How many times a day to I tell the kids "just don't do it"?
Oh, I don't know. Four million six hundred seventy eight thousand and six?
That sounds about right.
Examples of why it's pointless:
Mini-Dahl flops down on the couch, then stands up on it, then manages to lose all ability to control their legs and jumps/flops/slumps down on the couch.
Me: Please don't abuse the furniture.
Mini-Dahl: Okay. (Does it again)
Me: By abusing the furniture, I'm including the (grand hand gesture) whatever it is that you are doing right now.
Mini-Dahl: Do you mean sitting?
Me: (takes a deep breath) Noooooo...I mean the flopping thing you are doing. And please don't stand on the couch. What are couches for?
Me: Yes, sitting. What isn't sitting?
Mini-Dahl: (blank look) ummm......
Me: Jumping, flopping, standing......
Mini-Dahl: Oh. (stands up and flops back down on the couch or lays on the cushion and puts their feet up on the back rest - aka the reverse-sit)
Me: (walks down the hall and resists urge to bang my head on wall)
::sounds of bickering::
Me: (walking into the room) What's the problem?
Mini-Dahls: (absolute chaos of noises and words and indignant responses to siblings' accusations)
Me: Whoa! One at a time, please. Tucker, you go first.
Sara: Whhhhhyyyyyyyyyyy doeeeeeeeeeeessssssssssssssss heeeee alwaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyys geeeettttttttt to goooooooooooooo firrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrst?
Me: Because he doesn't whine as much.
Sara: Whaaaaat???? I donnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn'ttttttt whhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
Me: sure you do. You are doing it right now.
Sara: You're MEAN! (stomps off)
Me: Okay, what happened?
Tucker: Well, I was sitting there not doing anything to anyone and then Sara came over and started telling me what to do...
Me: Wait - what do you mean she was telling you what to do? How can she tell you what to do if you aren't doing anything?
Tucker: I know, right? But she was all bossy and telling me what to do.
Me: What did she tell you to do?
Tucker: I don't know but Sara is SO BOSSY. She always bugs me.
Me: And when she bugs you, how do you handle that?
Tucker: I tell her to go away and leave me alone.
Me: Has that ever worked with Sara?
Tucker: No. And it's VERY annoying.
Me: I'm sure. But don't you think that you should try a different approach if the one you've been using isn't working?
Tucker: MOM! You don't UNDERSTAND. Sara is ANNOYING. And she won't leave me alone.
Me: I do understand. But we all have to live in this house together. And that means if something isn't working, it may be a good idea to change your strategy.
Tucker: MOM! (gets really frustrated) She just won't leave me alone!
Sara: ::stomping back into the room:: Stop talking about about me!!!!!!! I hate it when you talk about me!
Me: Sara, if you are bugging Tucker and he wants you to stop, what can he say to you to make you stop?
Sara: Nothing. There is nothing he can say. Because I am not doing anything wrong.
Tucker: SEE!!!!!!! SEE WHAT I MEAN!!!!!!
Me: ::sighing loudly:: Tucker, you may have to learn the art of walking away, my friend.
Me: Sara, you and I are going to have to have a private conversation about appropriate behavior.
Sara: Oh, great.
Me: Sara, when Tucker asks you to leave him alone, why won't you do it.?
Sara: What do you mean?
Me: ::releasing a long, slow breath:: When Tucker tells you that you are bothering him, why won't you find something else to do?
Sara: Because I want him to play with me.
Me: Don't you think you'd have better luck asking him nicely to play with you?
Sara: No, not really.
Me: By getting him upset, you realize that he's even less likely to play with you, right?
Sara: No. If I keep asking him, he'll finally do it.
Me: Is that really how you want your relationship with your brother to work? You annoy him until he gives in, and then he has no patience with you while you are playing because you've bugged him into playing with you.
Sara: I don't care because he's playing with me.
Me: I'm not...I don't...
Sara: ::pats my leg:: It'll be okay, Mom.
Me: No, honey. It's not okay that you pester him into doing what you want.
Sara: well you keep bugging us about stuff. Like, all the time.
Me: I do have to tell you to do or not to do the same things all the time.
Sara: See! You do it too.
Me: It's an entirely different thing. I'm asking you to complete your responsibilities or to not destroy the house.
Sara: Whatever. It's still bugging us until we do it.
Me: I can see that it seems that way, but you want to know what?
Me: I'm the parent and Dad and I are the reason you have a place to live, food to eat, and clothes to wear. In exchange for your agonizing, unfair life with us, you need to pitch in. And the pitching in we expect you to do will make it a lot easier when you live on your own someday. But you have a point about the bugging you to do stuff. So from now on, let's say I ask you one time - which I shouldn't have to do because you know what you are supposed to do and not supposed to do - and after than I'll do it and just fine you for doing it. I'll keep a tally sheet and at the end of the week you can pay me out of your allowance.
Sara: You don't pay me an allowance.
Me: We do, you just don't get it until you do all your chores without having being made to do them by me or by Dad.
Sara: Oh. Right.
Me: So then on Friday, instead of getting an allowance or not getting an allowance, you'll have to cough up some money to give to us.
Sara: what if I don't have any money?
Me: Then you'll have to pay us in labor. Uncomplaining labor.
Sara: So I'll have to do the chores anyway?
Me: Pretty much.
Sara: I can't wait to grow up.
Me: That's what I thought at your age too, honey.