I'm recently back from a trip to Minneapolis, MN, to participate as staff for a leadership training facilitated by Jean Illsley Clarke. I am honored to call Jean my mentor, colleague, and very dear friend, not to mention birthday twin. Being with her for a week in the capacity of staff at one of her trainings was a privilege, and I am still integrating all the learning.
Fast forward to our house this summer. With one son home from college (where, apparently, "they do everything for you") and another focused on friends and fun, chore completion has been a challenge. Since last week's leadership training was about overindulgence, I gained a lot of support and insights into ways I can be clearer about preventing myself from the 3 ways parents (and others) overindulge children and teens. This information is based on years of research. The three ways parents (usually inadvertently) overindulge are:
- too much (stuff, activities),
- over nurture (doing too much for them) and
- soft structure (not setting enough limits).
No one I know intends to harm their children or teens by overindulging them, yet the research is pretty clear that providing too much, doing too much, and not setting enough limits can have an unintentional negative impact on adult functioning. Adults who were overindulged as children can lack needed skills, have a skewed perspective on their importance, and have difficulty with the concept of "enough."
Here's a keeper phrase from the week: "The intent doesn't match the impact." We often intend to help, do a favor, lessen pain. Yet, the impact can be learned incompetence, which no parent I know intends to be a result of their parenting.
Back to chores....here's a tool I found very helpful: the five parts of a job. Check it out:
- What is the job?
- What skills are required to complete the job?
- Do the job.
- Finish the job.
- Clean up any stuff/equipment/gear required to do the job.
I don't know about you, but I think this is Genius!!! How many battles could be prevented if we came to a decision about exactly, in behavioral and descriptive terms what the job is? Example: Clean room = toys picked up, clothes put away, desk straightened, floor vacuumed, bed made.
But wait, there's more! What skills are required? Well, one needs to be able to pick up toys, put clothes in a hamper, hang up clothing, put clean clothes in a drawer, sort school papers, etc....depending on the age of one's child, of course.
And then, one needs to do the job. If your child is very young, or any time someone is learning a new skill, training time will most likely be required. Plan for that. Do it with them. Show them what you mean.
But we're not done yet! One needs to finish the job. To do this, parent and child need a mutually shared definition of what it means to be done. Does the floor need to be clear? Do all toys need to be in bins? Do books need to be on a shelf? Does the rug need to be vacuumed? The bed made? How well? Is there a time frame for completion? If this is an area that needs work at your house, see how working with this concept effects results.
Finally, one needs to put the job tools away. Again, a mutually shared definition helps. Do you have to put the vacuum back in the closet if your brother still needs to vacuum another room? Do you need to put the dishes on the counter, in the sink, or in the dishwasher? During training, it can be helpful for adults to go around with the young person to observe, "I see the hose is still in the grass. Reel it in please." Or, "I see dishes still on the counter. When you put them in the dishwasher, you will be done."
I don't guarantee miracles, yet I hope it is a tool for clarity--a way for parents to set up chores for more successful and effective outcomes, and most importantly, a blueprint for teaching children how to do them competently. I don't know about you, but I'm all for competence in children and youth. And adults. Let's try this out:
Skills required: Ability to set boundaries and create time for myself
Do the job: Take a bubble bath, read a book, take a walk, etc.
Finish the job: Do not allow interruptions (other than true emergencies involving blood or fire) while participating in self-care.
Put stuff away: Drain the tub, put marker in book, put walking shoes away.
Ahhhhh. Well done!