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Q. I can't get my kids, 8 and 14, to do anything to help me around the house. I have to nag, nag, nag, then when they do it, they do it badly and I have to do it over. Like loading the dishwasher in such a way that half the dishes don't fit in. I work a full time job and I need them to help. How can I get them to do a good job, preferably without being asked ten times?
A. Employ what is known as in the world of parenting as "Grandma's rule" which is "when kids complete certain tasks, then they receive certain privileges."
Tell your children that they each are expected to complete three chores daily. The tasks can include loading the dishwasher, emptying the dishwasher, feeding the animals, emptying the garbage, putting their laundry away and setting the table for dinner. Then tell them for these tasks, they earn their weekly allowance plus the use of the TV, computer, telephone, your chauffer service, and the freedom to invite friends into your home. Needless to say, if they don't complete these tasks on time as you require, you'll begin to withdraw these privileges.
Keep in mind that your children may choose to lose the privileges. They may retreat to their bedrooms, not completing the tasks and not using these services you provide. You're really offering them a choice, so be sure you can live with the possibility that they won't complete the tasks and will forgo receiving these benefits.
In time, they'll most likely come around and do the tasks you expect. Until they do, you must hold your position with a kind but firm attitude.
Also realize that you must offer friendly reminders. Offer them in one word statements such as "dishwasher," "garbage," or "laundry". Give three reminders for each task and then start withdrawing privileges. Don't expect perfection, just a reasonable completion of each task.
Each day your children have the opportunity to begin anew, completing their chores and earning certain privileges. As time goes by you may need to make adjustment to this plan; just keep in mind that your goal is for your children to complete these chores daily but that reminders are necessary.
Lastly, brace yourself for a barrage of complaints. Your kids might say: "It's no fair." "You're just a dictator." "You're a control freak." "What am I, your servant?" These comments you can't control. But you can control the TV, computer, telephone, money you provide, and the friends you welcome into your house.
If they turn angry simply say, "You can be as mad as you like for as long as you like, but I can't allow you to talk on the phone until you've emptied the garbage, put your laundry away and fed the dog." A little household misery in the short run will pay off for the long run. You must brace yourself for the challenge.
Try your hardest to not cave in and whatever you do, don't throw your hands up in exasperation, turning emotional yourself. You must remain clearheaded and matter-of-fact as you hold your parenting ground with respect to these chores; the rest of the time do your utmost to exude a cheery and nurturing attitude toward your children.