How to Help Your Fall-Apart Child…Pull It Together

Any advice for this weary mom?

She was tired, discouraged, and a little disappointed. Wondered if she was doing it right.

My friend went on to explain. Her 12-year-old daughter had been helping with the dishes since she was about three. But as their family size grew, she now had to handwash a few extra dishes, mainly pots and pans. Not too difficult of a chore.

Except that she kept forgetting. And had to be called back to the sink to do them.

And 100% of the time she threw a crying fit about it.

My friend nearly despaired.

The last thing I ever wanted was to raise kids who are spoiled – too good or too lazy to put in some work. Is this normal, kid behavior? I mean, I can understand not being thrilled with doing chores. *I* don’t love doing chores. But to scream and cry about it?

I feel like a horrible mom. Am I expecting too much from her? I know she is capable of washing the dishes, but her attitude . . . ?

Any advice for this weary mom?

Ah yes, the Fall-Apart Child.

While this can be frustrating to just about any parent, it can be especially so to the more no-nonsense mom.

Downright exasperating to a mom like me.

Yet God saw fit to give me a Fall-Apart Child. Probably so I’d be more sympathetic to all the parents out there with fall-apart children—very sympathetic.

The short answer?

Yes, it is normal. At least for the fall-apart child.

Are you expecting too much?

No, your expectations aren’t too high,  but it might take more time and effort to help this child learn to pull it together.

So if a child is struggling with cheerfully responding, the first thing I’d do  is examine the possible reasons.

*Because the original question was in regards to a daughter, I will refer to the child as “she”, but recognize the same holds equally true for a son.

Here are some possibilities:

1. She is working too much. She’s expected to do too much around the house for a child her age. It’s a burden for her. In that case, lighten her load.

2. She is not working enough. She’s become “spoiled” so that work is cramping her style. In that case, I’d cheerfully add jobs to her list. Not only does she have to do the extra pots, she can do the next meal’s dishes all by herself.

3. She doesn’t understand. She doesn’t understand or embrace the connection between her contribution to the home and the blessing it is to you and her family. You might need to help her grasp the gift that it is to her family.

Some Ways to Help Your Fall-Apart Child . . . Learn to Pull It Together:

Tie her to your apron strings. Which is to say pull her in closely by your side. Work together, play together, spend time together. I have one daughter in particular that I’ve had to do this with at age 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15. Umm…you get the idea. She just seemed to need more tying than the others.

For her, Relationship speaks more strongly than responsibility.

Take time to SLOW down. I’ve even put a halt to all extra activities and focus solely on attitudes for a period of time. Because rather than rushing off to the next event or appointment, I have the time (and patience) to get to the bottom of the attitude issue. It makes for a slow week or two, but it can sure pay off.

Get creative. Sometimes I’ll try something unusual and do things like offer to wash the dishes with her. Or even for her. Remaining calm, kind, and simply offering a gift of grace.

Communicate confidence. My daughter later confided in me that it really mattered whether I communicated if I thought she would conquer…or if I doubted if she’d ever really make it.

Confession: I had no idea that it was obvious to her how weary she made me and I certainly underestimated how strong the impact would be. She needed to know that I believed in her.

So if you have a Fall-Apart Child?

Look her in the  eyes – ignore the tears and fussing – and communicate that you are confident that she can to this and that she is stronger than she knows. Be that powerful voice in the heart and mind of your child.

And now for a word of hope to the weary mom.

Just because she’s this way at 12 (or 5 or 15 or whatever) doesn’t mean she’ll be like this forever.

I know because I’ve watched my Fall-Apart Child grow tremendously since she was 12. In fact, you’d never guess now that she fell apart. Ever. What was once her weakness has become her strength.  She can climb mountains and suffer severe trials  – without throwing a single crying fit.

And the same with your Fall-Apart Child.

She will grow and she will conquer.

She just needs your patient, steady instruction to help her find her strength.

She’ll pull it together.

With you by her side.

*Do you have a Fall-Apart Child? Or maybe you were one yourself? Please share any insights you have on what encourages you and/or your child!

In His grace,
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