Character is the key

Even after twenty years of counselling children, teens and adults, I still learn something new every day. This week was no exception. My seventeen year old client shared his dilemma. After being accepted into several universities of his choice, he was having a difficult time making his decision. Since all offered the same academic opportunities, the biggest question mark was whether or not to move away from home or to continue to live with his parents. Turns out the most compelling reason to leave home is to prove to his parents that he’s more capable than he feels they give him credit for. He wants to take the garbage out each week, take care of his own laundry, deal with the consequences if he doesn’t get his homework done on time.

Unfortunately, the teen’s parents were unknowingly denying their son the opportunity of contributing to the household in a way that would make him feel more capable and needed. Their philosophy was that children deserved to be pampered and protected and that he would have plenty of time later in life to be responsible for others.

Once they understood his position they were able to pull back and allow him to be a more functional, contributing member of the household. In turn, he decided to remain at home.

This is not the first time I’ve heard of a child wanting to pitch in more. In fact, I’ve heard the same from children much younger. Children as young as eight and nine who want to make their beds in the morning, want to pick out their own clothes, want to help create a shopping list. Contributing to chores around the house actually helps children feel that they are vital, important members of the family and that without their help, the system might fall apart.

I know that you might be a little taken aback to hear that children may actually want to be contributing more. Why then, you may ask, do they shirk the responsibilities that you’ve set up for them, have a hard time getting out of bed without your help (despite the loud alarm waking everyone else in the household), complain when you ask them to load the dishwasher?

Consider this: Are they perhaps rebelling against being told what to do? Is the delegation of chores democratic? If your children have resisted accepting randomly delegated chores, you may have resigned yourself to taking over the chores for the sake of peaceful co-existence. The best way of maintaining a co-operative working team is to discuss the household chores and then to discuss who should be responsible for what – based on various factors including age, availability and ability. Some family members may prefer to adopt a chore on a permanent basis and others may like variety. In the case of a family who prefers change, a rotating schedule can be discussed. In other words, children (and adults) are more likely to want to work together if they have been part of the planning stages and don’t feel imposed upon.

Encourage your children by making sure that they know how capable you think they are. Include your children in helping to divide chores and you may be amazed at the results