By Amy McCready, Founder of PositiveParentingSolutions.com and author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic.
Three simple steps can be the start of tidy rooms without bribes, nagging, or hand-outs.
Ever feel like you’re fighting for your child’s attention against a huge host of distractions (think Legos, binge TV or the latest Instagram updates) and not necessarily coming out on the winning side? Now, toss in an expectation that kids should actually CONTRIBUTE by way of helping at home – heaven forbid! If you’re like some parents, you may be tempted to throw in the towel – after all, isn’t is just easier to do it ourselves rather than face the complaining and negotiating? There is hope however and it doesn’t require magic – though it might feel like it when you see the results.
Getting your kids to clean their rooms and help around the house WILLINGLY doesn’t have to be – well, a chore. In fact, if your goal is to raise kids that DON’T feel like they are entitled to everything, including having you act as their personal wait staff, then it’s time to put some serious un-entitling parenting tools in place. What it takes is a little language fine-tuning, a powerful shift in attitude and behavior, and some practice.
Let’s take a look at three steps that can make a difference in YOUR home:
- Watch your LANGUAGE. No, I’m not talking about THAT language; we all know to be mindful there already, right? I’m talking about removing the word chore from your household commentary and to-do lists and replacing it with the word contribution, or more specifically, family contribution. The difference? How it makes your kids feel. Think about it. The word chore conjures up the idea of burden, work, and the exact opposite of fun. The word contribution, on the other hand, is empowering (something kids need anyway) and makes them feel like they have influence, they make a difference and they’re part of the larger team. As a team, when everyone contributes and pitches in – the house runs more smoothly, things get done faster and there’s more time, energy, and resources to have FUN together.
- Let them know you NOTICE. Let your kids know the impact of their contributions and what it means to you. The truth is no one likes unloading the dishwasher, sweeping a floor, or cleaning out a toy chest – but when your kids notice that you NOTICE it changes everything. Let them know their efforts make a difference, such as, “Hey, you really helped out the family tonight. Now we have extra time to play a game, go for a bike ride, bake some cookies, etc.” It helps kids connect the dots – and feel significant. It also means you’ll have fewer power struggles and better cooperation and that’s a win-win you can count on.
- Let routines RULE. Let me share one of my favorite tools from the “Un-Entitler Toolbox” of my new book, The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic – A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World. The tool is called Let When-Then Routines be the Boss and it is amazingly simple yet effective for young kids through teens. This tool puts the ROUTINE in the role of negotiator. Here’s how it works: Structure your child’s less desirable tasks to occur before those things that are very desirable. At the same time, let kiddos know you’re not there to wait on them hand and foot and with privileges (those things they want and want to do) come responsibilities (family contributions). For example, “When you finish your daily family contributions, then you can have phone time.” Or, “When you finish folding and putting away your laundry, then you can enjoy your 30 minutes of TV time.” Now, after clearly communicating your When-Then, (and here’s the key) – leave the room or do whatever you need to do to block out the protests or negotiating that’s sure to follow. Then, stick to it. Eventually, your kids will not only get with the program, they’ll get a boost of significance when they finish the task and can access the privilege.
Like any shift in mindset and behaviors, putting these tools in place takes time, practice and patience. When you feel that shift take root in your home, it will not only be rewarding in the NOW, but you’ll set the stage for your kids to grow into hard working, contributing adults. And here’s a bonus – they’ll learn valuable life skills they’ll need to take care of themselves and their OWN family down the road. (Seriously, no one wants a 30-year-old who doesn’t know how to do the laundry or make a sandwich—or worse, feels like they are ENTITLED to have someone else do those things for them—right?) That’s great news – well beyond tidy beds, sorted socks, and swept floors, wouldn’t you say? Good luck and happy parenting!