Do you ever get sick of your kids complaining about helping out around the house? Or doing their homework? Or brushing their teeth? Here’s a great approach to end the battle for help and responsibility.
It used to be that every time I asked my kids to do something, no matter how small, they’d act as if I’d demanded they chop off their right arm while I held their favorite puppy hostage. Frankly, I got sick of it. Do I not do all their dishes, wash their clothes, cook their food…? Can’t they brush their own darn teeth?
Well a friend clued me in to this great approach to teaching responsibility. Once I sat my kids down and explained it, things started running more smoothly.
Here’s what you tell your children:
“A family is like a team. Everyone has their jobs to make the team work successfully. I promise to do my job, and you (the kids) need to promise to do yours. It’s how a family manages life.
The parent’s job is to provide food, clothing and life’s other necessities, a safe home, love and support, and discipline to help kids grow up to be good adults.
The kid’s jobs are to do their best in school, take care of their bodies and health, and help out where they are able to keep the house running.”
If your kids ask what reward they get for doing their job (being responsible), tell them they get to eat family dinners, wear the clothes you buy them, get your hugs when they are sad, get rides to sports practice and friends' houses, family movie times, outings to the park, etc. etc. If they want the benefits of being in the family, they contribute to being in the family.
I know this sounds a bit harsh in today’s rewards-based society. But it’s how life works. Does your boss reward you for doing the basics of your job? No. It’s your responsibility. Do you need a reward for brushing your teeth? Your reward is that your teeth don’t fall out. Did you get rewarded for doing your homework? No. You got a good education. In fact, more and more experts are pointing out that the constant rewards kids get for doing the basics in life has created a generation of kids that is having trouble coping with the realities of adult life. So do your kids a favor and teach them to be part of the team.
Now here is the great part. Kids readily take on responsibility when it becomes an expected part of their daily life. Once you set expectations, you can instantly redirect the whining and complaining with a simple statement: “You do your job, I’ll do mine. Go Team Family!”
Check out these real scenarios (meaning I've literally had these conversations in my house):
Child: But I don’t want to do my homework!
Mom: It’s your job to do your best in school. I assume you want me to keep doing my job, so you need to do yours. Go Team Family.
Why it works: Kids actually like responsibility. It may not seem so at times, but ultimately, kids want to be more grown up than they are. They want to feel the pride of contributing to something greater than themselves. Build on this natural desire for responsibility and you’d be amazed at what they can do.
Child: “I don’t want to eat vegetables”
Mom: It’s your job to keep your body healthy. If you don’t like this vegetable, what are you going to eat instead to give your body the balanced nutrition it needs?
Why it works: It puts the responsibility and choice in their court. Kids like having control over their lives. Take the battle out of meal time—give them control, provided they choose responsibility for their health.
Child: You are being so mean! I don’t want to be grounded.
Mom: It is my job to help you grow up to be a good, responsible adult. If I allowed you to act like that now, you would grow up thinking it’s ok. What do you suppose would happen if you talked to your boss like that? You’d get fired. So, I’m doing my job here to help you learn what is acceptable.
Go Team Family! Responsibility doesn't have to be a bummer. This technique can be more positive when you rally around the idea of being a team. If you're really fun, you could get a team megaphone or some pom poms that would lighten the mood when it's time to remind everyone that being responsible is all a part of being Team Family.