Getting Kids to Do Stuff

Date: December 5, 2011

One of thee (not a typo!) most frustrating and annoying tasks many of us face on a constant basis while raising children, is getting them to the things we need them to do, or the things they themselves need to do. I see two main categories when it comes to Stuff Kids Need To Do. Category A is the stuff we need them to do like chores and getting themselves ready when we are preparing to leave the house. Category B would include the things they need to do that affect them a lot more than they affect us, like doing homework or practicing a sport.

Let’s talk first about Category A. When we want kids to do things like clean their rooms, take out the trash or empty the dishwasher many of us find ourselves nagging them to get these things done. By the time they get to the task, we could have done it ourselves several times over. So, instead of the nagging method, I have found the following techniques much more effective. I like to give the child some lea-way by providing some options or parameters. After all, I don’t appreciate someone telling me do something and expecting me to drop everything and do it NOW! So I like to provide options that I know the child can handle. Here are some examples:

  • have it done within a certain time frame, like by six o’clock or the end of the weekend (this is where knowing what your child can handle comes in…..a kid with a short attention span could not handle an extended time frame so the chore would never get done.)
  • have it done before doing something else like watching TV, playing on the computer or catching up with your face book friends ( I have found this one to be very effective and helps gets things done more quickly….what they get to do after seems to be the payoff.) These are best communicated in family friendly language. Rather than saying, “You cannot watch TV until that dishwasher is emptied!” try, “Sure, you can watch TV as soon as the dishwasher is emptied!” This promotes more cooperation and better feelings between parent and child.

Category B may seem more tricky. This is because most of the situations in Category B are things we want the child to do because we do not want them to make a mistake and look bad. If our kid does not do his homework, what will the teacher think of him? What will she think of us, as parents?

I like to suggest that the parent email the teacher or coach and let them know that you are in the processing of giving your child ownership over their problems and there may some tough lessons to follow while this transference is taking place. Teachers love parents who butt out and let their kids learn the lessons on their own! Just ask one.

This does not mean you do not provide a time and place for these tasks to be done. It means you no longer hover, attempting to control exactly how and when it gets done or even if it does get done. (If it does not get done, give the teacher/coach permission to provide the consequences.)

By following these tips you will eventually find that you are less stressed, more things are getting done, your child begins to make better choices and, in turn, feels better about herself. It may take some failure for them at first, and you not taking back ownership of the problem when it happens. A bit of empathy and the natural consequences are priceless teachers! Then things are very likely to improve in the long run. And isn’t the long run what matters anyway?