. Your Way, My Way, or the Right Way?
One challenge in many homes is knowing when something has been done the right way. Often, especially when the home contains more than one person, there is “your” way, “my” way, and (somewhere in between) the “right” way. Conflict often occurs when one person reviews what has been done and determines it hasn’t been done the “right” way (which is really his or her interpretation of “my” way). This may happen when the bathroom is used for a shower or bath, the dishes are done, or even when someone comes home from work and school.
The Conflict of Coming Home
Let’s talk about one common conflict in apartments, condos, and homes: Coming home from school or work. Usually the person coming in the door has his or her hands full of items. It might be purchases from errands run on the way home, a coat worn because of the rain, today’s mail, or a backpack and papers from school. Depending upon the individual, there might be items strewn from the front door clear to their bedroom door as the individual “unloads”. Sometimes it is left this way for some time.
The Best Way to Come Home
Some people unload everything on the kitchen counter and walk away, others might make it to the bedroom, unload everything on the bed, and then leave. Whatever is done by one individual will usually be contrast to another’s more expedient way of coming “home”. You see, the first person is “home” as soon as they have unloaded on the most convenient surface. Picking up and putting the items away is not part of coming home for them. For the second person, coming “home” begins with putting the items down to free their arms, but doesn’t end until the mail is put in individual mail slots, the purchases are stored in their proper place in the cupboard, and the coat is hung up in the closet.
Decide Upon Standards
When these two individuals live together, there will always be someone unhappy. Either the second individual cleans up after the first, which causes conflict. Of, the second person doesn’t clean up the after the first, which still causes conflict. So, if this is an issue in your home, decide what the standards will be, decide what the timing will be, and then set the consequences.
A Case Study
I will share an example. Tom and Julia have been married for two years. They both work full time. She comes home about an hour after he does. Whenever she walks in the door she can tell if he is home because the errand list is on the kitchen counter, the purchases are on the kitchen table, his coat is on the couch, and the mail is half read on the end table. Wow! What a challenge!
Carrie and Joel have a different problem. They have been married for just a couple of months. He comes in after her from school. She comes home from work and walks straight to their bed where she unloads. He is glad the front room is always presentable for company, but can’t find his way through his bedroom because there is today’s mess, yesterday’s mess, and last week’s mess here and there in piles around their bed as the each day’s stacks are moved from the bed to the floor and stay there.
Again, Set Standards
Can these challenges be solved? If so, how? Setting standards! Yes, sitting down, reviewing the item in question, and deciding as a couple, as roommates, or as a family what are the acceptable standards will be for that job. It is helpful to examine the most workable solutions considering the situation, letting each party fully express their opinion. As conclusions are reached, remember that setting standards includes:
1) WHAT WILL BE DONE,
2) WHEN IT WILL BE DONE, and
3) WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF IT ISN’T DONE.
The standards which will be used can be WRITTEN down and POSTED for convenient review whenever that ” job” needs to be done again. You see, when WRITTEN standards are set, then there is less conflict because everyone knows the rules of the game. While this will be a give and take situation between adults, it can be a positive learning experience for children as they live with consequences they agreed to beforehand.
So, what is to be done? Talk, decide, set standards, set timing, set consequences, and WRITE IT ALL down. Just for fun, may I share what Tom and Julia decided:
Tom: I will usually be the first one home. I will hang up my coat in the closet. I will put the mail in the basket on the end table after I have read it for Julia’s perusal and to keep the room neat. Then, before she gets home, I will also put away my purchases away so her first view of our apartment will one of order. If Julia comes home and there is a mess, she will simply say, “Tomahawk”, my first reminder. Then, if I don’t clean up right away, I will do the dishes for her that night.
Julia: I will be the second home on most nights. I will not complain about Tom’s mess (if he has left one). I will just make sure I have clean up myself, softly say “Tomahawk” in his ear, fix dinner, and then get the night off from the dishes if he hasn’t cleaned up.
I know you are thinking this is somewhat elementary. Most conflict resolution is. But if a couple, or roommates, or a family are to get things done the “right” way, they must set effective standards, clarifying WHAT IS TO BE DONE, WHEN IT IS TO BE DONE, and WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF IT ISN’T. To tell the rest of the story, about one week into this new “coming home” standard, Tom was very much ready to put his items away as soon as he returned home. He had already done the dishes three times too many!
So look at your family life, pick something which seems to cause constant conflict and have a meeting. Describe the problem, suggest solutions, let everyone give their input, set standards, timing, and consequences. WRITE everything down! Then watch the magic happen! You will be amazed at the changes which are possible as you implement “THE RIGHT WAY” standards into your own family life.
Find more helpful ideas in the “House of Order” Handbook.
Photo from sxc.hu. Used with permission.