18.11.07

Getting Children To Help Without Paying Them A Cent

By Michael Grose

Children generally belong to their families in two ways– either through positive contribution or through self-centredness, which often shows itself through misbehaviour or helplessness.

Effective parents provide real opportunities for children to contribute to their family’s and their own well-being so they feel valued for what they bring to the family, rather than what they can take. We often call this contribution ‘jobs’ or ‘chores’, but it is better to call it ‘help’. It is just a little rebranding, but the term ‘help’ better reflects what it is about.

“What does my child do around the house that other people rely upon?” is a question we need to ask ourselves constantly.

Training for contribution and independence starts from a young age and continues into adolescence. Developmentally, children are ready around two years of age to learn the skills of independence so it makes sense to begin these habits early.

Encouraging a positive contribution is one the best ways to promote self-confidence. Parents who teach children to do jobs for themselves and provide opportunities for input into family decisions related to age, issue and interest send a powerful message that they believe that their children are capable. Actions speak louder than words.

Children are capable of doing complex tasks if we show them how. It is useful to break complex jobs into simple tasks. For instance, a young child can begin making a bed by arranging teddies and pillows, progressing to smoothing out a doona and so on.

Children will often make mistakes when they assume greater responsibility so expectations need to be in line with children’s capabilities. Parents need to accept their genuine efforts and also be supportive when they make mistakes.

It is difficult sometimes to know when to allow children to assume more responsibility for their own well-being. Parents need to continuously assess our children’s capabilities and consider letting go when they appear ready. “What am I doing now that my child can do for themselves?” is a challenging question for many parents.

To give children the opportunity to contribute at home:

1. Establish a weekly HELP roster. Lists have the advantage of placing responsibility on to children to perform the helping task – without you reminding them. Involve your children in establishing the roster.

2. Think about what you are doing for children regularly that they can do for themselves. Identify one thing and give that responsibility to your children.

3. Ask children to take prepare or help you make at least one evening or main meal a week.

4. Identify a helping task (e.g emptying the dishwasher, taking out the garbage) where your children can take turns being The BOSS for a week. They can make up the rules for that week about how the task is organised.

The most effective way to promote responsibility in children is to give them responsibility. When we give them more responsibility we are making ourselves redundant, which is the main aim of parenting!

About the Author— Michael Grose is a popular parenting expert and media commentator. He is the director of Parentingideas, the author of seven books for parents and a popular expert who speaks to audiences in Australia, Singapore and the USA. Get your free chores guide for kids when you sign up for Michael’s free email newsletter for parents and professionals when you visit http://www.parentingideas.com.au

Contributing Author for www.MyOutOfControlTeen.com

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