Posted tagged ‘childhood chores’

A private parenting workshop in a book

June 8, 2012

Image of "raising able" a book on how chores empower children, toddlers, tweens and teens to be more responsible and develop self-discipline. This adlerian-based approach to good parenting will help parents of children of all ages. Good parenting is all about good habits. Family meetings and encouragement along with family dinner and family chores are the holy trinity of good parenting of all ages of children.If you haven’t read “Raising Able” yet, this review by Bookworm Mama might persuade you to pick it up, read highlights to your spouse, and create a positive parenting plan for summer.

If you’ve read it already, re-reading it will remind you of parenting habits that need attention.

When I learned new parenting skills, it took years and re-learning. “Oh yeah,” I’d say after a parenting workshop or re-reading a good parenting book. “I need to work on encouragement. Oops, we haven’t had a family meeting in a while.” It’s easy to slide. Parenting requires diligence.

Bookworm Mama said she wanted more examples from raising my four kids. I didn’t want to brag too much in the book. My best examples are my failures and wisdom gleaned. That’s what parents enjoy hearing when I speak at workshops and conferences, because it reminds us all how difficult parenting is, and no one is perfect. It’s too big a job to fail at.

I have my share of regret and guilt — even more so with four kids. Learning parenting skills changed MY habits and taught me positive ways to steer kids in the right direction, without begging, bribery, sarcasm, criticism, praise, reward or punishment. It took more time and creativity to use family meetings, encouragement, mutual respect and natural and logical consequences.

Today I have the long view and can realize what really matters — family dinner, family chores, family meetings, family walks in the woods with the dog, playing Spud in the yard, cooking together. Simple pleasures.

I gauge success by adult-to-adult relationship with my grown kids, ages 24-31, and with their partners — a new challenge!  They call home regularly, but not for money, and live independent lives. They are following their own paths, not one I dictated for them. What more can I ask for?

chores made our family connected. family chores were a daily part of growing up. Chores taught my kids self-discipline and nurtured their self-confidence and self discipline. Positive parenting gave my kids a sense of mutual respect.

Chores developed self-discipline in my kids. Working together gave them a sense of teamwork, taught them skills and gave us greater family connectivity — the name of the game to get kids to make good independent decisions as they mature.


Power-sharing can defuse conflict in families

March 26, 2012
tweens, teens, school age, toddlers and preschoolers all need the experience of feeling powerful. Parents must learn to share power through "family meetings" "encouragement' and "mutual respect" as well as natural and  logical consequences. Power balance is important. Use chores for positive power. Avoid power struggles. there are no winners or losers, only competetitors.

Giving kids a little leeway can go a long way to make peace at home. Instead of scolding my kids for being on top of our van, I got out the camera. Children develop personal power when they can take risks, have fun and occasionally break the rules in life.

Here are some excerpts from a letter from a mother in Ireland who read my book and implemented many of the practices and an attitude of mutual respect. I added emphasis.

“Eating was a particular problem for my daughter. She is 9 years old and tiny. I, too, was a small child. Some days she did not eat enough and was hungry and angry. This was a huge worry because she is really into fashion and her paternal grandmother is depressed.

“I realize now that I was bullying my daughter and not eating my food was the only way she had of showing me her power. …She is enjoying her food without need for any further intervention. …

“I asked her early on after reading your book “Which is better, to be loved, or to be loved and needed?”

“She answered that it is better to be loved and needed. She enjoys the chores and we have bonded in a new way while cleaning the bathroom. I do the toilet and she does the bath and sink. I admire her work and she enjoys working with me.

“If I had been thinking about it until doomsday, it would never have occurred to me that this is how my daughter wanted to spend time with me. Your book gave me the idea of helping and my husband has used this stunt since then to get the kids working. They have clean bath and sink on their chore list from the meeting and when we work with them it makes it into a prestige job.

“I don’t know why it works, but it does. Prestige jobs and doing something unique to you are some of the best points in your book, I think.”

This letter blew me away because it connects the lack of personal power — a core issue around anorexia, and how to create personal power through chores. We are such flock animals, that we seek prestige any way possible, including by cleaning the toilet.

I hated sharing power with my kids. I wanted to do it MY WAY!  I didn’t like backing down from power struggles and feeling like I lost. I learned to quit showing up on the battlefield and occasionally let kids climb on the van with the hose. Some parents go to the opposite extreme and kids live on top of the van with the hose. This is too much power.

Find a happy medium to share power through mutual respect, trust a child to make decisions, listen to them during family meetings, do family chores together, and use encouragement.

Investing the time and attention in this will bring results. Parenting is not cheap or easy. It is worth the effort because it’s good for everyone.

The most you can spend on anyone is time

May 9, 2011
Thinking about others is a big part of motherhood. Mother's Day is a critical day to think about MOM and do something special for her. When our children do not think of us, we mothers can feel hurt and not understand what we did wrong to nurture such a self-centered individual.

Celebrating Mother's Day with two of my four "children," now 28 and 30.

This is a phone call I had with a friend yesterday. The names have been changed.

Mike: What are you doing for Mother’s Day?

Me: Casey and Noah are coming over. We’re making pizza together, a family tradition. What are you doing?

Mike: Kate and I may end up going out to dinner alone, unless Junior wants to come with us.

Me: How old is Junior?

Mike: He’s 23 and still lives at home. Junior always complains that he doesn’t have any money. He probably won’t get Kate anything, or make her anything for Mother’s Day.

Me: I always like certificates — like for cleaning my car, building things, or artwork.

Mike: I’ve always told Junior that we like things that he makes.

Me: Huh. (Thinking how easy and low-cost it is to make a home-made Mother’s Day Card or pick a few flowers from the yard.) Where are you going out to dinner?

Mike: We’d like to go to an Indian restaurant. But if Junior comes, we’ll choose somewhere else. He is not an adventuresome eater.

Me: (speechless. Hard to respond tactfully. It’s Mother’s Day. He’s getting a free meal.)   There must be something on the menu of an Indian restaurant that he would or could eat.

Mike: No, no. His sister is more adventuresome. He’s not. We’ll go somewhere else. IF he comes with us.

Me: Okay. Enjoy. Bye.

Mike is puzzled that his son is so self-centered. I wonder if Junior has ever done a chore for the common good without getting paid for it. This is one of many ways to teach children teamwork and to get them outside of ME-ME-ME.

Children and most people are naturally about ME-ME-ME. Which is why parents’ job is so important. We socialize human beings for life in the world with others. Our teachings take a long time to install, and last a lifetime, even beyond–to the next generation.

Mike could have said to Junior, “It’s Mother’s Day and your mother wants Indian food. We would love it if you would join us. I’m sure
you can find something on the menu to eat. If you don’t want to come, your mother will be disappointed. I hope you come. We’re leaving at 5:30 pm.”

Fathers can model how to put Mom first. Junior likely gets to choose the restaurant he likes on his birthday, and I bet Mom goes along with whatever he wants. Junior can do the same on Mother’s Day. It’s a first step to teach him consideration, a hard lesson to learn, especially at age 23.

Taking care of something else is good for the soul

April 25, 2011
Taking care of pets is an excellent chore for children. Children and pets teach self-discipline because pets need daily care. Taking care of pets teaches children responsibility because it must be done every day, whether they feel like it or not. Here, my husband and teenage daughter are washing the dog. They're also learning teamwork here. The water is SO COLD when they rinse her off.
Gonzo the dog gets a good cleaning from a father-daughter team.

Gardening can be good for the soul according to research reported by the Boston Globe today. Scientists figured out that digging in the dirt, planting seeds, weeding and even watering a jade plant is good for young and old patients in a hospital.

I think the patients feel better because they’re doing something worthwhile. Most people in hospitals are receiving treatment. They’re passive. They don’t do anything for anyone else. Gardening gets them out of that rut.
Gardening provides a plethora of regular chores, as does pet care. A human being must keep plants and pets alive or else they will die. Call it chores, jobs, work, gardening or pet care. Call it anything you like. Just set up a system for your children — starting as early as age 2 — to contribute to the greater good of the family.
Have a family meeting. Make a list of everything you do around the house and have them do the same. Compare the two lists of very different lengths! Ask the youngsters what they would like to do around the house to get some of the chores off your list and onto theirs.
Get someone to take notes. Record the jobs the children volunteer for, and post it on the refrigerator. Make sure you ask them by what time and date they will complete the jobs. Then parents must follow through with as few words and NO nagging. Point to the job that needs doing. Leave notes — “This toilet stinks.” Ask questions. Take action or don’t act.
For example, if a child neglects to set the table after one request, put the meal down on the table, sit down and wait for the utensils and plates to appear. If a child neglects to feed the dog after a question, “Did you feed Gonzo today?” Say without sarcasm, “Gonzo must be awfully hungry today.” And leave it at that.
Act, don’t yak (source: Dr. Sam Goldstein). These three words are useful in many areas of parenting.  Get off your duff and take action. Restrain or remove. Parents have the responsibility to teach accountability. It’s not easy. It takes time, patience and follow through using the magic of kindness and firmness.

Why not retire from being the house servant?

April 21, 2010
"Raising Able: how chores cultivate capable confident young people.

Read the book and retire from being the house servant, while empowering your children.

My book is hot off the presses and available for purchase.

It’s a guide to retire from being the house servant while empowering children to take responsibility and develop competence, which leads to genuine self-esteem.

I wrote the book because I watched my four children [now in their 20s] benefit from being counted on by having regular chores. The chores gave them a place to belong and feel important.

The chores were simple and age appropriate, and started as soon as they could walk. They got the idea that they mattered and they were expected to contribute to the greater good of our family, without pay or praise. They did receive allowances starting at 6 years old.

Chores teach children how to manage the details of their lives. They learn self-discipline and project management skills by being responsible for emptying the dishwasher, cleaning a bathroom, vacuuming, mowing the lawn, cooking dinner and more.

Chores counteract entitlement because it’s impossible to feel entitled when you’re responsible to clean toilets, scooping dog poop and take out the trash.

This book shows how to start them early, work beside them and use the democratic process of family meetings to plan how to work together as a team to run the house. The stories and strategies in the book are family-tested and backed up by Adlerian psychological theory and practice.

Parents will retire from being the  house servant by setting  a new tone where everyone works together for the common good, without paying children for contributing, either, except through weekly allowances.

Teen party gone awry

March 25, 2010
Imagine coming home from a dream vacation in Paris and finding flour in toilets, urine on beds, blood on the floor, holes punched through walls and ceilings, computers, jewelry  and video games stolen — some $45,000 in damages.
Parents in East Bridgewater, Mass. faced this scenario in February.
Even worse, the teen who hosted the party told police the names of the uninvited guests, who responded on Facebook  with cyber-bullying, mocking the destruction.
Situations like this give teens a bad reputation and incite fear in the hearts of parents of children of all ages.
The quote that really got me was this: “There are no consequences, and that’s why they keep doing what they’re doing.”
One of the ringleaders has a string of charges against him, but no criminal record. His parents have repeatedly bailed him so he can continue his rampage, including intimidating the host of the party who is now afraid to go to school or the prom.
The party host said he didn’t call police when the uninvited guests showed up because he feared getting beaten up.
My advice to parents is to “Prepare, don’t despair for the teenage years.”
What does prepare look like?
1. Start with having family meetings to divvy up chores. Cleaning toilets and picking up dog manure from the lawn teach a child self-discipline, humility and a work ethic.
2. Have family dinner at least three nights a week. This cuts in half the time between after school and bedtime for them to get into trouble. It is a touchstone to you and your values.
3. Don’t buy your child’s way out of every problem. If a youth is charged with larceny, shoplifting and malicious destruction of property, make him earn money to pay restitution. Do not let him pass go, do not give him $200 until he complies.
This party-turned-nightmare shows that buffering a young person from problems he creates, the behavior will escalate.
I volunteer in prisons and meet men and women sentenced as teenagers because they were caught up in the wrong crowd and made bad decisions as teenagers.
Parents can teach young people  to make good decisions.

The payoff of chores

February 15, 2010
This young man is learning his contribution to the household counts. He is developing self esteem because he can feel good about himself helping his family. He is learning self discipline and how to wash dishes. Childhood chores teach individual skills and benefit the family. They are part of a positive parenting plan.

What he's learning from washing dishes will last a lifetime. Credit: Manchester Evening News, UK

Childhood chores are making a renaissance. We started the century using children as vital contributors to farms, factories and cottage industries. We finished the century treating children like consumer and performers.

The boy at left doing dishes is learning more than just how to do dishes. Life-lessons are being absorbed, such as: his contribution is important; his family depends upon him; he needs to show up whether he feels like it or not [AKA self-discipline]; he’s small and mighty — what else is he capable of doing?

Many children live an entitled life of activity-mania  their main role is to  perform and make their parents proud.

Personally, doing dishes is a lot more beneficial than earning trophies for participation on travel soccer. A few activities are acceptable, but many families are constantly on the go, with no time for chores or the other traditional family centering habit of family dinner.

A survey of 564 people from ages 11-90 I took showed that a remarkable 87 percent had or have childhood chores. They reported that family dinner and family chores often go together. I would add a third leg to that chair: family meetings.

Democratic family meetings are useful to make decisions, divide up the housework, plan the week’s schedule, compliment each other, enjoy a healthy snack and have some simple fun together at the end. Family meetings offer children a voice and a choice. Family dinner is the glue that holds a family together. And chores are an integral part to both because children can be involved in the preparation and clean up of family dinners.

The Boston Globe West published a story on chores and cited many children today who do laundry, help care for siblings and mow the lawn and more — without getting paid by the chore. The story cited the research of Wellesley College Professor Markella Rutherford who researched chores. Rutherford found that in the last 15 years chores have made a comeback. Hurray!

The article cited my upcoming book, “Raising Able: how chores cultivate capable confident young people.” It’s being edited and will be out soon. It offers many ideas on how to have a more harmonious home and get children involved in doing their parts.