5 Easy Steps for Cooperation

If I made a Top Ten List of common challenges I help busy moms solve is the common dilemma “I can’t get my kids to help around the house.”   This is a struggle and one that often we parents just give up on trying to solve.  But it is one where with some intentional thinking and inclusive language, you can get some help around the house! 1.  Help your family buy into the cause As you probably already know you cannot just expect your children to be happy and joyful about helping with duties around the house.  If you are one of the few who have children like this, what are you doing reading this?  Seriously though, if you take the time to explain what their help means to you and how it benefits the entire family you may be surprised with how their attitude ends up changing.  When they understand their help will allow the family to do more “fun” activities because you will have the time for that, or they can have friends over because the house is picked up it will make an impact.  Even if you throw in the token, “Mom will be in a much better mood” that never hurts. 2.  Teamwork and cooperation is key If you are not having family meetings yet, I highly recommend you start.  This element has played a big part in our kids feeling a part of the TEAM.  They can express their concerns and we listen.  They don’t always get their way, but they feel heard and respected.  When you are making decisions, truly take their voice into consideration, regarding vacation plans, weekend plans and chore distribution. Every 6 months chores rotate at our house, everyone always looks forward to this family meeting.  We listen to their picks for chores they would like to keep and also new ones they might want.  Our kids have learned to speak up now – it didn’t take long for them to learn if they just didn’t say anything it didn’t mean you weren’t getting any chores!  Now they know, they had better put dibs on a chore or two they would like to do because they know they will be getting some in the end. 3.  Start early and keep it simple If you have young children at home, around 2-3 years you are in the prime chore starting stage.  By giving your child simple tasks to do DAILY you are beginning a habit that will just expand.  This pattern will seem the “norm” for them.  Now, if you have older kids it will not be that much different, but you will just be subject to more bargaining, power struggles and lip service.  But hang in there; it does work if you stick with it!  Consistency is key.  Some chore ideas for age groups: Ages 3-5: picking toys up, empty laundry baskets, bathroom trash, sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, table setting, folding towels Ages 5-10: feeding the dog/cat, empty/fill dishwasher, cleaning mirrors, counters, helping with meal preparation, helping make their own lunches (yes, even at age 5) Ages 10-15: Dinner preparation, dinner clean-up, bathrooms, laundry, walking the dog, mopping floors, ironing, mowing the lawn A few key points to remember as you refer to this list of ideas:  in the beginning it is not about how well the job is done – but rather that the job is getting done and they are learning.  The job will rarely been done the same way or to the same precision as you, so you have to let it go.  You are building much more in your children by giving them your encouragement rather than criticism. I suggest you take time as your children grow older and are graduating to more involved chores to go through new ones as they do them a few times so they understand your expectations.  I would say that if you feel you must “re-do” their job because it doesn’t meet your satisfaction, never do it when they will observe you.  (For example:  I have my kids vacuum, this was a hard one for me to give up because I like it done a certain way, so when I need to have a “more complete” job than my 6 year old can give me, I will do it when they are not there.) 4.  Don’t take NO for an answer- set expectations and consistent consequences Parents often feel they don’t have the control to “make” their kids do chores or participate in household duties…..Oh how right and wrong you are.  You cannot “make” or control your kids, but you can make life more difficult for them if they choose. I am a big fan of allowing children choices, so this idea of setting up the expectation and if your child does not meet that clear expectation they know in advance what the consequence is.
  • Does your child like to play with friends?
  • Do you have other duties that need completed?
  • Does your child watch TV, play video games, have a computer, cell phone, and enjoy clean clothes?
  • These things are all privileges, not rights.
  • Consequences vs. Privileges
When you make it clear to your children that they will not receive their privileges until they fulfill their responsibilities, they have a choice to make.  For example:  We have a clear expectation that all chores are completed by 5 PM everyday, unless PRIOR permission has been given (sports, certain homework, family activity, etc).  The consequence is different for each child if their chores are not done by the set time.  They still MUST complete their chores, regardless….. in addition they will lose their cell phone, IPOD, or TV viewing for 24 hours.  Sometimes they will be given an additional chore to complete instead of losing a privilege, maybe something I have been meaning to do but haven’t gotten around to, like sweeping the patio or cleaning up after the dog. The choice is theirs and they know in advance what the consequence for their decision to not complete their chores by the expected time.  I can say that the times that we have to implement a consequence is rare and rather easy, they know there is no negotiating, it is what it is.  They have learned they cannot manipulate us into feeling sorry for them, or whine enough to change the circumstance. A few important elements here is:  Do not nag and remind your children all day about their chores, this is a learning process and in the beginning we helped them learn to manage their time to accomplish this, but once they got to a point where we knew they clearly understood this, we left them to decide when things will get done for the most part.  So this means, no reminding, no nagging, no empty threats (“If you don’t do your chores remember you will lose_________”)  You need to let it be and let the consequences work in your favor.  I have written a separate blog post on just this topic! 5.  Be encouraging Your child participating in household responsibilities is a learning process for everyone!  One of the greatest lessons is the feeling of doing a good job and putting forth great effort.  Even when the job may not be done exactly as you would like, praise the effort they have given.  This will go farther in the end and will help them take on even more challenging work in the future.  Verbal compliments are great, but even more touching are little notes appreciating them and their work and how it has allowed you to be the best mom you can be.  Comments like those are huge to a child.  By focusing on their strengths and how they have contributed to the family you likely will see more compliance as they grow older. What strategies have you implemented to encourage participation in household tasks? Susan signature       photo source    

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