What This Is Like from Your Perspective
As much energy as your kids take, they’re not the only thing that take energy in your life.
You also have to keep up with so many other things — including the daily maintenance of your home. So when you ask your kids to help out and…
…they pretend they can’t hear your request
…they make everything into a negotiation or power struggle
…they help out but complain and whine the whole time
You become resentful. And honestly, you’re so exhausted that it’s not worth what it to address their behavior or attitude… so you just end up doing most things yourself.
What This Is Like from Their Perspective
It doesn’t bother kids if the house isn’t clean or their teeth aren’t brushed. Even though it’s important to us, it’s not important to them. They want to do things that feel good to them (which is what they’re wired to do!).
So when we ask them to help around the house…
…they try any trick they can to delay or get out of doing another thing they have to do
…they pretend they can’t hear us in hopes that we’ll forget we asked them
...they let us know how much they don’t want to do what we ask
It’s not coincidence that most kids act this way. They’re not “mature” and “responsible” yet… They need to be understood and taught how to do what they are supposed to do, rather than judged and punished for being kids.
How It Usually Goes When
We Talk To Kids About Doing More Around the House
Scenario: Tucker and Sylvia’s mom and dad think that it’s time that the kids more around the house. One night at dinner they have a conversation with them about it.
Mom: Tucker, Sylvia, we want to talk to you about something.
Tucker: Oh great. What?
Mom (getting angry): Tucker, I haven’t even said anything yet.
Tucker: I know, but when you use that voice, it usually means something bad.
Dad (annoyed that Tucker is already being negative): Oh Tucker, stop it.
Mom: So there’s a lot to get done around the house, and we think you two are old enough to do more to help.
Dad: Because we want you to act more responsible. Your mom does so much… She shouldn’t have to do it all. You two need to pitch in more.
Tucker: We DO pitch in.
Dad: What do you do?
Sylvia: I make my bed.
Tucker: So do I.
Mom: Yes, you do. But we think you can also take out the trash. And load the dishwasher.
Sylvia: Not it!
Sylvia: What? I said it faster.
Tucker: That’s not fair!
Mom: You two, stop arguing. We decided that Tucker, you’re going to take out the trash on Thursdays… and Sylvia, you’re going to do it on Tuesdays. And you’ll both bring your dishes to the dishwasher every night.
Sylvia: But I have dance! I can’t take the trash out!
Dad: We thought about that… You don’t have it on Tuesdays. That’s why we gave you that day.
Tucker: I can’t take out the trash. It’s too heavy for me.
Dad: If that happens, I’ll help. But it’s up to you to ask me for help.
Tucker: But what if you’re not there? You work late a lot.
Mom: Then I’ll help.
Tucker: But you’re busy too! That won’t work!
Sylvia: Yeah, I agree. I’m too tired on Tuesdays. That’s when I have to stay after school the longest.
Mom: Why do you have to argue about EVERYTHING?
Dad: That’s enough, both of you. You’re going to do what we ask.
Tucker: I bet it doesn’t work.
Sylvia: I still don’t want to do Tuesdays…
The kids keep pushing back while Mom and Dad feel more and more exasperated.
How It Could Go When
We Talk To Kids About Doing More Around the House
Scenario: Tucker and Sylvia’s mom and dad think that it’s time that Tucker and Sylvia to do more around the house. One night at dinner they have a conversation with them about it.
Mom (addresses the kids after they’ve been talking about something that the kids are interested so they feel connected): Hey kiddos, we want to get your opinion about something.
Tucker: Oh great. What?
Mom (laughs, knowing that that’s a normal kid response). I know. That sounded so serious!
Although Tucker’s mom doesn’t love Tucker’s attitude, she also reminds herself that he’s a kid and that kids aren’t naturally interested in helping. She also knows that if she gets upset, the conversation will go downhill fast. She focuses on not letting Tucker’s words control her.
Sylvia: Ugh, it does.
Dad: Well I guess it is kind of serious. It’s time for you two to do a little more around here. But we want you to help decide what that’s going to look like.
Tucker: What do you mean?
Mom: Well, there are some things that I’ve been doing since you were babies… because you couldn’t do them. Now you can and it’s time for you to help out more. But… we also think you should have a say in what you have to do and when it gets done.
Sylvia: I vote for nothing!
Dad (laughs): Of course you do. Believe me, Syl, if I could do nothing, I would too!
Mom: Me too!
Instead of getting upset with the kids for not wanting to act responsible, Sylvia and Tucker’s mom and dad respect their perspective. They know that if they want the kids access the “mature” part of their brain, they need to feel understood, not attacked and judged.
Tucker: I’m fine living in a messy house…
Mom (smiles): I’m sure you are. Unfortunately we are the adults and we can’t let that happen. So here are a few things that I know you can do: Take out the trash, unload the dishwasher…
Sylvia: I already make my bed. I think that’s enough.
Tucker: Yeah, me too!
Mom: Yes, you do make your beds. That’s true. What makes you NOT want to do more?
Sylvia: The things you said are BORING!
Tucker: And I’m not strong enough to take out the trash.
Dad: You’re both right. And I think we can find solutions to both of those things. Because as much as it would be fun to make you happy all the time, that just isn’t our job. So how will you pitch in?
Tucker (sighs): I guess I’ll load the dishwasher.
Mom: Can I tell you what I used to do when I was a kid and I had to do the dishwasher and I didn’t want to?
Mom: I’d count the number of plates and dishes and think of that number as what I’d have to get through to get to FREEDOM!
Tucker: That’s so dumb!
Mom (laughs): Yeah, it is. But it helped. And you can find something that helps you.
Although Sylvia and Tucker’s mom and dad respect their perspective rather, they still stand firm in their boundaries. They focus on giving the kids tools they need to be successful.
Dad: Sylvia, what about you? What are you going to do?
Sylvia: Ugh, I’m so busy. I can’t do more.
Dad: You are busy. So find something that’ll fit in your schedule.
Sylvia (sighs because she knows from past experience that her dad doesn’t budge when he sets a boundary): I guess I’ll take out the trash.
Mom: OK. Trash nights are Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Sylvia: I can’t do Thursdays! I’m at dance.
Mom: You’re right. You are. So what’s your solution?
Sylvia: I guess I’ll do Tuesdays. But I may forget.
Mom: That’s honest. What do you need as a reminder? Do you want me to remind you?
Sylvia: NO! I’ll set a reminder on Alexa.
Dad: Sounds good. Let’s check in this time next week to see how it’s going.
~their parents were on the same team as their children, not against them
~their parents offered them both RESPECT and CONTROL.
TIPS TO MAKE THIS GO MORE SMOOTHLY
- Respect their perspective and understand that resistance is normal. The mature, responsible “I don’t want to do this but I have to do it anyway” part of their brain isn’t fully developed yet.
- Don’t allow their responses to control you.
- Stay firm, no matter what their response is.
- Help them find tools to be successful.