A few weeks ago at church, my pastor Andy Stanley shared one of his parenting techniques. He didn’t say it was for everyone. He didn’t say it was perfect. He wasn’t really recommending it, but it still sounded good to me.
When Andy finds a mess somewhere in his house, he calls his kids to the room. Instead of telling them to clean up or fix everything, he says something like this:
“Please ask me to clean up this room for you. Please tell me, ‘Dad, I’ve created a mess that I’d like you to clean up.’ Or you can call your mom and ask her.”
Instantly, his kids get the point and understand what he’s telling them. When they create a mess they act like it doesn’t impact anyone else, so he does his best to show how their actions have consequence for everyone in the house. And a few days ago I tried this technique with my own kids to some less than stellar results.
My kids had made our playroom, or ‘dining room we can’t dine in,’ a disaster. It was hard to tell exactly what happened but I think the American Girl Dolls got into some sort of turf war with the Bitty Twins. There were doll shoes and purses and barrettes everywhere. Real street fight. I could have CSI’d the scene and figured out what happened, but it didn’t matter. I needed my kids to clean it up.
So I called in my 6 year old daughter L.E. and my 4 year old daughter McRae. I sat them down, explained to them that I wanted them to ask me to clean up their mess for them and then I waited.
L.E. looked at her sister with a face that said, “Crae, is this really happening? Is dad volunteering to clean up after us? This is fantastic.” Then she looked at me and said, “OK, dad, will you clean up our mess?” Then my wife laughed out loud.
It didn’t work. My kids weren’t phased by it. There were happy to let me clean up after them. My scared straight tactic didn’t work. It failed. But that’s OK because I know a scared straight tactic that always works and so do you – the “marriage is difficult” tactic.
It’s almost Christian law that a minister must give you the “scared straight marriage speech” during your wedding. Usually crammed between the opening comments and the repeat after me statements and hopefully not a pastor sex joke, the scared straight marriage speech is pretty simple. Here are the pieces:
1. Marriage is not easy.
2. God loves marriage so much he used it as the metaphor Christ talked about when he mentioned the church.
3. We are all witnesses to this marriage. We will collectively break you if you try to mess up this marriage.
4. P.S. Marriage is not easy.
And that’s good advice. I agree with all of it. Marriage is not easy. God is a huge fan of marriage. And we saw you, we saw you in a cummerbund, the most ridiculous piece of clothing ever constructed.
But I think it would be nice if instead of the scared straight speech people told you these kinds of things when you get married:
1. Don’t call vacuuming or washing the dishes at your home “chores.” You don’t have chores at your own house. If you call them chores to your wife things won’t go well.
2. Watching television doesn’t count as “spending time together.” Don’t try to take credit for sitting next to your husband during an episode of “Lost.”
3. If your wife or husband has a job that doesn’t allow them to go out to lunch, don’t describe the delicious lunch meeting you had in exquisite detail when you get home. “The Ahi Tuna was almost too fresh, you know? I’ve just never seen it that perfect. It was kind of intimidating it was so delicious. But enough about me, how was your peanut butter & jelly sandwich? How’s chunky peanut butter working out for you?”
4. If you have kids, don’t ever say that you “have to babysit them” while your spouse goes out. You don’t babysit your own kids. You watch them. Huge difference.
5. Make sure you don’t break into a bad cop/good cop routine. For instance, my wife is better with numbers so she was initially handling the money. But because I am dumb, I started to look at her as the bad cop. I was the fun, “spend it all on glitter and happiness” guy and she was the tyrant that wouldn’t let us spend any. Things got ugly, quickly.
6. Never, ever introduce your spouse at parties as, “this is my first husband” or “this is my first wife.” Although funny, people seem to not like that. Go figure.
7. Don’t buy your wife, who grew up in Georgia and hates snow, expensive snowshoes for Christmas. Really wish someone had told me that one earlier.
8. If your wife loves to walk for exercise, don’t one day say, “So do you think you’ll ever do any real exercising?” Speed walkers have surprisingly limber arms and will windmill them at you in a threatening manner if provoked.
9. Don’t ever call any pair of jeans your wife wears a “really nice pair of mom jeans.”
Most of those are from the perspective of a guy, but it turns out, I’m a guy. Maybe the ladies can add a few about how to treat husbands or some other guys can elaborate. A list of 9 feels very incomplete.
What marriage advice would you add to this list?
Are you single or married?