Rules and Chores

July 22, 2011 Swedish Blogger

Everywhere we go, there are rules. The mall, at school, at work, at other people’s houses, etc. Our children learn early on that rules of acceptable behavior changes from place to place. We can yell and scream at the park but not at the grocery store. We teach our children to use ‘inside voices’ at the appropriate places and when it’s okay to run and play. The child whose parents have not taught them how to behave in the classroom (by taking them to the library) can have a rougher start at school. Ask any kindergarten teacher.

There seems to be a trend in parenting nowadays, where the parents want to give the child what they want, because they fear that their child will not like them.

Will not ‘like’ them? We’re not talking about Facebook ‘like’, we’re talking about genuine “my child won’t like me if I make them clean their room”.

Knock. Knock. Helloooo, parents? I’ve got a secret. Your children love you. They might not like to do chores and be made to follow rules and clean up after themselves, but they will respect you because you’re teaching them what’s expected of them. As parents, that’s what we’re supposed to do.

We don’t want to be the bad guy but we are also not here to be our child’s best friend. We are here to teach them how to be good, productive adults. The ironic part is that by teaching our children socially acceptable behavior such as being responsible, they end up loving us more, respecting us more, and yes, even liking us.

Just like different places have rules, we can have different rules for our children as they grow, as long as the expected behaviors are the same. We don’t want to ‘favor’ one child over the other but different ages and different genders will probably end up with different rules, and that’s okay.

For example, bedtimes. Just because the 12 year old can stay up until 9p, does not mean the 7 year old can stay up until 9p (his bedtime is 8p), but the 17 year old can stay up until midnight.

“So, how do I get my child to clean his room? I’ve told him it’s his space and I just close the door, but I can’t stand it.”

Well, it is his room, but it is your house. You can dictate what is acceptable behavior in your house. When they move out, they will get to decide what is acceptable behavior.

There can be rules such as:

  • no food in the bedrooms
  • bring out your laundry everyday

And with each rule, there should be a reasonable consequence:

  • caught with food in the bedroom = dishes after dinner
  • doesn’t bring out laundry = gets to do their own laundry or folds the laundry including towels

When we set limits and rules, we also have to be prepared for when they falter. Having reasonable expectations and consequences spelled out ahead of time can prevent the emotional reaction that parents can have when their child does break a rule. You have to be prepared to follow through with the consequences. If kids continue to be defiant, consider removing privileges such as:

  • video games (physically take them out of their room, or away from the family room) Nothing says mom means business when the XBox gets put in a box.
  • cell phones get taken away. (I’ve had people gasp when I explained that my son only got a phone so that I could take it away. It’s a privilege to have a phone, not a right.)
  • Grounding (There’s nothing like the child having to tell their friends that they can’t go because they’re gounded. Their friends will give them grief over it, but that’s okay.)

Most importantly: Don’t forget to thank your child when they do their chores without being told and when they’ve finished their chores, even if you did have to remind them. We all like to be recognized when we work hard, and by telling them thank you, they learn how good it feels to help. Positive reinforcement is a wonderful thing.

Parenting is hard work. Our children need limits. They need chores. Chores help them feel good about themselves by contributing to the house and by helping you. It also teaches them what acceptable living conditions are according to you, the parent.

You have rules and chores because you care. Your child will thank you for it.

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