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Ancient granny saying mildly bitchy things to my children - WWYD?


Laura Corin
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My mum lives with us.  She's trying hard to fit into the household after 35 years of living alone.  She's not a buoyant personality, but we are learning to ignore a grumpy atmosphere.  She is forgetful of facts/appointments, but her conversation is entirely rational.  She's quite deaf, even with a hearing aid.  Two conversations from today:

 

She comes in through the kitchen door and there are recycling bins in the way.  I had left Hobbes a note to take the recycling to the garage before I got home and he had done that.  She had read the note, so she knew the terms.  She said, 'Oh he did that at last, did he?'

 

She started to compliment Calvin on his mowing.  He said that he hadn't been able to mow because he had had a bad headache all day (change of medication).  She misheard and thought he said that he had not seen the note, and commented, 'I don't see how you could have missed the note'.  I explained the misunderstanding and she said, 'Oh, okay.'

 

On the one hand, I can easily explain to the boys about old people losing their filters and forgetting normal politeness.  She really resented her own mother's interference in her parenting and has always been vocal about staying out of mine, so maybe she's just losing track.  On the other hand, she is in general polite, so I suspect that she doesn't see this as interfering. 

 

What would you do?  I'm quite happy to be told to chill.  But I'm wondering if I should say something and see if it does any good.

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I think I'd just explain to the boys that it's an aspect of ageing so they don't take it personally.

 

If it started to get really caustic, I might say something just to see if it helped.  It might or might not.  :)

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I'd be irked too. That said, since your boys are both teens, I think they can probably learn to shake it off. I would make a point of giving them time and space that is granny free, perhaps taking them out for a meal or family activity more often than you might were she not there. That assumes she can still be left home alone or there is someone to sit with her so you can all have a bit of respite. I hope there is. Good luck!

Edited by LucyStoner
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In my experience, the hearing loss can make it worse.  She isn't always hearing things correctly, but she may be trying to cover it up, and so she says odd things, but is also frustrated/annoyed at her own inabilities, so that can come out as frustration with others.

 

That's my experience, anyway.  May not fit your situation, I know.

 

I would talk to the boys about it.  If they were very young it would be different, but they are old enough to understand that it's not personal, just a bad effect of aging and loss of hearing.  That does not necessarily make it easier, but it might help a little.   Elderly people do require a lot of patience, and it isn't always easy.

 

:grouphug:

 

 

Edited by marbel
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I actually did speak to her after I posted.  She said that the comments were a joke; she has said this before and then retracted when they were actually heart-felt things that she wanted to disown. There is no smile when she says these things.

 

It was good to talk though because she spoke again about how messy Hobbes is and how often she tidies up after him.  Again I told her not to do it, that we can't teach him if she does it for him.  All well now, I think, and good to clear the air.  The air won't stay clear though, because she won't remember (she had forgotten that we had talked about Hobbes' messiness in the past).  This is the woman whose house my brother is still clearing out, which is full of catalogues back to 1986!  So I don't feel the need to take her opinions of Hobbes' messiness seriously, just the spoken criticism.

 

 I talked to Hobbes and he promised to try to tidy up more.  'She gets there first!' (special pleading - he most often doesn't tidy up at all).

Edited by Laura Corin
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I actually did speak to her after I posted.  She said that the comments were a joke; she has said this before and then retracted when they were actually heart-felt things that she wanted to disown. There is no smile when she says these things.

 

It was good to talk though because she spoke again about how messy Hobbes is and how often she tidies up after him.  Again I told her not to do it, that we can't teach him if she does it for him.  All well now, I think, and good to clear the air.  The air won't stay clear though, because she won't remember (she had forgotten that we had talked about Hobbes' messiness in the past).  This is the woman whose house my brother is still clearing out, which is full of catalogues back to 1986!  So I don't feel the need to take her opinions of Hobbes' messiness seriously, just the spoken criticism.

 

 I talked to Hobbes and he promised to try to tidy up more.  'She gets there first!' (special pleading - he most often doesn't tidy up at all).

 

There's no point in trying to change her if she has dementia; nothing you explain, request, ask, etc will be remembered.  Luckily your boys are old enough to learn how to manage someone with dementia and learn not to take things personally.

 

It's going to be a challenge. Good luck! :grouphug:

 

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There's no point in trying to change her if she has dementia; nothing you explain, request, ask, etc will be remembered.  Luckily your boys are old enough to learn how to manage someone with dementia and learn not to take things personally.

 

It's going to be a challenge. Good luck! :grouphug:

 

 

You are right, of course.  Her doctor doesn't think she has dementia, however.  She just has normal memory loss of ageing.  So it's hard to pitch my response to her.  She wants to be taken seriously as an adult.  But then.

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fwiw, the type of forgetting you're mentioning sounds a bit more than normal age related memory loss. I think of that as forgetting name of an acquaintance or details of something that happened a year or  more ago. 

Not remembering recent conversations is a flag for dementia. 


 

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fwiw, the type of forgetting you're mentioning sounds a bit more than normal age related memory loss. I think of that as forgetting name of an acquaintance or details of something that happened a year or  more ago. 

 

Not remembering recent conversations is a flag for dementia. 

 

 

 

 

That's good information.  The conversation about Hobbes was about two months ago though

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I don't think it's likely that you'll be able to stop the comments. With my grandma (who could be quite grumpy) I had more success with changing her tone.

Are you ok, grandma? You sound upset.

 

That sounds patronizing typed out but I didn't think it was. Ymmv.

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She is trying hard to fit into a household. This. She needs to find her place, she is not a guest, or a visitor, now this is her home too. Boys can learn to speak up for themselves, politely, with Granny. Does she have cleaning tasks she can do to feel useful w/o taking over from Hobbes? Or is there a task or two she could do instead of Hobbes? She needs to feel useful. Good luck!

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I'd be irked too. That said, since your boys are both teens, I think they can probably learn to shake it off. I would make a point of giving them time and space that is granny free, perhaps taking them out for a meal or family activity more often than you might were she not there. That assumes she can still be left home alone or there is someone to sit with her so you can all have a bit of respite. I hope there is. Good luck!

Or, if possible, take granny out now and then so they can relax in their own house (and she won't feel stuck at home).

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We lived with my MIL for 8 months during my dh's medical crisis.  She was generally a polite person, but during that time she began really getting down on my two teen dd's. She would get mad at them for pretending to do homeschool work (? They actually WERE doing homeschool work!) instead of accompanying her on her errands, and strangely started accusing them of stealing things of hers (which they would never have done :)).  I would speak to to her about it sometimes and she seemed to understand, but would do it again the next day.  In the end I realized the best I could do was speak with my dd's and try and find humor in it and let them know it really wasn't personal, at all.   

 

In hind site we know it was when her mind was declining, which I did suspect at the time of course.

 

Also, I think it's great that you are doing this for your mother!  (inviting her to live with you)  

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Or, if possible, take granny out now and then so they can relax in their own house (and she won't feel stuck at home).

I take her out every Saturday to do whatever she wants. She also doesn't usually go to the family room upstairs, so the boys can escape there. The kitchen is the crossover point, as it takes her about 90 minutes to make and eat each of breakfast and lunch. Husband or I cook supper.

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I take her out every Saturday to do whatever she wants. She also doesn't usually go to the family room upstairs, so the boys can escape there. The kitchen is the crossover point, as it takes her about 90 minutes to make and eat each of breakfast and lunch. Husband or I cook supper.

 

This sounds so familiar!  My dd's would actually hide out in their bedroom until Grandma was out of the kitchen -- which was at LEAST 1.5 hours for breakfast and lunch.  I eventually got them snacks that they could keep and eat in their bedroom.  :)

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Try leaving notes for the boys on their phones or whatever electronic communicators they use, that way Granny doesn't see the notes on the counter.

 

Also prioritize specific areas for cleaning, such as the kitchen since it is a common area. If their beds go unmade but Granny doesn't see a mess or bins in the kitchen, that may help keep things more peaceful.

 

And hugs all around!

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She is trying hard to fit into a household. This. She needs to find her place, she is not a guest, or a visitor, now this is her home too. Boys can learn to speak up for themselves, politely, with Granny. Does she have cleaning tasks she can do to feel useful w/o taking over from Hobbes? Or is there a task or two she could do instead of Hobbes? She needs to feel useful. Good luck!

I agree! When I am that old I hope I can be allowed to be a bit grumpy. One of the perks of getting old, you can be grumpy just because you are old and when you were young you had to walk to your homeschool uphill both ways! I also agree on trying to give her something to do, her own tasks in the house. I know when my MIL comes to visit she (and everyone else) is always happier when she feels like she is contributing. It took me awhile to get to the point of letting her be able to help and not freak out because she was not doing things the way I do them.

 

That being said, I understand how it is hard for you. If, when the time comes, my MIL moves in with us, I know I will struggle. It is natural to go through a period of hardship. It is a wonderful, albeit difficult, thing you are doing for your mother. (And what a wonderful thing for your boys to experience...hopefully one day they will do the same for you!) There will be blessings as well as difficulties, if you let yourself see them. May you be strengthened and be at peace!

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I had to tell my dad that he wasn't welcome here unless he kept his snarky comments to himself, and left the boys alone. Sad. But he was mean spirited, and the boys didn't want to be around him anymore. So my thought is that you may need to have a conversation with her on a regular basis to remind her of the boundary if her memory isn't good. I occasionally have to remind my dad that the boys will not be coming around him if he is going to be difficult.

 

 

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 I also agree on trying to give her something to do, her own tasks in the house. I know when my MIL comes to visit she (and everyone else) is always happier when she feels like she is contributing. 

 

She unpacks and repacks the dishwasher in the mornings, and takes the compost out to the bin.  We have a cleaner once a week, so there's not tons to do.

 

I had a a talk to the boys this evening.  They both thanked me for standing up for them, but I explained that this was probably the last time I'd do that (unless things got really out of hand).  That their grandmother was working really hard just to maintain the level of function that she has, and that things would slip out.  They were fine with that and Hobbes asked what he could do tomorrow to please her.

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We came up with a catch phrase..."Grandma, you crack me up."   That clues me if she is pushing the bounds of politeness; she like to go after someone out of dh's hearing.

 

I play like I can't hear well, and pardon her to repeat her nutty self until she finally hears herself.  My mil is not old, hears well and doesn't mean her snarky comments in a good way though; I'm glad we don't see her often and would go mad if she lived with us. 

 

I'm not sure for your mom if you will be able to change her, but if your guys are stinging from her snarky remarks, I would try.  (How long has it been since her hearing was checked and the hearing-aids issued?)  The technology has skyrocket and I find older people who can't hear well do much better if it can be addressed positively.

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 (How long has it been since her hearing was checked and the hearing-aids issued?)  The technology has skyrocket and I find older people who can't hear well do much better if it can be addressed positively.

 

She had new hearing aids within the last couple of months.  They did improve things but not that much.  

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I've been spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to handle this with my own MIL.

 

She went from being just a debbie downer, to actively picking on the kids. They don't like being around her. Every time we're with her she says something disapproving to them, and they're good kids. They don't deserve what she says at all.

 

I don't know if she knows she's doing it, or if she doesn't care anymore because she thinks that now that she's older she can get away with "speaking her mind."

 

I honestly don't know what to do about it that won't cause a big rift in the family. I don't know how to handle these things tactfully and firmly. I'm a compliant person who can't imagine saying unkind things (though I'm sure I have by accident) and I just don't know how to shut her down. :(. I'll be keeping an eye on this thread.

 

ETA: "mildly bitchy" is a perfect description of it. Not something you can clearly jump on and say, "Wait up! That was uncalled for!" It's just those little comments that don't seem to have a good comeback that if you call someone on it, you end up looking like you're overreacting. Because one little comment isn't a big deal; it's when the comments happen a few times every time we see each other.

 

Ugh. Sorry to vent on your thread. It's just been on my mind a lot this week since we had to see them on Monday at dinner and it's all fresh in my mind.

Edited by Garga
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Would it help next time it comes up to tell her you are really proud of your boys and believe that grace rather than a critical spirit is a better way to deal with delayed chores (or whatever) and that you would like for her to enjoy them more, trust that they are doing well, and have a spirit of appreciation for who they are rather than a spirit of criticism.

 

(I should edit that terribly long run-on, but I'm not.)

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The first two examples sound really mild to me,  but it sounds like other commentary is more ongoing. 

 

Depending on how the kid takes it, I might just roll with stuff like the messy comments. I'd flat out ask Hobbes, would you prefer that we continue to work on her comments AND your cleaning, or would you prefer to let her clean up after you and make snarky comments, lol? I'm thinking of my messy nephew here; he would have been totally fine with her fussing as long as she did his cleaning. 

 

Steven, I rinsed your dishes and put them in the dishwasher, you left them in the sink again.

 

Did you do it before Mom saw them? You're awesome, Grandma!  

 

And he'd be happy as a clam and not care a bit that Grandma calls him messy, and Grandma would feel useful and appreciated and somewhat superior. They would turn it into a happy little conspiracy against the parents, lol. 

 

Obviously this only works if his feelings aren't being hurt by the comments. If he just finds it annoying, getting extra help might offset that. It won't teach him good habits, but sometimes you have to go for what's easier in the moment.

 

The other thing I do with snarky relatives, which others may not agree with, is that I allow them to be somewhat snarky in return (to repeat offenders). Or they just make it perfectly clear the criticism isn't going to affect their actions. 

 

Steven, I do not like those ripped jeans one bit! 

 

And yet, somehow, life goes on...

 

Steven, you need to clean your room today or you won't be able to open the door. 

 

Nah, I've got a good two days before that happens. My messiness is a finely tuned science. 

 

I think that having to constantly grin and bear leads to a lot of resentment and a negative relationship. Nobody should get ugly about it, but a bit of back and forth in the moment can ease tension. You can't really be close to someone you always have to be 'careful' with, kwim? 

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The first two examples sound really mild to me, but it sounds like other commentary is more ongoing.

 

Depending on how the kid takes it, I might just roll with stuff like the messy comments. I'd flat out ask Hobbes, would you prefer that we continue to work on her comments AND your cleaning, or would you prefer to let her clean up after you and make snarky comments, lol? I'm thinking of my messy nephew here; he would have been totally fine with her fussing as long as she did his cleaning.

 

Steven, I rinsed your dishes and put them in the dishwasher, you left them in the sink again.

 

Did you do it before Mom saw them? You're awesome, Grandma!

 

And he'd be happy as a clam and not care a bit that Grandma calls him messy, and Grandma would feel useful and appreciated and somewhat superior. They would turn it into a happy little conspiracy against the parents, lol.

 

Obviously this only works if his feelings aren't being hurt by the comments. If he just finds it annoying, getting extra help might offset that. It won't teach him good habits, but sometimes you have to go for what's easier in the moment.

 

The other thing I do with snarky relatives, which others may not agree with, is that I allow them to be somewhat snarky in return (to repeat offenders). Or they just make it perfectly clear the criticism isn't going to affect their actions.

 

Steven, I do not like those ripped jeans one bit!

 

And yet, somehow, life goes on...

 

Steven, you need to clean your room today or you won't be able to open the door.

 

Nah, I've got a good two days before that happens. My messiness is a finely tuned science.

 

I think that having to constantly grin and bear leads to a lot of resentment and a negative relationship. Nobody should get ugly about it, but a bit of back and forth in the moment can ease tension. You can't really be close to someone you always have to be 'careful' with, kwim?

Interesting. I have also been letting the kids be snarky back if they want to. I've never been one to think that just because someone is an "elder" they should be respected if they're being completely disrespectful. So yes, my oldest will give terse comments back when mil criticizes for no good reason.

 

I don't know if it's the best solution. I don't like any of the tension and drama that all that creates. I was raised totally opposite. My mother falls over herself to give compliments and treat others as if they're all kings and queens. I've been married for 24 years, but I feel like I still can't adjust to how dh's family is the opposite. They quietly criticize all the time.

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I disagree with the idea that old people can say mean things just because they are old.  They are still just as hurtful.   '

 

What would I do?

  1. Tell her that she has already used up her allotment of criticisms.    So, she is not allowed to criticize.  Ever again.   
  2. Give permission to your kids to defend themselves.   It might might the house tense, but mentally that will be better for the kids.   Kids shouldn't be expected to endure the torture of 1000 small criticism's or feel attacked in their own home.  If they are expected to just take it, they might start to feel they have some validity and they are crappy people.  
  3. For the criticisms that have some valid basis, ask the kids to do better.  
  4. And, yeah, communicate task requests where she doesn't see it.  

 

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She unpacks and repacks the dishwasher in the mornings, and takes the compost out to the bin.  We have a cleaner once a week, so there's not tons to do.

 

I had a a talk to the boys this evening.  They both thanked me for standing up for them, but I explained that this was probably the last time I'd do that (unless things got really out of hand).  That their grandmother was working really hard just to maintain the level of function that she has, and that things would slip out.  They were fine with that and Hobbes asked what he could do tomorrow to please her.

 

Your sons sound like lovely young men.

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My mom did this a lot over the last couple years of her life. She just said things she never would've said (my sisters and I say we are afraid of what we will be like when we lose our filters - scary).

 

I think I would just explain it to your boys, and just plan to make a comment if she says something really off-base. Every once and a while if my mom would start to go on a tangent about something she was misunderstanding, I would just say, "Mom I don't think you heard what they said correctly," or, "Maybe you misunderstood what they said. They said ... ." She was usually fine with that.

 

I am very sympathetic to what you're dealing with. My mom lived on our property and we took care of her a lot over the years, but the last couple, when she started to lose some mental faculties, were really tough. Now that she's gone though, I can honestly say I'm thankful I, and my children and grandchildren, had the opportunity to be with her as much as we did.

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I disagree with the idea that old people can say mean things just because they are old.  They are still just as hurtful.   '

 

I'm in two minds.  My parents in law started using the N word occasionally in their last years.  I don't think that they had more prejudice against black people at that point in their lives than earlier, it's just that their filters were slipping: they found it hard to hold on, from minute to minute, to what was socially acceptable.  In that case, the family reminded them, but it may not always be necessary to point out the cracks if everyone else understands the situation.

 

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I think the harder issue for us is that this isn't so much about filters slipping. Dad actually has felt this way about me, my husband, and my kids for many, many years. He has thought really mean things about us, and yes, his filter kept them from slipping out, but it doesn't change the fact that this isn't dementia related - meaning he has no control and isn't living in reality - he actually truly despises me and never liked my boys because they weren't like him, a mountain man, fisherman, hunter. He considers us "elitist" because of some our academic pursuits, because we ski, because....he is angry with us for not making the life choices he approved of and with illness and lack of filter it is all just tumbling out of his mouth. So my kids are dealing with the fact that their grandfather was always just "acting" when he seemed accepting or loving. Just.one.big.act.

 

That's really hard. Now that I see this lack of "filter" thing from the other side, I have a hard time excusing the elderly for being so darn judgmental to begin with because I am pretty certain when they were young, they would not have been tolerant of their own parents thinking those things about their parenting, their lifestyle, etc. He honestly expected us to put up with his views, but never would have tolerated them for one instant from his own parents, my grandparents. Sigh....

 

So I guess I am a HUGE advocate for boundaries that are heavily enforced. My dad now knows that from this point forward, with whatever time he has left, he better be decent to my kids or we will cut him off, and my brother told him to be decent or go to a nursing home.

 

Laura, it doesn't sound like your mom is anywhere near as severe as my dad. However, I still advocate, so that it doesn't worsen, having regular reminders of the boundaries since her memory is poor. I wouldn't want it to get worse and then have the situation become a real downer for Calvin and Hobbes.

 

I just pray that I am never like this with my own kids when I am old. I do think that one difference though is that dh and are a lot less "judgy", and not inclined to believe that our adult children should parent our way or live our way or whatever. Hopefully we won't have a bunch of negativity in our brains that need a filter to begin with...at least that's the hope.

 

My mother's mom was nice all the way to the very end. She was a more positive person to begin with, and a non judgmental person as well so I don't think she had negativity that she was harboring which probably made the difference.

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She comes in through the kitchen door and there are recycling bins in the way.  I had left Hobbes a note to take the recycling to the garage before I got home and he had done that.  She had read the note, so she knew the terms.  She said, 'Oh he did that at last, did he?'

 

 

 

It was good to talk though because she spoke again about how messy Hobbes is and how often she tidies up after him.  Again I told her not to do it, that we can't teach him if she does it for him.

 I talked to Hobbes and he promised to try to tidy up more.  'She gets there first!' (special pleading - he most often doesn't tidy up at all).

Older people don't change and transitions get harder and harder for them.  Her memory will get worse.  Learn to ignore her comments. I don't think they're severe, they're just complaining in a passive aggressive way.  Many elderly women were taught that being direct is bad.

 

Hobbes would be getting a very stern talking to and some consequences would come slamming down on him at my house. He's 16, no?  Elderly people are extremely physically frail and a fall is usually a death sentence for them.  First they fall, then they have hip surgery if there's a chance they'll live through it, then they decline slowly and miserably because they can't do physical therapy, then they live the rest of their lives bedridden and miserable. Tripping over empty bins in the doorway and his crap lying on the floor (if that's part of his messiness) could send Granny into a miserable existence.  Surely a young strapping 16 year old can get to picking things up before an elderly granny. Surely he's intelligent enough to be able to follow the potential cause and effect of his messiness being around granny. (he can do as he likes in his own space.) Hobbes doesn't need protecting; he needs the bar raised.

 

Also, granny needs to have something to do on a daily basis to keep her mind and body active.

 

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Comment #1 wouldnt bother me, unless the tone was nasty. Leaving the bins in the way would, I expect my teens to not need explicit instructions for every step of such a task. Its just common courtesy not to leave things in the way, and its a necessary job skill to not need to be told every micro step in a task, or to not ignore an assignment until a few minutes before a bigwig arrives. I would speak to teen...safety issue first, your work standard second. In my home, teens have the trash chore and are expected to notice when the bins are full and take action without my prompting, and to do the task completely - bins must be clean and put back in position, no spillage, cleaning supplies must be put away properly if used, house doors must be closed. Chores before recreation, so done right after breakfast unless its too wet to mow then.

 

Comment #2 sounds like a cultural difference is being noted-- chores done first thing is expectation, and she is seeing that isnt the case. I would post the daily chore list privately, perhaps slipping it under the bedroom door, and explain to her that chores are not first priority.

Edited by Heigh Ho
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Tripping over empty bins in the doorway and his crap lying on the floor (if that's part of his messiness) could send Granny into a miserable existence. Surely a young strapping 16 year old can get to picking things up before an elderly granny......

 

Also, granny needs to have something to do on a daily basis to keep her mind and body active.

 

This was the first time that Hobbes had been given this particular chore, so he wasn't clear about it what he should do with the empty bins. He did what I asked. His usual messiness is spacing out putting his plate away after a snack. Not a danger to Mum.

 

Mum empties and refills the dishwasher, and takes the compost out. Those are enough chores given that she naps a lot, walks every day and finds her medicine schedule time consuming.

Edited by Laura Corin
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