Ok, I confess. On more than one occasion I decided it was just easier to do a job myself than deal with a kid who didn’t want to run the vacuum or empty the dishwasher. She was busy or tired or just not interested. Never mind that I was also busy or tired or not interested. I think this is one of the biggest obstacles for including children in household chores. They resist and we end up doing the task ourselves because it’s easier. Then we end up feeling like everyone’s personal maid and being resentful.
So how can we get out of this trap? An important piece is to remember that we are teaching life skills. By having realistic expectations and providing guidance, we can get there. One really good rule of thumb is “don’t do things for children they can do for themselves.” Let me give you an example. When a child is young we dress him and tie his shoes. As soon as he is capable we teach him how to dress himself and applaud his efforts to tie his own shoes. The same thinking applies to household tasks. We make the bed for babies and toddlers. But once she can climb in and out of her own bed, she can begin to put the pillow in place and pull up the covers. If we teach children how to do something and continue to offer support, we are on the way to raising responsible kids who can take care of themselves.
Check out Inspire Children to Help with Chores for more practical tips.
Today my 2nd grandson moved into his college dorm. He is excited about starting this new chapter in his life. His parents are sad about him leaving home but hoping he will adjust and do well. And as for Grandma, I’m thinking, “Can he take care of himself? You might be wondering what’s that got to do with kids and chores.
Actually the connection is pretty clear. Kids who grow up doing chores around the house learn several important things.
- contribute to the family
- sense of empathy
- how to take care of themselves
Let’s think about this a little more. Kids learn that it takes the whole family to keep a household going. The laundry, cooking, cleaning, repairs, shopping, yard work, etc. don’t happen by magic. Bud starts to appreciate how Mom feels when someone makes a mess in a room he just cleaned. Nicole understands how long it takes Dad to mow the yard each week. The kids learn the importance of completing assigned chores – correctly and on time. Being responsible carries over into school work and eventually the work world.
Now back to my grandson. If Mom and Dad did their job well (which they did) my grandson knows how to keep his room clean, handle his laundry, and fix his meals. By teaching your kids how to do basic home chores, you are preparing them for that day when they will be on their own.
I grew up with an older sister. That meant I followed her through school, church, and 4-H activities. We even went to the same university and the same college within the university. And I still remember the day I walked into a college class and the instructor said, “Your sister would never wear that to class.” I didn’t say much but inside I was thinking, “I am NOT my sister and I will wear what I want!” You can about guess I wore interesting clothing choices for the rest of that class.
I share this story to make an important point about siblings – don’t compare your children. Don’t compare them to each other. And if you have an only child don’t compare your child to cousins or friends. Of course it is natural for you to notice that your son is more athletic and your daughter gets along better with her friends. Each will have his or her own special personality, talents, and skills. No two kids are alike and should be treated as individuals.
We might think that by comparing kids they will want to act better or work harder at perfecting a skill. That usually backfires (like it did with me). Instead kids are more apt to get jealous or think you are being unfair. Remember the Smothers brothers and their famous line, “Mom always did like you best.” Focus on finding ways to let your children know their unique qualities have nothing to do with anyone else.
And just for the record, I still don’t dress like my sister. 🙂
I grew up in a family with an older sister and two younger brothers. We were pretty typical – playing and fighting our ways through the days. Eventually we all launched into the world as adults. We reconnected occasionally at the parental home as happens in most families. First our father died and then our mother. We were truly on our own and that sentiment is echoed by Katherine Conger, family sociologist at the University of California, Davis. She says that spouses come along later in our lives and parents eventually leave us. Siblings are with us for the whole journey.
I’ve watched other families after the death of the last parent. Sometimes a family grows apart without the common denominator of a parent and family home. In our case we forged stronger links. The connections are powerful as we no longer try to compete or change each other. We focus on what we have in common instead of our differences. This is consistent with findings that the shared early childhood experiences cast a long shadow.
All this can be comforting to parents as they referee endless arguments with their children. Some day those children may come together as good friends. It is also a reminder that it is not too late to reconnect with your own siblings. Conflicts and disagreements can be forgotten (and forgiven) and replaced by the support of those who were there from the beginning.
Have you experienced the death of one or more parents? If so, how has the relationship with your siblings changed?
Everything we’ve shared in the podcast and blogs this month can be summarized in this one statement. Research tells us that kids with involved dads receive benefits that kids without involved dads don’t get. Each family situation is unique as is each dad/child relationship. Sometimes circumstances can make it challenging for dads to create and maintain a positive relationship with their kids.
Three particular instances are: divorced dads, incarcerated dads, and dads who work away from home. Military dads are another category. If you are one of these dads, check out ideas for strengthening relationships between dads and children.
Do you have any tips or ideas to share on staying involved in your child’s life when you are not there on a daily basis? Remember, how you handle the separation (no matter the reason) will make an impact on your child.
On Father’s Day we celebrate the special role fathers play in a child’s life. As I think about fathers, I am aware of the parental role changes over the generations. My grandfathers were the family breadwinners. My father worked hard and was the disciplinarian. He would occasionally play games with us four kids and attend major events we were involved in.
My husband became a father in what I see as a transitional generation. These men found themselves not only being breadwinners, but also were expected to assume more child care responsibilities. They were caught between the world in which they are been children and the changes brought on by the women’s movement.
When our daughters started their families, the expectation was that the fathers be actively engaged in all parts of the children’s lives. Fathers in the delivery rooms are now the norm. Today I see a blend of the last two generations. Some couples choose more “traditional” roles while others embrace the “modern” role.
One constant through the generations is the love fathers have for their children. How they demonstrate it may vary, but involved fathers have a major impact on their children’s development.
How have you seen fathers’ roles change?
I just read an interesting statistic from the Pew Research Center. Their data shows that between paid and unpaid work, the average mother works about 2 more hours a week than she did in 1965. But the mix of time spent on paid work, housework, and child care has changed dramatically. Today the average number of hours mothers with children spend each week are as follows: child care 13.5, housework 17.8, and paid work 21.4.
Yes, mothers are busy people. The findings from the Pew Research Center also point to 56% of paid work mothers saying it is very or somewhat difficult to balance work and family responsibilities. That’s not really a big surprise. Figuring out how to keep everything going at home and at work takes organization, flexibility, and commitment. I would also add a sense of humor and the ability to function on little sleep. 🙂
I grew up in a family where I watched my mother work hard. She took care of the home; tended a large garden and raised chickens; supported us kids in our school, church, and 4-H activities; orchestrated family functions; and taught school. I’m guessing there were many days she found it hard to manage work and family. But somehow she kept it together and taught us many life lessons. And most important of all was that we always knew Mother was there for us. What a wonderful gift to give your children!
How do you handle all the many roles of being a mother?
Moms come in all shapes and sizes. They also come in different types. There are biological moms and stepmoms and adopted moms and selected/chosen moms. These women are linked to their children genetically, legally, and/or emotionally.
I had an awesome biological mom. I am a stepmom (hope my kids think I’m awesome). And throughout my life I have “chosen” women like my mother-in-law who fit that role. One thing all moms have in common is the gifts they give their children. Gifts of life, love, friendship, guidance, support.
One interesting article I read talked about other types of moms: perfectionist, unpredictable, best friend, me-first, and complete. Children raised by each of these moms develop strengths and have an emotional legacy (I translate that into baggage!). I really like the description of the complete mom. She is emotionally balanced. This mom sees her kids as individuals and helps them achieve their independence. And regardless of what is going on in mom’s life (work, relationships, problems), she is committed to motherhood.
Now that’s the type of mom I want to be. How about you?
Many of us have been a part of the ritual – a small box is buried under the shade tree in the back yard. This becomes the final place for our beloved canary or hamster. As parents we don’t like to think about the demise of these special members of our family, but death is a very real part of having a pet.
Pets have significantly shorter lifespans than people but some will be companions for a considerable number of years. So how do you help your child when a pet dies? A child’s reaction is tied to her age and development, previous experiences with death, as well as the intensity of attachment to the pet. Check out https://www.aplb.org/support/special-populations/ for detailed information on the reactions of children at various ages. This is a link from The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement.
As parents you can help your child honor and remember his pet in appropriate ways. Displaying photos, drawing pictures, telling stories, or holding a ceremony are possibilities.
Our family buried special dogs under the trees in the pasture where we imagined them running free. And I’ll admit to having a small urn in the closet containing my beagle’s ashes. Just the mention of Pearl’s name makes us all smile.
So how have you handled the death of pets in your family?
I considered myself a lucky kid. I grew up on a farm with lots of space for animals. Pets were just a normal part of life. The fish, turtles, and hamsters shared our home. The cats occupied the back steps while the chickens and dogs roamed the yard. They were our companions and playmates. It was never a question if we were old enough to have a pet; they just kept coming!
But for most parents these days, the question of when to get a child a pet is worth some discussion. One point for consideration is what is your purpose for having the pet. Is it for companionship and play? Or do you want your child to take responsibility for part or all of it’s care?
Let’s start at the beginning. Babies aren’t old enough to handle or take care of pets. Toddlers want to touch and grab pets. As the kids grow into the preschool age years, they are able to better understand how to handle a pet and fill the water and food dishes. I suspect that the “I wanna dog” (or whatever) gene really kicks in during the elementary years.
The good news is that school-age kids are old enough to assume some pet chores and can play with the pets responsibly. The bad news is that this age children may have short attention spans and change their minds often. So that dog wanted now may be not so much fun three months later. Preteens and teens have the capabilities to be responsible. But they are also getting into the “busy” years and pets will have to compete for their time. To keep your dog happy and healthy, there is an exercise dog toy that you can get.
No matter your decision as to when to add a pet to your family, realize that as the parent you have the final responsibility for its care and well-being.
Note: Check out the ASPCA web site for some good thoughts about the right pet for your child’s age.
As adults we go to work each day – either at a place of employment or at home. And by the end of the day we’re tired and ready to relax. Well, did you know that child also go to work by playing. That’s right, play is a child’s work.
Let me give you some examples. When I was a child I played house. I took care of the babies, fixed meals, and talked to my pretend husband and kids. I played school with my siblings and we took turns being the teacher. On other afternoons we took things out of the cupboard, lined them up on the counter, and played store. One of us got to be the clerk while the others made the purchases.
We worked hard at playing and at the same time we worked hard at learning. These play experiences helped us with skills in math, science, language and writing. We also learned how to get along, how to have conversations, how to figure out problems.
How do you see your child playing? What is he learning as he “works”?
Of course kids get angry. Parents get angry. I get that and know what to do to help children learn to express anger in appropriate ways. But when should we get concerned that there is more to it – that a child might have anger issues.
Here’s a list of warning signs. If your child exhibits several of these behaviors for at least 6 months, it’s time to take action.
- frequently loses temper
- defies or refuses to follow adult rules
- is touchy, easily angered
- often annoys and upsets people on purpose
- often bullies, threatens or scares others
- often starts physical fights
- is physically cruel to people or animals
- is often spiteful or wants revenge
- purposely damages people’s things
If you think there could be a problem, talk to a professional. Make an appointment with a mental health professional, doctor, school nurse, or school counselor. They can do an evaluation and determine is there is a problem. And together you can decide on any needed action or treatment options.
When I get mad (and yes I sometimes do) I can feel it in my body. I get tense, my voice changes, and I’m sure my blood pressure rises. There’s a definite physical reaction which is a clue that I need to calm down.
Children also experience physical responses when they are mad. But they need help in learning to recognize the reactions. Then the next step is to figure out something else to do to defuse or calm that physical response.
Here’s an example. Kids often throw things when they get mad. Or they will bite, pinch, kick or hit someone. Those are not good ways to calm down. But the kids need a physical outlet for the anger. They can bounce a ball, run around the yard, punch a pillow, dance to music.
Once the physical reaction is lessened, then you can move to communicating and problem solving. But remember to first deal with the physical reactions to turn the anger down a notch.
So what do your kids see you doing when you get mad? I head out for a brisk walk, sometimes muttering to myself. But I almost always return calmer and ready to focus on whatever it was that made me so mad I couldn’t see straight.
What helps you calm down when you are mad? What are you teaching your child to do to calm down?
In this month’s podcast we learned that the research around corporal punishment is not a black and white issue. Then through the blogs several of you raised different perspectives. Ultimately it comes down to what is really a simple question – “How should I respond when my kid is misbehaving?”
Because this is such a big concern for parents, we decided to devote the spring webinar to the topic. Mark your calendar for March 14 from 8:00-9:00 pm. Plan to join us as we:
- Discuss three common ways parents use guidance and discipline with their children
- Talk about why children misbehave
- Figure out the difference between punishment and positive discipline
- Explore discipline teaching tools appropriate for different ages and temperaments
Watch for further details about the free webinar here on the Science of Parenting site.
“Don’t talk to me that way.” “Quit slamming the door.” Isn’t it amazing how the first words that often come out of a parent’s mouth is a description of what our kids are doing wrong. Then we threaten and soon we’re in the middle of an argument. Taken too far, we may resort to harsh punishment like a slap to the face or a spanking. Later when we cool down, we may realize that nothing was learned and the same problem is apt to happen again and again.
This is where discipline enters the picture. When we want to change behavior, we need to do more than describe what kids are doing wrong. We have to name specifically what we want them to do. Kids do better when we use positives. Here are three simple examples.
- “Don’t slam the door.” — “Please shut the door quietly.”
- “Don’t yell at your sister.” — “Talk to your sister in a pleasant voice.”
- “Don’t be late tonight.” — “Be home by your 10:30 curfew.”
Some parents find they can improve problems with their kids by helping them earn privileges and rewards. This is kind of like the flip side of giving penalties when kids misbehave. It goes like this: instead of grounding your teen for getting home late, you extend her curfew 15 minutes if she gets home on time for two weekends. Or if you son eats what is served for supper during the week, he gets to choose what’s for supper on Friday night.
Your child needs to help decide what the privilege will be. And it shouldn’t be something you can’t afford or takes too much time. Obviously it needs to be something your child wants or values and must be something he can earn soon.
So what do you think? Would this work with your kids?