Let’s interrupt kids’ Web-browsing, mall-going and TV-watching with some housework. Let them earn their keep. Work ‘em like farm boys.
Problem: They would hate this. It would involve a lot of nagging.
Kids do hate it when parents present them with a list of things to do and a “do it or else” attitude.
Better to try a positive approach.
“I think at least a part of what might lead to conflict between child and parent is the whole connotation” of “chores,” says Dr. E. Gerald Dabbs, a New York child and adolescent psychiatrist who is a spokesman for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “The connotation seems to be synonymous with an ordeal, as opposed to something that’s worthwhile.” “Jobs” might be a better word to use, he says.
Young children may not understand the concept that their picking up toys will make parents less stressed. But they can see a benefit to cooperating if you say, “I’ll have time to play with you before bedtime if we both work on it.”
Problem: It’s easier to do it myself.
It may well be. But persist we must.
Parents are wearier than ever, notes Louise Bates Ames of the Gesell Institute of Child Development in New Haven, Conn., who has studied children for 60 years. Even so, she says, if she were rearing children today, “I certainly would make some demands on my children.”
First, she says, keep your standards for housework to a minimum. Then use “technique” to help kids do their part of it. “Instead of saying, ‘You have to pick up your toys or you can’t have lunch,’ you use technique - ‘Let’s pick up the toys.’ ‘Let’s see who can pick up their side of the room quicker.’ “
Expectations must be reasonable. Young children are not going to accomplish a lot by adult standards. Of course, effort is what counts.
School-age children can be of significant help, as long as expectations are appropriate. Kids will protest their assignments at times, saying, “That’s the best I can do.”
“Which means, ‘I’m tired of this,’ ” Dabbs says. Parents can ask for more effort if the child is capable of it, “within the context of what’s realistic for the child.”
Problem: There’s so little time with them - I’ll feel guilty if I spend it making them work.
You can get over this.
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