Motivating kids to be helpful | Parent Talk
By PATTI SKELTON-MCGOUGAN
Kirkland Reporter Contributor
July 13, 2012 · Updated 5:35 PM
When garbage day rolls around and you have a million other things on your mind, how do you motivate your child to lend a hand and take out the trash? Your request may be met with arguments, just ignored, or done only part way.
You may not realize it, but you are in the middle of a power struggle. While your kids appear unwilling, their motivations are probably just different from yours. Understanding your child’s interests and accessing his or her motivations can help you recognize which household tasks are best for your child.
Youth Eastside Services (YES) parent coach, Jennifer Watanabe, says parents should also identify a purpose when assigning chores. Some parents believe everyone needs to contribute within the household, others believe chores teach children responsibility.
Whatever your motivation may be, communicate this with your children. Make sure they understand the benefits, such as how cleaning the house means friends can come over, or when they are older, they will be able to take care of their own home.
Parents need to maintain realistic expectations for their children and be aware of each child’s capabilities. Following are some helpful guidelines:
• Ages 2-3: Pick up their toys, take laundry to laundry area, help feed pets. At this age, kids should be closely monitored and encouraged with praise.
• Ages 4-5: Clear the table, help prepare meals, put away some groceries. This is a good age for teaching, as these youngsters love time with adults.
• Ages 6-8: Vacuum, take out trash, fold and put away laundry. Kids this age are motivated to be independent.
• Ages 9-12: Help wash the car, wash dishes, clean the bathroom, help with yard work. Kids in this age group have a lot going on and respond better when they know what is expected of them in advance.
Ages 13-18: Most teenagers are capable of handling nearly any chore, though they may need some instruction. However, putting too much on the shoulders of these capable kids will leave them feeling overwhelmed.
What do you do when your child refuses to cooperate? Take a break if things are heated, and then ask the child what he or she wants and how you can help. Be patient and listen. And remember, it’s important to establish a positive relationship with your child, no matter the age, so be sure you are acknowledging your child’s achievements through encouraging responses.
For additional help, YES is offering a Chore Wars! class to help parents encourage household cooperation through more effective communication. More information is available at YouthEastsideServices.org/classes or by calling (425) 747-4937.
Patti Skelton-McGougan is executive director of Youth Eastside Services (YES). YES is a nonprofit organization and a leading provider of youth counseling and substance abuse services in the region. Since 1968, YES has been a lifeline for kids and families, offering treatment, education and prevention services to help youth become healthy, confident and self-reliant and families to be strong, supportive and loving. While YES accepts insurance, Medicaid and offers a sliding-scale fee schedule, no one is turned away for inability to pay. For more information, visit YouthEastsideServices.org.