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

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Here is part one of 101 Ways to Get Your Kids to Help at Home.

1. Have a 17-minute pickup. It is amazing what can be done in less than 20 minutes. Set the kitchen timer and race. If you get too many complaints about setting aside a block of time, try the following strategy: Train the family to "jump up and pick up" every time a commercial comes on. (In the typical one-hour prime time TV show, 16 minutes are spent in commercials, early-morning TV has 18 minutes of commercials per hour and daytime TV has 21 minutes). Picking up during commercials will not only keep the house more orderly, but will give all the couch potatoes some exercise. A 30-second commercial can mean hanging up the towels in the bathroom, gathering the trash to one spot or dusting the bookshelf. In 60 seconds you can throw a load of clothes in the washer, lay out clothes for the next day or dust the family room. Make it a game and just see how much you can do during one commercial.

2. Divide up into teams for conversation and companionship while you work. This is especially important if both parents work, or if you have a single-parent family. The tendency is to just do the work yourself because you can do it faster and you don't have to nag about getting it done. However, you need to remind yourself that the communication that comes from doing dishes with your daughter or painting the bedroom with your son may not be there at any other time. There is something about working side by side that is a great equalizer. You are companions or co-workers as opposed to labor and management. It may be a wonderful opportunity for you to teach, but, more importantly, it may be a golden opportunity for you to learn. Don't give advice. Just listen.

3. Change roles for an evening, parent as child and child as parent. You may be surprised to hear how you sound to a youngster.

4. Switch assignments. In one of the hints discussed later I talk about everyone contributing 30 minutes a day toward home maintenance (ten minutes before school, ten minutes after school and ten minutes before bedtime). We occasionally would set the timer for five minutes and then rotate the daily chores. It was a scramble to run to someone else's room and finish the bed before the timer went off.

5. I am a strong advocate of family councils or planning sessions. Families that run smoothly usually have a consistent time that is set aside to visit, share and plan. It is good to have a weekly teaching focus. For example, have a Making your Bed week or a Doing the Laundry week. Have one of the children do a presentation for the rest of the family on the correct way to do a task. Encourage the use of visual aids such as posters or diagrams. (Our daughters did this for a 4-H project and it was a wonderful learning tool for the whole family). As a weekly focus, your family might choose hair care, dental hygiene, changing the oil in the car, or planning and planting a family garden. If you are interested in how to set up a successful family council or roundtable, check out the report on my website www.ArtichokePress.com.

Family Councils That Work
A family meeting or council is a regularly scheduled gathering of all family members. Its purpose is to make plans and decisions, set goals as a family, provide encouragement and have fun together. This is a good place to discuss household chores and upcoming activities. It is also a great place to try out new skills in a safe environment. This is a time for family communication and respect. It is not a time for conflict, criticism or complaints. In a democratic family, decisions that affect the entire family are made cooperatively. Begin to hold meetings on a regular basis when you feel your relationship, as a parent with your children, is one of mutual respect and honesty.

A typical family council might be held on a Sunday night from 7-8 with plans for playing board games afterward. Some families hold theirs over breakfast in a restaurant. Every family is different, but there needs to be at least one hour a week where it is just "our time". That means no friends, telephone, TV or interruptions of any kind. It is a special time to really cement strong communication lines with each other and to reinforce how special each family member is to the whole.

Guidelines for Family Council
1. Meet at same time each week.
2. Treat all members as equals.
3. Everyone gets heard. Use a talking stick.
4. Use "I" statements.
5. Use an agenda so you stick to issues.
6. Take turns being in charge and handling different assignments.
7. Recognize all the good things that have happened all week.
8. Praise the actions of all family members.
9. Respect privacy-never single anyone out or embarrass him or her.
10. Keep it under an hour and end with refreshments and a fun activity.
11. Keep a record in notebook, so the family knows what they agreed to do.

Pitfalls for Family Council
1. The only time you meet is during a crisis.
2. Some people dominate the conversation.
3. Lack of respect for one another by interrupting or name-calling.
4. Focusing on complaints and gripes.
5. Only talking about problems.
6. Allowing yelling.
7. Not making decisions.
8. Not following through with decisions.
9. Not keeping to time limits.
10. Focusing on the negative.
11. Embarrassing or picking on one member of the family.
12. Giving up too easily. It takes time to build respect, harmony and cooperation. The end result is worth the energy it takes to establish a good habit.

Next: 101 Ways to Get Your Kids to Help at Home Part Two

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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