on letting go of control and loss. It may even require some work with a coach or other professional.
You are also going to have to stop shouldering responsibility for everyone’s choices. Right now you are either being a doormat or you are over-controlling, selfish and mean. You are most likely going back and forth between these two states, because you can’t get either one to work.
In order to change this behavior, you must understand the three choices you have in response to other people’s bad behavior. (There is a Boundaries Worksheet on my website that shows these in detail.) Your three options look like this:
It sounds like being on time is important to you and it’s not important to your family. You should have a family meeting and explain that you’ve been trying to make everyone have the same values and needs as you, and that’s not fair. From now on, you are going to do better to honor what they want and you are going to ask them to honor you back.
So, you will be getting up and getting ready and leave on time. If anyone wants to come with you they are welcome to, but you will be leaving at this appointed time and if they aren’t ready (you will go without them) but that’s fine too. You will be happy either way. Make sure they all understand you love and respect them no matter what they choose. Then, you do your thing, and if they are mad that you left without them, that is their choice. They are also totally welcome to get ready earlier next time, and you (again) will love them either way.
If you are going on a trip though and you can’t leave without them, you might let them choose which tasks they would like to own to get things ready and packed and you will be in charge of the rest. Let them know that you plan to leave at a certain time so you will have your stuff ready then. If they aren’t ready at that time, you have made plans to go get a pedicure or sit on the patio with a good book (or choose something that’s a real treat for you) so you will be happy and occupied while you wait for them to get ready.
If your pedicure goes long, they may be waiting for you, but let them know ahead of time this is what they can expect. Whatever you do, don’t go to a place of loss and anger, behave maturely and kindly at all times and have clear expectations ahead of time.
These are examples of healthy, love and strength based boundaries that honor your needs and are also respectful of others.
Make sure you also forgive yourself for being weak or mean in the past. These situations were perfect lessons, and they now give you the chance to look at all your behavior options and see the results each produces, which is very valuable information. Past behavior has nothing to do with your value as a person. Focus on the beautiful lesson this situation is providing you to help you grow, and let the anger go.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.