We underestimate children. By and large we expect too little of our children. We schedule every minute of their day to give them opportunities…and because we think they can’t learn as much on their own. We succumb to video games and TV shows because we think our children incapable of inventing their own activities. We fear they’ll get bored, under our feet, and on our nerves if we don’t turn on the X-Box. We jump in to tidy up their messes, fix their mistakes, and constantly remind them of their innate abilities because we fear their self-esteem will plummet from a momentary failure or less-than-perfect mark. In all actuality our children will learn more from mistakes than successes. They will create amazingly imaginative activities if we allow them to get bored. Yes, we underestimate our children. Unfortunately, discipline issues arise as a result. We underestimate their ability to complete household tasks. We expect they will not complete their homework. We assume they will get bored and nag. Our children simply live down to our expectations. Yes, we underestimate our children. But, there is a way out of this cycle. It takes some time and effort, but it yields huge benefits. “All you have to do” is let your children make a significant contribution to your household. Let me explain.
- Let your children contribute to the household in ways that connect them to the family. Give them jobs that care for the family, not just themselves. For instance, let them help clean the family room, not just their own bedroom (although their bedroom is good to clean, too). Encourage them to help with everyone’s dishes and everyone’s laundry, not just their own. Then thank them for their contribution.
- Collaborate with your children in choosing the tasks they will complete. You don’t need to dictate every chore. Sit down, discuss, and divvy up the household tasks. Then you can talk about doing “our” work rather than “your” After all, everyone does their part. Let your language reflect that you and your child, not just your child, have chores that contribute to the household in a significant way.
- Make your children’s contribution part of the daily routine rather than something done on occasion. Give them the privilege of making a daily contribution to the family just like you do.
- Make the task one you can do together. For instance, gather the garbage from around the house together. Work in the yard together. Clean the family room together—one can vacuum while the other dusts. Fold clothes together. You get the idea. Work together on the household chores. And, talk while you work. Or, if you want to be like one of the seven dwarves from Snow White, whistle while you work.
Your children will gain many benefits when you allow them to work with you to make a significant contribution to your family. Check these benefits out.
- Your children will gain an increased sense of purpose as they are part of something bigger than themselves. They become part of a family, not just an individual with a self-centered focus.
- Your children will gain an increased sense of competence as they master various tasks. They will gain greater independence and confidence in their abilities.
- Your children will gain an increased sense of intimacy. As you work with your children you can talk and laugh together. As you do, you will learn about their interests and values. You will learn about their dreams and fears. You will grow more intimate with them.
- Your children will gain an increased sense of belonging. They will feel like an integral part of the family to which they contribute, the family that needs their contribution.
- Your children will gain an increased sense of personal value and significance as they become an integral part of the family.
As an added bonus, you will have fewer discipline problems. Children and teens who have a healthy sense of purpose, belonging, and significance are better behaved. Children and teens with a sense of competence have nothing to prove. Children and teens with an intimate relationship with parents have less desire to rebel.
For more on children and chores, read Dear Children, The Real Reason I Make You Do Chores and Tips to End Chore Wars