Do your kids put themselves out for you?
Recently, a friend told me she was frustrated neither of her teenage children would lift a finger to help at home, despite the fact that both she and her partner worked full-time.
She admitted she’d made a rod for her own back by NOT expecting her kids to help when they were young.
I’ve seen it happen before where NO or FEW expectations are placed on kids to help or put themselves out for others.
As I wrote in my book Thriving! one of the key job of parents is to develop a sense of ‘other’ in their kids. Here are 3 compelling reasons to promote a sense of giving in kids:
1. Kids learn how to belong to groups through their family. As I wrote in Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It this view usually stays for life. Expecting kids to help develops the view that “I belong through my contribution…….” rather than “I only belong when I can be the boss/get my own way/get others to look after me/through misbehaviour.”
2. Helping out develops independence and problem-solving skills. Resilience research has identified independence & problem-solving as to two core characteristics of resilient kids. (Social skills, optimism and the ability to put boundaries around your thinking are some of the other attributes of resilience. )(Link to Resilience at home learning program)
3. Helping others is good for your mental health. Helping others makes you feel good (yep, it releases the feel-good chemicals in your brain). Volunteering or helping outside the family takes kids out of themselves for a time, which is really therapeutic and helpful in adolesence. It releases the pressure on perfectionists so they understand that they don’t have to do the perfect job when they help others. They are not being judged! In short, if you want happy kids then get them helping.
There are plenty of good reasons for generosity. I won’t go on!
Changing hard nuts
Parents often ask if they can change kids with such entrenched habits.
It’s possible but you need rock hard determination and you also need to start small.
In my friends’ case, she should probably start (and I hope she will) with getting her kids to cook one meal each once a week. A simple, doable act that would make her life easier.
She will need to resist their attempts to manipulate her; put up with their contemptuous comments and other awful behaviour to wear down her resistance.
It will help if her partner supports her as her kids are very good at ganging up on her to get their own way!
My friend should stick to her guns and only cook 5 nights of the week……not on the nights designated for the kids.
While she is at it, she could think about STOPPING being a SLAVE for them (washing their clothes, driving them to the bus stop when they could walk) until they start to cooperate and pull their weight.
Yep, this may be hard ball but this mum needs to get across that she is no longer willing to play a game of her children’s making.
Start young. It’s so much easier!
Of course, it’s easier if you expect kids to pull their weight when they are at a more malleable age……..i.e. well before their tenth birthday. The longer you leave it the more comfortable that kids are with the status quo and the harder they are to budge.
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