5 Mistakes Parents Make When Trying to Get Help Around the House
I don’t have magical powers (and Hermione wouldn’t give up the spell no matter how I begged). I haven’t used Jedi mind tricks (at least not that often). And no, my kids didn’t just come out of the box this way.
However, I will freely admit that my kids (now tween/teens) help around the house. A lot. And 84.3% of the time, it’s done quite willingly.
In the process of eliciting their help and understanding over the years, my husband and I have made mistakes – many of them. For brevity’s sake, let’s start with a Top 5.
Mistake 1 – Calling them “chores”
It may seem like pure semantics, but the word “chore” evokes dread. Why should doing something that helps people you love (and YOURSELF) evoke such a feeling? We call them “contributions because that’s what we’re all doing. We are contributing to the greater good of our home, our preparedness for guests and opportunities, our meals, our personal cleanliness and appearances (wearing clean clothes will do that.)
Mistake 2 – Announcing, “Nobody ever helps around here!”
I’ve been horribly guilty of this. First, I break my own rule every time I say it. (Don’t use absolutes… “always” and “never” statements are rarely true.) And second, that motivates by guilt alone if it motivates at all. Not a great way to instill work ethic and foster contributing hearts.
What works better is “Thanks for doing your dishes in the sink. I appreciate that. Next time it would be an even bigger help if you’d do the cooking pans as well.” Or try “I’ve noticed that your contributions haven’t been getting done like they used to – how can I help you make them happen?”
Mistake 3 – Not expressing WHY the task is important (to you and to them)
Who cares if the house is clean anyway? Why do we need to put our own clothes away? Why do I have to put away the leftovers…
If we have our house in some semblance of order, if the doorbell rings unexpectedly, we aren’t afraid to ask a guest in (we value hospitality at the Fords). If it’s not, we miss the opportunity. If our stuff isn’t where it belongs, it takes longer to get out the door. We value punctuality because it lets people know we can be trusted. If we leave food out, it can spoil which either makes us sick or hungry (because it’s wasted.)
You get the picture. Tailor the explanations for age appropriateness.
Mistake 4 – Tasks aren’t simple enough
“You and your sister need to clean the basement.” Buuuuhhhhh…. <that’s the sound of the looks on their faces>
How do they start? With one big vacuum? What does success look like? All items stuffed in a closet or on a shelf?
Make a list of steps. Show them first, direct them by doing it with them, periodically check (but don’t hover once they have it.) PRAISE each step for its effort and course correct as they go. You can’t just give them the list of steps and leave (esp. if they’ve never completed this task before) and expect that it’s done as you’d intended.
Mistake 5 – No timely follow-up
If making their bed or taking their laundry to the washer is a daily expectation and yet you are inconsistent about checking their success, it will likely start to slide. Check regularly, course correct.
These are just the top 5, so if you’d like more lessons learned about contribution, contact Julie!