Monday, July 22, 2013

Mommy Monday: Parents on Strike: Making a point to raise responsible, self-reliant kids

Parents on Strike: Making a point to raise responsible, self-reliant kids

Mom holding picket sign
Imagine six days of freedom from being “Mom the Maid”: no cleaning up after kids, doing their dishes, or constantly putting away their toys and school bags. Jessica Stilwell, mother of three, made headlines recently when she got just that – by going on strike. And although, in less than a week, her kitchen sink could be easily mistaken for a science experiment and her entire house was now artfully decorated in dirty clothes, she had also taught her kids a very valuable life lesson — and had offered hope to parents everywhere who are fed up with their kids not lifting a finger.

Truth be told, we do our kids a huge disservice when we do things for them that they are perfectly capable of doing themselves. Fortunately, you don’t need to strike to teach your kids a little accountability – you just need these four important strategies:
  1. Decide what you will (and won’t) do. Determine some family rules about how much your kids are responsible for contributing, while remembering that you can’t control your children—only your own actions. For example, you could decide that you will do laundry, but that you won’t be begging them all week to bring you their dirty clothes. You can offer to pack school lunches each day, but put your foot down on searching the house for missing lunchboxes or scrubbing out the mushy remains of Friday’s banana. You’ll cook dinner, but won’t be responsible for making sure that everyone’s dishes end up in the dishwasher.
  2. Put your kids “on notice.” This is the step that Jessica missed, and it left her with a disaster zone that took two days for her kids to clean up. Before you implement your new family rules, make sure they are crystal clear to your kids. Explain the rules and have your kids repeat back to you the consequences they’ll face if they choose to shirk their responsibilities. Set a family rule that on Wednesdays and Saturdays, you will wash everything in the laundry room – but nothing else. You’ll pack lunches if clean, empty lunchboxes are in their shelf in the pantry, and cook dinner if the countertop is clear, clean and work-ready.
  3. Use logical consequences that are directly related to your family rule. So if your child refuses to pick up his toys, don’t send him to “time out” as there’s no direct correlation. Instead, let your kids know that any toys that remain on the floor will be placed in a box off limits to them for the next three days. If your son leaves his lunchbox in the backpack all weekend, then he’ll be responsible for packing his own lunch. And, if mom can’t make dinner because the counter is covered with everyone’s dishes, then the kids can be in charge of cooking, or they can chip in for healthy take-out.
  4. Be the role model. At the end of Stilwell’s experiment, she was able to point out to her children that every bit of filth in the house was something left behind by the kids – Mom and Dad had kept cleaning up after themselves. Teach your kids the same lesson by following every family rule you set – your kids will notice if you follow the rules—and especially if you don’t.
And the main key to all these strategies? Follow through, each and every time. The best and fastest way to change behavior is to stop intervening and let your kids experience the consequences of their choices. A few days without their favorite Batman action figures or an hour in dirty gym clothes won’t affect their well being, but it will get them to clean up after themselves!

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