Sunday, December 13, 2015

Parent Tips: Establish a positive attitude about helping at home

Like most parents, you are probably well-practiced at asking your children to do things that may or may not get completed. And you are familiar with the frustrations that arise when trying to motivate others to get tasks done. Part of the problem may be related to a child's age and maturity level. And much of the problem arises from the competition for your teen's time. For example, in today's high tech and social cultures, there are opportunities that offer fun for teens and their younger peers, and that lead to distraction from essential responsibilities. And we didn’t even mention the phone and television.

Getting your family to pull together begins with building the right family attitude. And building the right attitude involves developing healthy thinking patterns and behaviors. I'm sure you have already had these common discussions with your family. See if any of these examples sound familiar: "I need your help;" "You need to get your homework done;" "Your room's a mess;" "Where are your clean shirts?" "You didn't tell me you had to be at practice tonight;" and "Help your brother with his homework." All of the above are standard frustrations for most parents.

Restart this process with a basic family attitude change. For example: "Our family is a team and for our household to function, we all help to pull together. I need your help to do this. Everyone has chores and we'll change these around to be fair, etc." Using whatever words best fit your family’s age and personality, the general themes are taking responsibility, cooperating, sharing, and working as a team.

Plan to repeat your ideas when needed; echoing the same thoughts and needs. Anticipate complaints and criticism. Accept exceptions and manipulations on occasion. Then repeat your stance and keep going.

Second, model the expected behavior for your kids and help them when necessary. You are probably already doing the majority of household tasks. Use those efforts as patterns for them to follow. For example: “Let me show you how I do the wash; then I want you to take over washing your clothes;” “Here’s a quick way to clean your room.”

Third, be a supportive coach.  Coaching is another essential tool to help guide your child through various learning steps, and it shows interest in both your children and their efforts. When conducted in the right manner, coaching makes it much easier for you to correct and shape behavior in positive ways. This is especially true when it gives you the chance to reward your children for genuine effort. For example: “I see how well you are organizing things in your room. Let me share a couple of ideas that may help you keep things in place.” Follow these efforts with ongoing supervision. Plan for frustration at times, and repetition.

Fourth, supervise constructively. Supervision shows your children that you are monitoring their progress and that you care about results. This helps build your children's confidence about their efforts and reinforces the importance of doing a task well.

It is helpful to be aware of your tone of voice and manner when making corrections. Be assertive, express concern, set limits, but avoid destructive criticism which almost always results in anger and frustration. Remember to be consistent when discussing the behaviors you expect (goals), or when defining limits. Try to structure instructions in ways that your children understand and that you can review later. Write directions down if needed.

Make sure to reward small steps of improvement. Create an atmosphere of appreciation for efforts, even if not perfectly done. For example, I cannot tell you how much it means to have the table cleaned and the dishes put in the dishwasher. Thank you so much. Helping your little brother means so much to me.

Set limits and consequences and be consistent with them. You likely have made demands and threatened punishment in the past. That's pretty standard for most parents. Set the consequences up ahead of time and make sure your child understands them. 

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