101 Ways to Get Your Kids to Help at Home Part Eight

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Here is 101 Ways to Get Your Kids to Help at Home Part Eight.

91. Be consistent about what you want done and what your expectations are. If you aren't definite and sure, how can the child be? The key phrase to remember here is, "I will be firm and kind in teaching my children to assume personal responsibility." Being firm gives the child boundaries and they know what to expect. Being kind means that you do not damage their spirit by demeaning or derogatory remarks.

Earlier, we talked about separating the deed from the doer. If the trash isn't taken out as promised, then you can simply, firmly and kindly insist that the job be done. Don't give in and do it yourself, and definitely don't call him a lazy slob who always forgets. Just state the problem, and let him know what the consequence will be if the job is not completed. "The trash has to be taken out now, or you lose TV privileges for the day. Which do you choose?"

92. Don't start yelling immediately, even when tempted. Give the child a chance to explain why the task wasn't completed. Another good rule of thumb, this one from Families First is, "Get curious, not furious." Ask questions and listen to the answers.

93. Include a calendaring session as part of your family council weekly meeting. It will help the whole family to know schedules and will assist family members in recognizing when they need to find a substitute to do their chores. If they are going to be gone and it is their night to do dishes, it is a problem, but it's not your problem. It belongs to them.

This is one of the reasons why it is important to have the meeting at about the same time every week. We all do better work when we know the boundaries of the job, as well as the time frame we have to work within. If your family rotates jobs on a weekly or monthly basis that means that the job must be COMPLETELY done before it can be handed over to the next worker. If it is not done, then the child should have to do the new chore as well as complete the old one.

Deadlines are powerful motivators and they become the nag, not you. Our rule with teenagers is that the only time the bedrooms had to be clean was by 4:00 on Saturday afternoon or they could not go out that night. We agreed that we would not nag, whine, threaten or cast disparaging remarks about barnyards if they would assume ownership and make sure the room would not cause death and disease to the rest of the family.

94. You don't want a lot of rules, but it is wise to establish a set of basic family rules. Rules are most effective when they are joint decisions and have been discussed thoroughly before everyone agrees on them. Make your family rules positive. When family members have a voice and a choice, they are more likely to assume ownership of a rule and its consequences.

Discuss, negotiate, compromise and hammer out the rules and the consequences for breaking each particular rule. Vote on the rules. Make sure that everyone understands that after the rules are agreed upon and established, the debate is over.

95. Decide as a family just how clean you want your house to be. Can you live with daily pickup and deep cleaning once a week or once a month? Would it be worth it to give up cable TV and hire someone to come in and do the deep cleaning and just pick up daily? Does anyone in the family feel embarrassed when people drop by and see old magazines and apple cores in the living room? Maybe it is bothering you and no else really cares. If so, then you have the right to ask them to respect your feelings and at least try to keep the apple cores and magazines picked up.

96. Decide just what uses each room of the house has. Do you allow food in the living room? Do you allow games and toys in the kitchen? Should the laundry room be a dumping ground for items no one can figure out what to do with? Where should the incoming mail be kept? Where do coats belong? Where do you store out of season clothes? You would be amazed at how just answering these and other basic questions as a family will help resolve clutter issues. When one person sees other people's empty glasses in the sink, it is hard to open the dishwasher and put away yours. However, when you see that the sink is kept clean, except during meal preparation, it is easier to rinse and put your dishes in the dishwasher.

97. Keep schoolwork, books and papers in one central location. Even a box by the back door works. Have a location for keys, bills to be paid, needed forms, or other items, and be consistent in using that place.

98. There is no better teaching method than letting natural consequences take place. If you, as an adult, don't pay the phone bill, they cut off your service. If your child doesn't turn in his report, he receives a low grade. If there are no natural consequences, parents sometimes have to establish a logical one. Make sure that your children have a clear understanding of their actions and the consequences. We want them to comprehend that for every action there is a reaction, either pleasant or unpleasant.

There should be no question that when you ruin your sister's sweater, you pay for a new one, and, if the laundry is not done by the agreed upon time, that they may not go with their friends. Consequences must fit the misbehavior in order for it to be a teaching tool. It is frequently more effective to ask children what they think is a fair consequence rather than arbitrarily handing out a life sentence. It gives them a chance to examine the problem and come up with other solutions. It also helps them to assume personal responsibility for their choices and actions. You will be amazed at the wise answers your children will give you when you ask them, "What do you think is fair?" Or even, "This is a real problem. What should we do about it?" The easier road is to yell at them, ground them, or punish them. But that road doesn't teach them much or allow them to solve their own problems. It only makes the parent resentful and the child angry. The higher road takes a few more minutes, a calm voice and a reasonable manner, but it leaves the child with his/her pride intact and tools
to recognize how actions impact other people and things.

99. Use clear, simple instructions on the jobs you want done. Write out a job description, with diagrams, if necessary. Be sure that you break the job down into small, manageable parts. When you say, "Clean the garage" that means one thing to you and another to a child. By tailoring the instructions to your child's learning style, you will get more understanding and comprehension of what you are looking for and how they are going to achieve the desired outcome. Allow a child at least three times at doing a task before he is considered a master at it: once watching you, once doing it with you, once doing it himself with you nearby for assistance, if necessary. Until then he is still in training. Remember how long it took you to master some of the tasks at your work? When assigning tasks, try to keep them to manageable blocks of time, usually less than 20 minutes. Give the child an idea of how long it should take him the first time and let him know that as he gets more proficient it will take him even less time. For very small children the attention span and expectations need to be adjusted.

100. As parents and caregivers we need to be on the lookout and sensitive to signs of improvement. We want to recognize and compliment the children when they improve their skills. Remember, however, that what may be a big step for one child might be a small step for another, so don't compare their efforts or output. In teaching our children to work on their own, we praise and encourage them for completing short tasks and gradually lengthen the tasks and enlarge our expectations without expecting perfection.

A good way to remember how to encourage is to think about when your child was trying to learn to tie his shoelaces. It was hard to learn for some and for others it was easy. You didn't get mad at him because he didn't get it right away and you didn't keep tying them for him because you recognized that at some point he would be going to college and he couldn't wear slip-ons forever. Your encouraging words of "good job, you almost have it" and "Keep trying, I know you can do it" helped him to have the confidence to not give up.

Remember how proud he was when he finally got it? He was quick to brag about how accomplished and talented he was to tie his own shoes and soon it became an automatic action to tie his shoes and be on his way. No, he didn't mention that you had stood over him for three weeks encouraging, cajoling, comforting and teaching. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that he mastered a life skill and he feels good about himself.

101. Allow your children to assume personal responsibility for their choices and decisions. Most of us tend to blame someone else for our problems in life, largely because we have been taught that accepting self-responsibility frequently has a negative result. If we hear our children using sentences like, "It's not my fault, she made me do it" or "Everybody picks on me", we may want to re-examine our own attitudes. Have we punished them in the past for telling us the truth or assuming responsibility?

A child who spills his juice when he/she is two years old and receives a loud reprimand, or even physical punishment, believes that he is a disappointment to his parents and interprets the punishment as a rejection. Consequently, he will look for any excuse to avoid that kind of reproach, since children want our love and support more than anything. The best reaction to spilled juice, uneven lawn jobs, or sloppy floor scrubbing is to take a deep breath and then say, "That's ok, we all spill occasionally or try to do things too fast sometimes. I know you didn't do it on purpose and you will try hard to do a better job next time. Let's just get it cleaned up." Then follow that with a hug or a kiss, no matter how many times it has happened before. Children who receive glares, criticism or a smack on the bottom for mistakes soon learn to try to shift the blame on someone else or quit taking risks in life.

If you need more in-depth assistance with this portion of parenting, you may want to order Its Not My Fault! Helping your children to be non-blamers and to tell the truth (most of the time). This can be ordered online from our web site www.artichokepress.com .

So there you have it! Lots of little ideas, suggestions and thoughts about how to create a cooperative family. I hope that some of these methods will work for your family and that you will be able to increase cooperation, teamwork and responsible habits in your home.

P.S. to parents....

Relax. Bend a little! Think back to your childhood. Are your fondest memories of how shiny the kitchen floor was? Or, are they of time spent in the kitchen making cookies together? If your childhood was not ideal, don't you want more for your children? Don't you want to send your kids out in the world with firm foundation of training, love and acceptance? There are enough people out there who are eager to point out our flaws to us. If we have sure knowledge of accomplishment and success, gained in a safe, secure and loving family, then we can conquer anything.

Children don't always want or need presents. They often want and need presence -- your presence. No one can love and teach your children the same way you can. No one cares as deeply about his or her success as you do. Once more I will remind you of the mantra of raising responsible children: make it a goal to do less for your children so that you can do more with them.

A few years ago our children, who were scattered all over the world, each wrote a favorite memory of their father for his birthday. What a surprise it was for him when he read these memories. Of the six children, four of them wrote of times spent working one-on-one with their father. Can you believe it? At the time you would have thought we were the meanest parents in the North American hemisphere, but it turns out that they treasured those times spent just with their dad restoring a car, painting a rental house or starting a business. What they treasured was time spent together in an atmosphere that was relaxed and where their input and assistance was valued and appreciated. There is also something about working shoulder-to-shoulder without being eye-to-eye that encourages confidences to be shared and lessons to be learned.

We want our children to grow and prosper, but we also want some cooperation and help in keeping the house and getting chores done. Our children may very well think that our only goal is to get them to clean the laundry room and keep them from going to the mall. However, we know our goal is to raise responsible, trustworthy human beings who will be able to stand on their own two feet in life. (And, it sure is nice to have a clean laundry room.)

All of us, in learning to do new jobs, not only need to learn new skills, methods and equipment. We need determination to stick with it and gain efficiency, speed and accuracy. We all need help. The only way our children can learn good work habits is with parental assistance, supervision and cooperation. This takes much longer than simply drawing up a job chart or pasting a star on a forehead. It takes patience, patience, and more patience.

If we look at this time spent teaching our children how to work as an irritant, both the parent and child lose. However, if we look upon this time as working closely with a good friend to insure his life long success, it will be time well spent.

There is no harder occupation in the world than parenting. We receive little or no training for it, and our children try very hard to convince us that we are doing it incorrectly.

Respect is a two-way street. Parents must walk it with their children. But sharing the journey to being successful, contributing adults with someone you love is one of the real joys of parenting.

I am convinced that, as parents, we need to stop feeling guilty when we fall short of our own and others' expectations. We are all doing the best we can with the information and experiences that we have right now. The fact that you attend training sessions or buy books such as this one indicates that you are trying to do better.

Our goal should be to be a better parent today than we were yesterday, and to maintain an atmosphere in the home where mutual respect, support and love are present.

You can do it. I believe in you.

Previous:  101 Ways to Get Your Kids to Help at Home Part Seven.

Judy H. Wright is a parent educator, family coach, and personal historian who has written more than 20 books, hundreds of articles and speaks internationally on family issues, including end of life. You are invited to visit our blog at www.AskAuntieArtichoke.com for answers and suggestions which will enhance your relationships. You will also find a full listing of free tele-classes and radio shows held each Thursday just for you at www.ArtichokePress.com.

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