What This Is Like from Your Perspective

You are completely on board with letting your kids help out more around the house, but when you try to make it happen, the kids don’t do what you ask!

You ask them to clean their room, and they don’t listen until you yell or threaten to take things away.

You ask them to put away their laundry, but the piles are still sitting on their bureau days after you ask.

You ask them to set the table, but it’s dinner time and they’re still complaining about the fact that you asked them to set the table.

You have run out of tools, and you’re not sure how to get them to do what they’re supposed to do.


What This Is Like from Your Child’s Perspective

For so many years, you’ve done most hings for your kids — the cleaning, the laundry, and the table setting. And now, when you ask them to do those things, they don’t want to. And unfortunately, they’re missing many of the tools we adults use to do things we don’t feel like doing.

They don’t have as much life experience as we do to know that if things don’t get done, life will be chaotic.

They don’t have the ability to break up big tasks into smaller pieces, so “cleaning their room” seems so overwhelming that they simply…don’t start.

They don’t have the strategies (that we adults often use without realizing it) to get through monotonous tasks that they don’t feel like doing.

So they resist ANY time they know there might be a loophole. Because until they have the tools to do what they need to do, they’re going to resist doing what they need to do.



How It Usually Goes When We Focus on Kids’

Behavior Rather Than Teaching Tools


Scenario: Landon’s mom asks him to put away a pile of his laundry. When she gets back to check on what he’s done, the laundry isn’t put away and Landon is playing. 

Mom: Landon! I asked you to put your clothes away! And you’re playing?!

Landon: Mom! I did put clothes away.

Mom: Then why are there still so many in that pile?

Landon (getting defensive): I did SOME!

Mom: That’s not enough. I didn’t ask you to do that much… Just put a few things away.

Landon (whining): But it’s hard!

Mom (annoyed): Hard? You know how. I’ve seen you do it before.

Landon: Why do I have to do it?

Mom: Who else is supposed to do it? I can’t do everything for you. You need to learn to do things on your own. Please put your shirts away.

Landon: Can’t I do it later?

Mom: No, Landon. Now.

Landon: Let me just finish this one thing!

Mom: Landon, we don’t have time for you to finish that one thing. We have to LEAVE! And I still have to get your brother dressed!

Landon: Why are we always rushing? You’re always telling me we have to go somewhere and you’re getting mad at me. Even Dad says so…

Mom notices Landon’s distraction techniques but doesn’t know what to do. She can’t seem to motivate him to put the clothes away.


How It Could Go If 

We Focus on Teaching Kids Tools

Scenario: Landon’s mom asks him to put away a pile of his laundry. When she gets back to check on what he’s done, the laundry isn’t put away and Landon is playing. 

Mom: Landon! I asked you to put your clothes away! And you’re playing?!

Landon: Mom! I did put clothes away.

Mom: You’re right… I see there are a couple of things put away. And then what happened?

Landon: What do you mean?

Mom: Well…now you’re playing. (Laughs.) Did you get distracted by that game?


Landon’s mom wants Landon to put the laundry away. She also knows that if she gets upset with him, he’ll only become more defensive and shut down (rather than doing what he’s supposed to). So instead of focusing on his behavior, which will make her more angry, she focuses on staying in control of herself.

Landon (sheepishly): Yeah.

Mom: I know that when you see something else that’s more fun, it’s hard to do the “boring” thing, isn’t it?

Landon (quietly): Yeah. Sorry.

Mom: I get it, kiddo. Sometimes when I’m supposed to be doing work, I get distracted by my phone buzzing… or anything else like that.


Landon’s mom wants him to see her point of view so that he’ll act more responsible. She also knows that if she wants to motivate better behavior, she’ll have to see HIS point of view. 
She also knows that seeing his point of view will help her understand what tools he need to act more responsible.​

Landon: Really?

Mom: Yeah. (Pauses.) But my work still has to get done, right?

Landon: I guess.

Mom: And the laundry still has to be put away. So do you know what I do when I think I might get distracted?

Landon: What?

Mom: I promise myself I’ll give myself a break if I just do a little work. Not a break that’s going to make me forget what I was working on. But something that makes the boring thing not seem so long. Should we try that now?


As much as Landon’s mom respects his perspective, she does NOT change her boundary. Instead, she gives Landon the tools he needs to do what he has to do. ​Because she connected and understands what’s preventing Landon from doing what he’s supposed to, she’s able to give him the tools to be successful.

Landon: Yeah!

Mom: OK, how many shirts can you put away before you need a break?

Landon: Five?

Mom: OK, five shirts. Then do five jumping jacks.

Landon: Ohh, I can do the same number of jumping jacks as the number of clothes I put away.

Mom: Good idea. I’m going to give you a challenge… You do that, and I’ll come back in 5 minutes, after I dress your brother, to see if you got it all done. OK?

Landon: Yeah.

Landon starts putting his shirts away.


What To Do Proactively to Make this

In-the-Moment Scenario More Likely


Landon’s mom was able to balance FIRMNESS (maintaining a boundary) with RESPECT (understanding his perspective and giving him tools) when dealing with Landon’s behavior.

Proactive actions will make all of the difference in whether you are able to stay calm, connect, and correct behavior effectively.


You are more likely to  be able to stay CALM if:

a.) your biological or emotional “needs accounts” are met (otherwise you won’t have a reserve to draw from and you’ll immediately go into Yuck) and

a.) you recognize and respect that your kids have have a different perspective and agenda than you do, and that their perspective and agenda matter.

When you make sure your own needs are met and you set realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, you are more likely to be able to stay calm.


You will only be able to CONNECT if:

a.) you respect that ALL behavior has a reason and

b.) you understand those reasons (in this case, that Landon’s brain is wired for engagement and he got distracted by something more engaging than putting clothes away),

When you become comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, you will be able to connect more effectively.


You will only be able to CORRECT behavior if:

a.) You have demonstrated consistently in the past that you mean what you say when you set a boundary like “It’s time to put your clothes away.”

b.) You have made enough deposits into your kids’ emotional needs that setting a boundary doesn’t put them immediately into Yuck.

When you demonstrate that you mean what you say and when you make deposits into your kids’ emotional needs PROACTIVELY, you  will be able to correct behavior more effectively.