How to get your kids to help around the house (without nagging and screaming)
Wish you could get your kids to help around the house? What parent doesn’t, right? But that nagging, reminding and screaming you’re doing? Well… hate to break it to you, but it isn’t working.
“Parents often resort to these things because they don’t have other tools and strategies that work,” says Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time (Penguin Group; 2011).
Kids should be helping around the house from an early age, McCready says, and parents can get their kids involved without nagging or screaming. Here are five new strategies you can use and leave the drama for nighttime television:
1. Reframe the task. Calling tasks “chores” denotes drudgery. Instead, McCready suggests that parents call their child’s jobs their “family contributions.”
“It doesn’t make the task any more fun, but reframing the term reminds kids that their efforts matter,” she says. “There’s a psychological difference between a chore and a contribution—this lets them know they’re making a difference.”
2. Create habits with “when/then” routines. It’s easier to get kids to do their daily routines when the less desirable tasks are followed by more enjoyable parts of their day. McCready calls this technique “when/then.”
For example, tell your child, “When your bed is made and your bathroom is tidied, then join us for breakfast.” Or after school, “When your family contributions are finished, then you can enjoy your technology or play outside.”
“The reason this works is that the when/then routine becomes the boss,” says McCready. “If they want to enjoy their technology, they have to get yucky stuff done first. There’s no discussion or power struggle, and parents can remove themselves from the situation.”
3. Empathize and appreciate. Sometimes kids will grumble about doing a task, when they just want to know we appreciate their efforts.
“You can say, ‘I hear you. It’s my least favorite job, as well. But I appreciate it when you make these contributions,’” says McCready. “Empathizing creates a connection, especially when it’s followed up with appreciation.”
McCready says it’s hard for kids to keep grumbling when parents empathize and appreciate; this technique immediately diffuses a power struggle.
“If you’re always nagging, reminding, and bossing, it feels like parents and kids are on opposing teams,” she says. “This lets them know you’re on the same team.”
4. Get them involved in solutions. As parents we default to ordering, correcting and directing, says McCready, but kids will be more willing to follow through on a plan they help create.
“Hold informal family meetings and ask kids for solutions,” she says. “You can say, ‘I notice it’s hard for you to get your family contributions done. What’s not working for you? Everybody helping out is a non-negotiable. Do we need to make tweaks to make it more palatable?’”
5. Ignore grumbling and groaning. Even after you implement these strategies, McCready says whining and complaining about helping out will happen. Instead of responding, she suggests that you ignore it.
“Kids have a right to grumble and groan, but it requires no response from parents,” she says. “When we do respond, it gives power to the behavior and adds fuel to fire. It guarantees a repeat performance. It may make you feel better in the moment, but it doesn’t help situation. Instead, walk away; you will send a message through your actions.”
Stephanie Vozza writes about organization, time management and productivity. She also encourages moms to quit the busy contest. Check out her book: The Five-Minute Mom’s Club: 105 Tips to Make a Mom’s Life Easier.