It’s summertime, which for many means the kids are home from school, and as a parent, you’re wondering how you’re going to maintain sanity around the house.
Below are a few ideas for helping increase responsibility among your children, which helps add some structure and consequently helps keep your home life flowing more smoothly this summer.
- Set (and communicate) realistic expectations. Identify age-appropriate ways your child(ren) can contribute to the healthy operation of your home life. While the littlest of children might only be able to gather trash cans and feed a pet, as children get older, they are able to increase their helpfulness around the home. Over time, they can add on responsibilities such as emptying the dishwasher, cleaning the bathroom, folding laundry, and eventually even helping with preparing a full meal and running loads of laundry. Once you identify reasonable responsibilities for each child, communicate these clearly by providing a simple checklist for easy reference. Consider using pictures for non-readers. Also, review the list with them and ensure they understand what the finished product looks like for each of these responsibilities.
- Make responsibilities into a game. Set a timer and challenge your children to accomplish the task in the time set. Play some upbeat music while you’re at it. Sometimes, as parents, our re-framing of the responsibilities can help turn the mundane into a fun challenge and can decrease the resistance.
- Identify their currency. Each person has different “love languages,” which can be used to motivate constructive behavior and productivity. For some kids, words of affirmation and praise are very motivating. Some might love the reward of quality time with a parent, perhaps going to the park or playing a game together. And still others might like a small tangible gift or reward, such as money or a treat at the ice cream shop. Figure out what motivates each of your children and seek to reward them in a way they most understand.
- Give space for children to do things their way. Children are in training to become adults and manage life on their own. Part of that is learning to accomplish tasks in a way that makes sense for them, while still accomplishing the end goal. Try not to micromanage their efforts, and take time to acknowledge what things they are doing well and calmly and lovingly make suggestions for improvement.
- Let natural consequences teach your children. Instead of unmet expectations leading to arguments and frustration, let nature take its course. As appropriate, communicate the expectation, timeline, and potential consequence(s) to your child. If he or she does not choose to accomplish the responsibility during the time allotted due to irresponsible behavior, let the natural consequence occur. In some cases, that might be that the child cannot attend the next event, or has to arrive late to something. Or maybe that if you have to do it for them, they will have to pay you for that job done. In determining the consequences, remember to try not to add stress upon stress. For instance, if your child needs a ride to work, but they did not get their home responsibilities accomplished on time, it might be more advisable to charge them to do the work, or fine them a “late” fee, rather than not taking them to work on time and them losing the job because of their tardiness. But there might be times, where you do actually need to let them “fail” even to that degree.
Most importantly, aim to be clear, calm and consistent. Children are often accustomed to the structure the school provides, and though fun, the carefree nature of summer can be stressful on your children too. While some may view responsibilities as a “punishment,” they actually provide structure and consistency that most children actually thrive in. Seek to find the balance of responsibility and freedom in your home this summer.
If you live in McKinney or North Dallas, and you’re struggling to establish a healthy structure for your home life this summer, please reach out to us at New Horizon’s Center for Healing. Our family counselor, Psychologist and Psychiatrist are ready to help you and your family thrive and enjoy your summer together!