Oh, Behave: 11-year old won't help around the house

By Joe Rich on May, 05 2008

We have an 11-year-old son. He won’t help around the house unless we pay him for the chore. Yes, there has been forced ‘enslavement’ as he calls it, but is this because we ‘bribed’ him when he was little? (For example we used to say, “Put your toys away and we’ll go to the park.”) We have a five-year-old, too. How do we get them both to do things when we ask? Is coaxing with rewards bad? EDMONTON, AB

JOE: Be careful when assigning dollar values to things like family chores. As children age they up the ante and before you know it your home begins to operate like a small business! What’s ‘two dishwasher unloads and folding clothes from the dryer’ worth? Chores are about co-operation, responsibility, learning to look after yourself and caring for those around you. Adults get paid, but they don’t get paid for being a member of a family, so it may be worth rethinking how you approach this in your home. As a rule, allowance is about money management. Chores are about belonging. Perhaps hang a sign in the kitchen that reads, “This is a home where people help out.” Declarative statements are useful with children and at times – instead of pushing the issue or nagging – simply pointing to the sign will do the trick! As for rewards, instead of, “Put your toys away and we’ll go to the park,” (consequences) I would suggest, “Put your toys away, then we’ll go to the park” (sequencing). The difference is small but the meanings are quite different and indicate a newer, less punitive structure. Consider using both logical consequences and logical sequencing at different times. But more sequencing and fewer consequences makes life just a bit easier – and easy is good!


By Joe Rich| May, 05 2008

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