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Chore Wars: Won't Pick Up After Themselves

Chore War from Michelle in Degraff, Ohio

I have 2 teenage boys and 5-6 yr old girls. I cannot seem to get anyone to pick up after themselves. My oldest son, after using toothpaste, contact cleaner, acne medicine, etc, will not even put the lid back on the containers. He thinks he is slave driven. My other son will just take his socks and shirt off and leave it wherever he lands. The girls have a hard time picking up after themselves because, "their arm hurts, leg hurts, eyelashes hurt". I wash the laundry, fold it and lay it on thier bed to put away. Does that happen, NO WAY! When it is bed time it lands in a pile on the floor. When I ask for help I get groans and moans and you would think I asked them to try to clean the world refuse center. I am so frustrated and feel so unappreciated. My husband and I both work full time but he does not help around the house much at all. He is always tinkering on something. I can't seem to get organized and our home and life is a mess. I want a balanced life with a neat and organized home instead of pig sty, but I can't do it all by myself. I don't know how to get help without having to constantly stay on top of them yelling and everyone getting mad or upset over helping out around the house. I didn't know asking to keep your room clean, loading a dishwasher or mowing the grass once in a while was such a lot to ask. I am out of energy and patience and need help desperately. Where do we start? Thank you so much....

Laura's Response: MICHELLE it's time to whip those kids into shape. Get with your husband --you two have got to break all your children's bad habits--and as a couple you can do it! Formulate a plan, and ask your husband to step in and be the heavy----you don't want the children walking all over both of you.

Rule#1 YOU ARE NOT THE MAID- REPEAT this OFTEN when frustrated
(Children need to learn daily responsibilities and structure. Teach what is expected of them as an active member of the family unit--don't coddle your children -- and be their maid. If the children make a mess they clean it up. PERIOD) If you don't train your children to be responsible, work hard and instill a work ethic, they could be lazy adults that will drive coworkers crazy in the workplace. Even though the children complain (all kids do)! you have to be firm and consistent.

As busy parents, we tend to gravitate to the path of least resistance because we don't want to deal with the children's whining and complaining. Most parents just do the chores themselves to avoid confrontation. BIG MISTAKE! Nip it now, whip those children into shape---your the adult, you need to be a tough parent. Be firm and loving --teaching life skills to them. Don't be a wimpy or lazy parent! You make the rules, you pay the bills, don't let your children manipulate and cajole their way out of doing their chores.

My mother had 7 children. We learned early on, that we had to be responsible. She had a clean before you play philosophy, no TV, playing outside, riding bikes, etc., until the work was done. We tried crying, whining, begging and pleading. My mother stuck to her guns and made us be responsible. After a while we just did what we are told, without ever whining! "DON'T GIVE THE CHILDREN ANY EXTRAS, NO PRIVILEGES UNLESS THEY ARE RESPECTFUL AND OBEDIENT DOING WHAT THEY ARE TOLD THE FIRST TIME."

Find out each child's favorite thing, one may be taking away play-station cord or X-box, another child it might be ballet, or bike riding. Take away what will hurt, so they feel the sting of the consequence. No TV, video games, money or outing s until the kids begin to take responsibility of their rooms and the chores you choose. They have NO CHOICE. DO YOU HAVE TO RUN A MILITARY BOOT CAMP??? yes maybe so for 3-6 months...maybe longer. It won't change in a day, but it will change if you commit to being a tough parent who holds their children accountable.

Teach your children to clean, lay out the tasks (age appropriate) and tell them what to do, show them what to do, and then let them do it. Your children by the age of 16 years old should know how to clean, kitchen, bathroom, living room, bedrooms, cook, do laundry, ironing and understand what a credit score is, and a checking account.

Here's your homework.

1. Get your house in order--formulate a plan with your husband--YOU TWO pay the bills, YOU Get to make the RULES.

2. Make a list of the things you want to change--assign dailys tasks to children (you may want to let them pick or draw chores) hold them accountable.

3. The goal -obedient hardworking, respectful children, that clean up after themselves and chip in as a family unit

4. Have consequences for not doing chores - the children may even need to lose some privileges for WHINING, or not doing what they are told the first time.

5. Be consistent --a daily routine--just like the children brush their teeth daily


Dr. Lisa response - These children are living in a world where they do not have to earn privileges. I completely agree with Laura's response. I would add the suggestion that these children have to complete specific chores within a certain time frame to earn the privilege of using MP3, cell phone, computer, etc. They would not really lose the privileges, but instead would be choosing not to earn it if they do not comply with the chore request. It will be important to clearly delineate chores and time frames. Confiscate all media, cell phones, etc and completion of the chore would mean earning a certain amount of time with the privilege (i.e., certain amount of time on phone or computer, certain amount of time to play with friends, and so on). Expect a revolt and be prepared for the children to test you to see if you will stick to your guns. Encourage the kids to help each other, big ones helping little ones. If chores are completed everyone wins. You might even create a situation where you and your husband also have specific chores and can lose certain privileges yourself. If you and your husband can get on the same page, you will be modeling the behavior you expect in your children.

Be consistent and persistent. It will take some time, but will be worth the effort.

Good Luck.

Dr. Lisa

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