For those of us frustrated by what we consider laziness or ingratitude in our kids, we should stop and consider their point of view:
It is the natural worldview of childhood that the planet, together with all the adults on it, revolves around them.
And it is the natural responsibility of parents to gently correct that assumption.
Our STEP parenting approach advises us to take advantage of the innate desire of children to be involved in group activities, to “play house”. When our kids are little, it seems like more work than it’s worth to actually recruit their help with any household task. We tend to shoo them away, to engage them with toys or TV or another “parallel” activity that gives us liberty to get things done.
And it works well in the short run, until they reach an age when they really could be of use and suddenly we’re demanding their help. Well, they may rightly think—you got along well enough without me all these years. Why are you bugging me now?
Reasonable enough. But there are good and plenty reasons to engage our children in everyday household activities. To wit:
1) We get annoyed after a while, constantly doing chores for our kids that we know they can competently handle.
2) We have enough to do, anyway!
3) Kids need to feel that they are a vital part of the life of the family—it adds to their sense of belonging, which in turn fosters their sense of confidence and self-worth;
4) A family is a group that works best when everyone is pulling in the same direction;
5) Doing even tedious chores together can be enjoyable bonding time, and as a side benefit improve communication; and finally
6) How else will they learn the basic tasks of independent adult living? They need practice at this, like any other skill.
This is often a tough one for parents, especially perfectionists, who like everything done “just so” and hate to delegate tasks. It’s especially hard in families where domestic help seems to take care of most chores.
No matter. Find things kids can take responsibility for. Spend some time thinking about and compiling all the things that need to be done to make a household run smoothly. Hold a family meeting to discuss, and use a job jar or volunteerism to assign tasks. Make it clear that it is not a “top down” regime but a family working together. We talk about this more in the STEP workshop; it’s easier than it sounds.
Kids should have responsibilities in the family just as the adults do.
Learning to manage money—allowances-- is one of them. More on that next time—