Do you have kids that don’t help you clean the house? Or it feels like you have to slay the dragon to get them to tidy their room?
I’ve gone from my three boys giving me that “meh” attitude when I ask them to help me around the house, to willing participants for the daily chores, just by asking. No ultimatums and no threats.
You can have that same result with your kids.
I have three boys who are now all teens. And quite a few years back, it was challenging to get them to help around the house. Oh, it was a battle at times, and I grew tired of nagging them, so I just did it myself. Unfortunately doing it myself as a single mother doesn’t help me get anywhere other than a slave to my home and family.
Not the life I want to live.
Living a Losing Battle
My son, Ethan was a picky eater who liked to eat chicken fingers and french fries, and that’s basically it. Do you have one of those?
When he was 8, we were sitting at the table, at supper time and he would not eat what I gave him. It was something new, and I wanted him to at least try it. Just one bite. He refused to give in, not even a bit.
I got so frustrated with him that I told him to try it or I’m giving him a spanking.
Now, I’m thinking that I don’t want to spank him, I just wanted him to try it. I thought that would be good enough of an ultimatum to get him to do so.
He called my bluff, and said he would take the spanking.
This was awkward… I thought if I don’t follow through with it, then anything else I say he’s going to tell me that I’m not going to do it anyway.
So, I gave him a spanking and off he went.
After that I thought, I can’t do this. I can’t give ultimatums or threats, or I can’t give the “or else” to get my kids to do stuff. I had to really think about how I can approach this and make my relationship better with my kids. The battles had to end.
What a Healthy Relationship Looks Like
Fast forward to this past summer.
It’s in the early afternoon and I’m listening to my oldest son mow the lawn while I record my video blog. He did this because in the morning, I simply asked him to mow the lawn sometime during the day.
With my son, Ethan, now 12, I can ask him to shovel the walk or empty the dishwasher and he’ll get up and willingly do it without complaining. And when it comes to eating, he’ll try a bite and if he likes it he’ll have more, and if he doesn’t he can leave it.
I can ask my middle son, who is 15, to take out the garbage or recycles, and will say, “okay”, and off he goes to do it. If I need help with supper, he’ll cut up vegetables or cook the meat.
That’s the result of the changes that I had to make over the years, to have a healthy relationship with my boys.
Now I’m going to tell you how I did it!
3 Changes You must Make to Rebuild your Relationship
I’m going to share with you 3 things you have to change to build a better relationship with your kids:
1) Acknowledge the Little Things they do in a Positive Way
Do you give your child heck when they do bad things, but don’t recognize the good things they’ve done?
On one end, we yell at them for not making their bed, and on the other, praise them for the big achievements, like getting As on their report card or scoring a goal in soccer. But we’re missing out on the little things in between, and those are the most important.
If your son or daughter is learning something new, like riding a bike, tell them that they stayed on the sidewalk and were independent, even if they only road it for a few feet. Find something that encourages them to try again. But be specific. Do more than say, “good job”.
If they set the table for supper, tell them you appreciate the help and how much they saved you time. Make them feel good about their actions.
Take a moment to express your gratitude. Start by telling them that you’ve recently noticed how polite they are, or how they get their homework done, or how well they tie their shoes, or they get up on time to go to school, or help their little brother or sister…. Tell them how proud you are, or what a good job they’re doing. Look them in the eyes, smile and mean it.
By acknowledging the little wins in their life, they’ll start to realize what you’re noticing and do more of it. Eventually they’ll make a little more effort to get positive reinforcement, and then you’ll begin to see them doing more of the positive actions.
The most brilliant change that comes from this, is that your child recognizes that they did something good and this builds their confidence.
2) Treat them as a Responsible Person.
My son likes to challenge the protocol. When I asked him to clean up his room he wanted to know why he has to, since he likes it that way. Messy.
I tell him it’s expected of him. This is what responsible people do. They clean their room because it’s the responsible thing to do. Having a clean room also aids in finding his socks in the morning when he’s rushed to get out the door for school.
Make sure they understand that the choices, the actions and the comments they make, they’re responsible for. Choose to understand why they did that or said that, and ask for more explanation. You want to help them succeed, not watch them fail.
Often kids pick up information on the playground or on the internet and think that is true. Use this opportunity to create a conversation around the topic and learn of their opinion and perspective. Once they know you’re paying attention and listening, without judging, then they’ll start to be more aware of what they’re saying and look to make better choices.
Coming down on them never goes over well. It may just confuse them. Treat them with respect and treat them as a valued member of the community – your community.
3) Make them feel like a Team Member.
Back in 2015, I took my boys on a vacation to Vancouver for five days. At the time, they were 7, 10 , and 13.
For our vacation, I told them they each get a special day, and on that day they can pick an activity that we’ll do as a family. They thought this was fun.
Ethan picked one day to do something, and so did Richard and Andrew. We had a good time throughout the holiday, because they knew that they had their day coming up to do the activity they picked. We all contributed to the planning and we organized it like a team.
Ask your children what they want and get them involved in the planning. You’ll find they become more willing to contribute because they know they matter. And it doesn’t matter what their age, they need to be involved and feel important.
One evening, I had dinner with my oldest son, and we talked about why I had to refinance my mortgage to afford the renovations. During our conversation he had some good questions around finances that I was able to help him with. By including them in the everyday situations, explaining how things work, and telling them why it’s important, you’ll teach them some really valuable life skills that they don’t learn in school.
Make them feel like they’re part of a team. Make them feel valued. That’s what takes your screaming child in Walmart, to a child who willingly mows the lawn. It’s showing respect. Kids need to be respected just as adults do. It’ll surprise you how much knowledge they have and how much they’re able to contribute when asked.
Improving the communication in our family took some time. Remembering to acknowledge took a lot of pausing and noticing.
The payoff was connecting on a richer level and knowing that if they have problems in their life that they’re okay to come to me to talk about them. We solve them together and without judgement. We’ve created a relationship built on trust.
If you know of someone who would like to connect better with their kids, share this post with them.