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

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

16. Leave instructions on the tape recorder for after school chores. Children like to hear the sound of your voice, especially when you say, "I love you, there is a snack in the fridge". When I was working outside the home, our son requested we leave the radio on low and a message on the recorder for him. He said he didn't feel so lonely coming home to a house that sounded like somebody was there. (See, you thought only mothers could dish out guilt!)

17. Birthdays mean time off from chores--all others share picking up the slack.

18. Leave reminder notes on the bathroom mirrors (the second place teenagers check when they come in the door, the first being the refrigerator). I also put large notes on the wall behind the closed bathroom door. Our friend Marilyn puts sticky notes on the phone so her 12-year-old daughter can start dinner preparations. Marilyn knows that her daughter always heads right to the phone when she gets home so she can catch up with the "news" from friends she's just left 20 minutes ago!

19. Establish a rule: three reminders to do a job and you lose a privilege. Make sure that you all agree on the consequences beforehand, and then stick to them. Do not accept "I forgot". If children "forget", or just don't do their chores, it is much more effective for them to receive a visual reminder than another verbal attack on their integrity by fuming parents. If your son is supposed to take out the garbage or clean the cat box and it isn't done, simply place it on his bed or pillow where he can't miss seeing it. Don't get roped into another verbal confrontation. When he comes to you complaining because his room smells, simply smile and say, "Oh, I assumed you like to live with the odor. It is your responsibility to take care of it." Then, just walk away.

20. Give incentives and rewards for completed jobs. Stars, M & M's, food, privileges, and adult time are just a few examples of incentives that work. It is important to note, however, that there is a difference between an incentive and a bribe. An incentive is when you offer a Popsicle when the yard work is done. A bribe is when you both know they won't do the yard work unless they get a Popsicle. Don't be blackmailed. The difference is simply in a word: "If you mow the yard, I'll give you a treat" is easy to argue down to "I want the treat now and I will (‘I promise, promise, promise!') finish the work later." In contrast, using the phrase "When the work is done, we will have a treat together" makes everything more clear and there is no room to wiggle or bargain. It is measurable, and children quickly learn that the sweet will come after the sweat.

21. Hide money that has been set aside for a family activity in a room you want cleaned thoroughly. You'd be surprised how clean bookshelves can get when there are quarters under the books. This game is fun for everyone. Just remember to note how much money you hide; we are still finding coins in our laundry room.

22. Occasionally put a dollar bill on the bottom of a game or shoe that has been in the middle of the room for some time. Whoever finally picks it up and puts it away gets the money.

23. Withhold certain privileges to make them seem more desirable. For example, you can say to a child that he can't make Jell-O until he is four years old, or that taking an inventory of the freezer is a privilege for an eight year old, or that making pickles is a job for a 12-year-old. When we hear the word "traditions" we tend to think of holidays or major events, but the little rites of passage like the ones just mentioned make great family traditions, too.

24. Make sure your child succeeds at something every single day. Well known author and talk show host Dr. Phil says our children need a hundred "attaboys" every day to counteract the negative they get just being out in the world. We need to let our children know their worth, not just as a member of the family, but as an important part of the world. We need to remind ourselves to recognize improvement and effort, not just accomplishment.

25. Criticize the job if necessary, but not the worker. A wise friend once taught me about the Criticism Sandwich, which I have modified into the Encouragement Sandwich mentioned earlier. He says to always start with a compliment, like, "I am so impressed with the way you have been remembering to take the trash out without being told." Next, correct the child: "But, I was a little disappointed that you forgot to turn your book report in." Finally, finish with a compliment: "All in all, you have shown us that you are a dependable person and so I know you will take care of the matter. Let me know if you need help." This method lets the child know you are aware of his struggle, but are confident in his ability to correct the problem; it also helps the child feel comfortable and safe coming to you for help when needed.

26. Remind the family that they are not helping Mom or Dad. This is their home, too. The less time you spend doing things for them, the more time you have to do things with them.

27. Teach both sexes all jobs. Everybody needs life skills. Life skills are the attributes needed to get along and function well in life situations. So while it is nice to play soccer, piano or Play Station, it is not something that will be necessary every day for the rest of their lives. However, making a meal, balancing a checkbook, doing a load of laundry, choosing the correct paint for a project or changing a tire are important to helping life run more smoothly. These skills will not just enhance their own lives, but will brighten the lives of those around them.

28. Use job charts, but let the kids make them. Don't forget to change them occasionally so that the idea doesn't get stale. Make sure that everyone in the family is listed on the chart or you will hear the battle cry, "IT'S NOT FAIR!" Perhaps the baby's job is just to smile and make everyone happy, but including the baby in the job chart will remind everyone that each member of the family is a vital part of the whole.

29. Establish daily personal basics. If you list every little task on a chart, it becomes overwhelming. What you are striving for is automatic action. Most of us don't have to remember to brush our teeth and wash our face at night; it is just part of a routine. The more things become automatic, the more our minds are free to explore and grow in new directions. This is true with family rules, too. The maximum workable number seems to be five, so that the parent isn't the referee or judge; family members can refer to the posted rules for clarification. For example one family has these rules:
• We show respect and kindness to one another in words, actions and thoughts.
• We keep our promises to each other and to ourselves.
• We take care of our possessions and responsibilities.
• We cooperate on family goals.
• We work on having happy attitudes.

They are general enough that most items that come up during a day can be handled by referring to one of the rules. The most important thing about this particular set of rules is that it was developed by an entire family (in this case, a single mom with two children, 10 and 7) and so everyone feels "ownership".

30. Send "happy grams" to kids in their lunches or have a balloon bouquet delivered to them at school. Take your child out for breakfast or meet at school for lunch to have some private time. Let your children know in a variety of special ways that you love them and appreciate all that they do to make the house a home.

I have always been struck by the writing of Dorothy Corkill Briggs author of "Your Child's Self Esteem" who says, "Oddly enough, many parents are sure they love their children, but somehow their youngsters fail to get the message. Some parents have not been able to communicate their love. There is a big difference about being loved and feeling loved. It is the child's feeling about being loved or unloved that affects how he will develop."

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

Previous: 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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