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By Keisha Jackson, MSW – March 3, 2020 –

Chores. They can be defined as simple everyday tasks that few of us enjoy but all of us need to complete to keep a household running smoothly.  

It’s a given that adults in the household should do their part and lead by example.  However, when it comes to children and teens being assigned household chores, that’s when much debate comes into play.

Assigning your children chores can definitely take some stress off as a parent; however, it also can help build life skills and teach responsibility. Completing chores also helps kids feel as if they are part of the family team. Assigning younger children chores demonstrates that you trust them to complete a task.

Here are some age-based suggestions for chore assignments:

Preschoolers – Preschoolers can be given simple everyday chores, including picking up after themselves, placing their plate by the kitchen sink when finished with meals, and picking up their room when it becomes messy. Younger children respond well to rewards, so if your child struggles with picking up after themselves, encourage them with a reward system. Sticker charts, special dates to get ice cream or a trip to the park are just a few examples of rewards for kids this age. 

Elementary-age children – Once children begin to attend school their responsibilities increase, and they should take on more at home as well. Chores should also include picking up after themselves at this age. As your child grows older, gradually add more responsibility to their chore list.  As chores become more challenging or complex, give them your expectations. Teach them how to put away their clothes and where the dishes go after they are clean. Give them step-by-step instructions and encourage them along the way. Never expect perfection, especially for a new chore.

Teens – Your teen’s chores should help prepare them for the real world. Have them help you prepare dinner, do their laundry, and mow the grass. These life skills are important for your child to develop early in their teenage years so they can live independently when the time comes. Encourage your teen by giving them age-appropriate rewards. This could include giving them time to spend with their friends or giving them money for chores completed.

Assigning your children chores is important for teaching life skills and responsibility, and it can definitely help prepare them for the real world. If everyone pitches in the household runs more smoothly and kids feel they are part of the family team. Start laying out expectations when they are very young and gradually increase responsibility and rewards as they grow older. Chores are an essential part of daily living.

By Dawn Tedrow, LCSW, November 29, 2018 –

My son perfected his excuses for missing homework around sixth grade, and for some reason it became my problem.  That’s a strange thing for a parent to say, but I really felt as though teachers were accusing me of not being an adequate parent because I couldn’t ensure my child completed his homework at home.

This created a dynamic between the teachers and me, allowing my son to step back and play his games while I hashed it out with school.  Everyone was working harder for his success, and he had manipulated me into believing he was the victim.  It was toward the end of his eighth-grade year that I admitted defeat, and finally realized the problem was ME.

I was not listening to the information given to me by the teacher, because in my head, I was being told “You are a bad parent” – and it was hurtful.  The tone of my voice when talking about the teacher became negative, and my son fueled this.  He even went to school and told his teachers, “My mom doesn’t like you, and it makes her mad when you call her.”  I was my own worst enemy.

Taking a look at how I responded to teacher concerns was a big help for me.  Instead of taking the information as a personal attack, I reminded myself the teacher was attempting to form a positive alliance to determine why he was not turning in homework.  I hadn’t taught my son to be accountable and take responsibility for his actions.

Here are some suggestions for teaching this skill:

  1. Model positive communication with the teacher, and encourage the same from your child. When your child begins making negative statements about their teacher, redirect them to think about things they like about the teacher.
  2. Practice appropriate responses. There is an appropriate time and way to let the teacher know your child needs help or you don’t agree with a decision.
  3. Help your child see things from another’s point of view. This is particularly helpful for students who believe their teacher doesn’t like them.
  4. Do not make excuses for your child. Teach them to own their mistakes.  Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s alright.  Teach your child to admit their mistakes, then think of ways to prevent it from happening again.
  5. Encourage your child to process their feelings appropriately. It is perfectly normal to become upset, but it isn’t appropriate to throw a fit in the classroom.  Practice ways your child can excuse themselves from the classroom in order to calm down.  Discourage yelling, throwing things, slamming the door, and calling names.
  6. Be prepared to side with the teacher. Your natural instinct is to protect your child, so this is difficult for many parents.  It may be necessary to take 24 hours to think about information and decide how to respond to the situation.  Your child needs to know you support them, but you must also respect the teacher.  It is your responsibility to help mold your child into a successful member of society who treats others with respect.  This is a skill that will be used in college, jobs, and future relationships.
  7. Set clear expectations. Sit down with your child and write clear consequences for their actions.  For example:  Student is told he will lose cell phone for 24 hours if he has missing homework.
  8. Follow through. It is very important to always follow through with consequences.  There is no negotiation.  If you don’t follow through with consequences every single time, then behavior will continue to escalate.

It may not be the easiest thing to do as a parent, but it’s worth it. Holding kids accountable for their actions will help mold them into successful, responsible adults.

By Valorie Dassel, Courier & Press, Feb. 13, 2018 –

Being a parent is often described as the greatest joy of one’s life.  It is amazing that an experience that is often described so fondly is also characterized by most parents as the greatest challenge they have ever faced.

A wide set of emotions can be experienced on this journey, particularly during the pre-teen and teen years.  Families are often extremely busy, which can result in many emotional reactions from parents as well as teens.

If we can relate to the developmental challenges our children are experiencing, it may help us to respond in a manner that results in the least resistance and greatest gain.

There are many physical, emotional and mental changes teenagers are experiencing.  Most teens are at the developmental stage of approaching individualization.

The beliefs, values, and subsequently the choices of most pre-teens are primarily based on what their parents have taught and modeled.  As our children approach the teen years, they begin the process to become their own person with their own set of values and belief systems.

During this process parents may interpret the teen’s behavior as rebellious and disobedient.  Decision-making skills are the last skills mastered during the development of the teen brain.  As teens seek independence, they often experience conflict between wanting to have a good time and their desire to be taken seriously.

Independence for teenagers can be translated to finding ways to “belong” outside of the family.  Research indicates that parents have the most influence over their child’s decisions.  Their peers often take a close second.

Social media creates greater access and a closer bond with peers.  Now more than ever, parents should facilitate this independence while maintaining a healthy relationship.

Independence and responsibility must occur in harmony; otherwise the teen may feel out of control and act accordingly. Parents must allow consequences and use discipline when necessary to help teenagers make better decisions.

For many parents this transition can be difficult; allowing your child to fail is tough. The old adage “A mother is only as happy as her saddest child” can ring very true while we allow them to experience the pain that can go along with poor decisions.

It may also feel as though you are losing your close relationship with our children as they nurture their friendships more than familial relationships. With work and dedication, most parents find maintaining good communication and providing rules that strike a balance in time spent with friends and family often results in healthy and enjoyable relationships.

Dinkmeyer & Dinkmeyer provide good guidelines for parents to follow when deciding whether or not to get involved in a problem their teen is experiencing.  In their book, Parenting Teenagers, Systematic Training for Effective Parenting of Teens, they discuss the importance of deciding who actually owns the problem before forcing parental involvement. The following questions are encouraged to be explored:

  1. Can anyone get hurt?
  2. Are any rights being disrespected?
  3. Is anyone’s property threatened?
  4. Is my teen unable to take this responsibility?

If any of these questions are answered with a “yes,” then both the parent and the teen own the problem.  Joined problem solving and parental monitoring should be in place.

If each question has a response of “no,” the teen would own the problem and be allowed the independence to make a decision regardless of a potentially natural consequence occurring.

Raising a teenager can feel stressful and chaotic.  It is important to schedule time to enjoy each other without conversation over tense subjects.  Remember -they will quickly pass through the teen years and potentially raise a teen of their own someday!