|Two Potential Areas For Conflict--
Conflict between you and your out-of-control child can occur:
1. When your child wants something from you (e.g., to acquire
material items, receive privileges, gain attention, avoid following
a rule, avoid doing a chore, avoid receiving a discipline, avoid
meeting a parental expectation, etc.)
2. When you want something from your child (e.g., when you
want your child to following a rule, do a chore, accept an
appropriate discipline, meet a reasonable parental expectation,
First, we are going to look at what to do when your child
wants something from you.
The Art of Saying “Yes”
When your child wants something from you and your answer is
"yes," be sure to use it as an opportunity for him/her to EARN
the privilege. Here are some examples:
Child: “I’m going to Marquis' house to play some basketball.”
Parent: “All right ...as soon as you get your chore done.”
Child: "I'm hungry.”
Parent: “O.K. Let’s cook something together, and then we'll
both wash the dishes.”
Child: “Can Shaun spend the night Saturday?"
Parent: “Yes ...but your room must be picked-up, swept and
Child: “I want to borrow the car Friday evening."
Parent: “Sure ...but first you need to wash it and vacuum the
Child: “I need some money.”
Parent: “How much ...and what are willing to do to earn it?
I only pay minimum wage for only 3 hours per week."
What if she doesn't want to do a chore before she receives a
Say, "If you don't like my suggestion for a chore, then you pick
one." If she picks one that seems appropriate, then allow her to
do the chore she picked.
Alternatively, you can offer her several options, for example:
Chore A - Put the dirty dishes in the dish washer
Chore B - Vacuum the family room
Chore C - Remove the clean towels from the drier and fold them
If she doesn't like any of the options, then say, "Do you want to
choose which of these three chores you do, or do you want me
What if she refuses to do a chore to earn the privilege she
Then she doesn't receive the privilege!
What if she refuses to do the mandatory chores?
Then she chooses to receive a consequence (see "When You Want
Something From Your Kid" - Anger Management Chapter - Session #3).
|Teenagers and Chores: Guidelines for Parents
Teenagers are at a developmental stage in life where they are
spreading their wings, stretching themselves and the limits of
their experience. They have also reached a period in cognitive
development where they are able to more fully consider
consequences of actions and are ready to exercise enhanced
levels of judgment. As a consequence, they typically prefer to
be out in the community, experimenting with their expanding
reasoning abilities and behavioral freedoms, spending their time
with peers who are also experiencing the excitement of these
developments. They often don't want to be at home, which can
represent to them the limits and the mundane routine of
childhood. Whether they have a history of performing chores
since early childhood or not, these teenagers may increase their
questioning of the rationale, necessity and schedule of chores
that tie them to home.
Given the arguments and the supervision that are sometimes
required to get some teens to finish chores, many parents ask,
"Why bother?" Be assured that the effort is, indeed,
worthwhile. Accomplishment of chores are especially important
for teens because they teach basic domestic "survival skills" that
will help the teens to successfully and competently live separately
from their parents when that time comes. This competence also
adds to their sense of self-reliance and general confidence. It
can also foster self-discipline and order, which are foundations
for successful employment. And, chores help the teens to
prepare to be responsible roommates, the first step in being
responsible and helpful community members.
Of course, teenagers are also at a stage in both intellectual and
physical development when their help can actually be helpful. As
one parent put it, "Better their young, flexible backs than my
old, brittle one." Once they are committed to the task, they can
be productive and independent workers. Their ability to reason
gives them the opportunity to suggest new variations that might
make the task easier, or at least more enjoyable and acceptable
to them. These situations also give parents the opportunity to
express genuine appreciation for their teenagers' help, in
situations where the teens can actually see the value of their
efforts and know that they've made tangible contributions. This
is possibly the most important outcome of successful completion
of chores. It not only forms the foundation for self-confidence,
but also strengthens family bonds through expression of mutual
support and caring. The importance of this outcome was
reflected in the findings of a survey of over 270,000 adolescents
across the United States. Over three-fourths of the
respondents said that appropriate and clear parental
expectations and standards for accomplishment were key to
their later success in life.
What Chores are Appropriate for Teenagers?
The chores that are most appropriate for teens are those
activities that will support their independent living as young
adults. Hopefully, most parents are building on a logical
progression of chores that have been expected of their children
since they were preschoolers or in the primary grades. Even if
you're just beginning to require chores at adolescence, you can
quickly build from simple to age-appropriate chores. In each of
the following categories, it might be helpful to think of chores in
a two-stage progression. Which chores can be accomplished at
home, and which require some means of transportation? You
can start with the former category of chores and build toward
the second group as your teen acquires a driver's license or
other means of independent transportation.
The following are some ideas of appropriate chores for teens:
Eating & Food Preparation: planning
meals, including budgeting and shopping;
cooking/food preparation; setting and
cleaning table, serving and clean-up.
House Cleaning: cleaning their own room (more on this later);
other public areas the teen uses, especially the bathroom. This
includes straightening up after using the space as well as regular
periodic cleaning (dusting, vacuuming, etc.).
Laundry: Sorting for color and cleaning requirements; washing
and drying clothes without shrinking them; folding and putting
House Maintenance: yard work; house painting; simple home
maintenance and repair; car maintenance (wash/wax, change
tire, change oil and filter).
Is Homework a Chore?
It certainly can feel like a chore, in the sense that its completion
is required, it may not be enjoyable, and it can and should result
in a sense of accomplishment. Some parents say that their
children's homework is their "work" and so excuse them from
household chores. This does children a disservice. When they
are living on their own, they will be expected to work a full day at
their job and still come home to fix meals, clean the bathroom,
do laundry, etc. Requiring them to accomplish chores as they
are growing up helps them to understand these multiple
responsibilities and to learn to balance and flexibly shift between
them. It contributes to their planning and scheduling skills.
How Do I Set and Enforce Expectations for the Quality of
First, talk over the task with your teen. Explain the standards
and why you set those standards. Do the chore with your child
the first time or two, to demonstrate technique as well as to
help establish the standard. If you feel uncertain about the
quality of the work, require that you check the chore when your
teen has completed it independently, before it is declared
"finished". One technique that can be satisfying for both
parents and children asks teens to stop and evaluate their work
once they think they are finished, before going to get a parent
to check their work. The key element is to ask the teens to look
at their work as if they are their parents, to spot any details that
they expect their parent to criticize. This works remarkably well
for many children, because it allows them to pretend that they
are "in charge" rather than "the slave." It also tends to build
pride in their work and results in a much more positive
interchange between the teen and parent.
Should I Have to Remind Teenagers to Do Their Chores?
You'd better plan on it unless you want to feel frustrated.
Teens are certainly capable of remembering a schedule of things
that are important to them. However, chores are just not that
important to them. Furthermore, they don't feel responsible for
them. After all, it's your house, not theirs! They don't feel the
same level of "ownership" in the way the house looks. This
explains why they can sometimes show impressive cleaning skills
when their friends are coming over or they're left at home for
the weekend, but don't remember the chores at other times.
For regular chores, save yourself the hassle and remind them.
Some teens bristle at this reminder, however, because they
think that they don't need the reminder. To avoid this
resentment, you might include the reminder in a general review
of everyone's schedule and responsibilities for the day, or make
a reminder/check-off sheet for everyone's chores (including your
own). Then you can present the list as a reminder for yourself,
also. Another strategy is to ask your teen to monitor the
compliance with chores for the family, including your compliance.
They feel more investment in the tasks, and you may share
more empathy with your teen when you experience their
reminders to do your chores.
Should I Pay for Chores?
Should you pair chore completion with earning allowance or
other rewards? This depends on your beliefs and values. Some
parents view paying for chores as preparing their children for
responsible wage-earning as adults. Others think of chores as
contributions to family maintenance, not a "job" for pay. Some
think of an allowance as a means to teach their children about
money management, and want to avoid confusing this with the
lessons of chore completion. And, many families establish certain
regular chores that are required without pay as family
contributions, but then also offer special, elective jobs that are
available for earning some money over and above the regular
chores. Any of these combination approaches can be effective,
so long as you form your rationale clearly in you mind and then
explain the system and rationale clearly to your children.
However, if you do give allowance, pay, or other tangible rewards
in exchange for work, these rewards should always be combined
with verbal recognition and specific, positive acknowledgement of
the accomplishments. The relationship between the chore and
the cost should be specified and must be honored. If your teen
accomplishes the task, the agreed payment should be made,
regardless of any other misbehavior that has occurred in the
interim. If the misbehavior is unrelated to the chore, then the
consequence for the misbehavior should also be separate from
the reward for the chore.
Chores and the Paid Job
Once teens get a paid job outside of the home, it is not
uncommon for their household chores to be reduced to allow
for time at work. However, it is important to maintain their
involvement in and responsibility for some chores to continue
the concept of family responsibility. Some teens say that they
would rather pay someone else to do their chores. That
certainly is an option (some adults pay others to do their
housecleaning or ironing). If your teen chooses this option,
two considerations are important. First, they need to learn to
budget the costs and accept responsibility for them. Don't allow
them "credit" to pay for someone else to do their chores, and
don't loan them money or give them extra money to either cover
this cost or for recreational activities once they're broke.
Second, maintain quality control over the chores. For example,
if they hire a sibling or a neighbor kid to mow the lawn, it has to
be done to the expectations that you would expect of your
children. Otherwise, they have to make sure the job is up to
standards, even if it means finishing it themselves.
Chores offer parents an excellent opportunity to teach basic
life skills, foster awareness and responsibility, strengthen the
foundation of family values, and build positive bonds with your
child. With patience, support and respect for your teen's
developing competence and self-determination, you can
encourage proactive self-confidence and healthy family
relationships with your child.
|Younger Children and Chores: Guidelines for Parents
Believe it or not, it's perfectly possible to be alive for 6 years
and not have any idea how to make a peanut butter sandwich.
Once you give your child a new chore, assume that he knows
nothing about how it should be done. (Anyone who has ever
watched a child “wipe the counter” by using a sopping wet
sponge to push the crumbs onto the floor will know that is not
a bad assumption to make.) An obvious benefit to teaching the
chore carefully is that eventually it will be done more or less the
way you would like it to be.
Here's how to introduce your younger children to a new chore:
· Break the job down into steps and demonstrate it. A full
vacuuming of the family room, for example, is going to involve
removing couch cushions to vacuum for crumbs, putting the
cushions back, and then switching vacuum attachments to do
the floor. (Make sure you demonstrate how to switch
· Explain the job. Why do you sort laundry by color? What
kind of soap do you use? What does loading the washer “evenly”
mean? (Nothing is too basic to explain, but don't talk down to
your teen—after all, you want to teach, not to lecture.)
· Keep an eye out for how he's doing, and compliment him
regularly and often.
· Show him where any supplies are kept. It doesn't ease
your burden (or put him in charge) if he has to come and ask
where things are.
Transcend Gender Barriers—
Also, be sure that your chores transcend gender barriers. If
you've taught your son some basic repair skills, your daughter
should be taught them as well. And your son should be as
capable with a frying pan and an iron as your daughter is. Most
families assign chores that perpetuate gender stereotyping.
Studies indicate that girls are more likely to do dish washing,
clothing care, and cleaning chores; boys are more likely to be
assigned maintenance, yard, car, and pet-care chores. (Some
kids may actually prefer chores that perpetuate the stereotype,
but be certain that both genders know how to do all chores.)
And there's a big disparity in the time spent on chores, too.
(This should be no surprise to mothers.) Girls log in 6.1 hours
weekly, to boys' 4.2 hours.
Chores Need Deadlines—
Relatively tight deadlines for daily chores, and more lenient
deadlines for less frequent chores should be implemented. On
evenings when everyone has eaten dinner together (perhaps at
7 P.M.), family members should know that dinner dishes must be
done by 8 P.M. (and you can always point out that with a chore
such as kitchen clean-up, the sooner they do it the less difficult
it is). Laundry should be folded shortly after the dryer stops to
reduce wrinkling. If your child is in the middle of something at
that point, ask him when he can do the folding (in 15 minutes?
in 30 minutes?) and set the kitchen timer to remind him.
An advantage to setting a loose deadline for weekly chores
(such as wiping down the porch furniture before Friday at
6 P.M.) is that your child can feel more freedom as to when the
chore is done and will learn a different type of responsibility. If
he does it Thursday, then Friday afternoon he can get the
weekend off to an early start with his friends.
If you're at work in the afternoon when your child arrives home
from school, you've got a perfect opportunity to delegate
specific chores with a set deadline. Your child can start dinner
or organize the house for you in the afternoon, at his leisure –
so long as it's done before you get home. Leave a checklist for
each afternoon, detailing what dinner is planned and what must
be done ahead of time.
As schedules change, you'll
need to conduct a chore review
so that family members still have
an assignment they can maintain
with their new schedule.
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|Mother and member of Online Parent Support illustrates her method for doing chores...
|Online Parent Support