Step 1: Challenges in Specifying Expectation (continued)
We get so tired of eleven-year-old Thomas telling us every day how unfair we are for making him do so many chores since none of his friends have to do any. What can we do to stop this?
Lots of children complain about how mean their parents are for giving them chores their friends don’t have to do. Perhaps it is the friends who are mistreated if they really have no chores. First, they are not getting the chance to contribute to their family’s well being, and second, they are not learning to see themselves as responsible people. Both of those omissions leave big holes in a child’s preparation for taking a place in our society. My guess is that most parents, when they think about it, will agree with that sentiment.
So, how can you deal with a child who has a different idea of what you should expect of him and who is all too ready to say so? The start of a constructive response is to accept the child’s feelings, which you might express like this:
Thomas, I understand you don’t like the idea of having to do chores. . .
Of course accepting the feeling is not the same as agreeing that your child should not have to do any chores and that you are an ogre for expecting him to. It is a good idea to say so by continuing the above remark:
. . . but in our family each of us has responsibilities and we work together to get things done. We know you are able to do your part for our family and it is our job to help you get used to doing it. Because we understand that it is kind of hard for you to get yourself started on your chores, we have made our home program to help you. You will earn credits for finishing chores as assigned and you can trade them for rewards.
It will also be useful to acknowledge the rest of the complaint so that Thomas doesn’t suppose you missed his powerful logic, perhaps adding this:
We are sorry if your friends’ parents don’t feel they should teach your friends to help their families. We think it is important for you to learn such responsibilities, just as we did when we were growing up. We will continue to teach you the things we think are important so you will grow up to be the responsible person we know you can be.
After that, avoid further objections so that you don’t risk reinforcing complaining and stalling. You really don’t have to listen to complaints after you have dealt with them. If the complaints continue, you could remove your child from the family area to give him time to regain his control.