Kids Need To Help At Home

The Healthy Family Connections Podcast

Episode 073 · Duration: 00:15:43

Kids Need To Help At Home

Are you tired of being the “bad guy” in your family because you’re the one asking for cooperation and setting limits?

Kids Need To Help At HomeLisa from Vienna VA writes:

My husband and I are not on the same page with our kids being responsible at home. I have a 16-year-old daughter, 13-year-old boy and a 8-year-old girl. They are good kids, get good grades, they play sports and are very respectful. However, when it comes to being responsible with their chores and keeping the house neat and organized, that’s another issue. I feel it’s because my husband and I are not on the same page when it comes to how you keep your home clean or how you teach your kids to be neat. He gets mad if I ask the kids more than once to pick up their plate from breakfast and put it in the sink, he doesn’t think I should ask them to clean their rooms because it’s their room, he tells me I’m crazy about cleaning when in reality it’s not cleaning, it’s me wanting the kids to be responsible by doing things like taking out the trash, putting their back pack in their room vs. in the middle of the kitchen floor, put their dirty plate in the sink, don’t leave dirty dishes in their rooms. It’s to the point where when I ask my son to take out the trash and he doesn’t and I ask him again an hour later my husband gets mad and says stop harassing my son. He does this in front of the kids. The kids know that he doesn’t view this as important. I am always the bad guy here. I am looked at as crazy. I worry that we are teaching our kids to be slobs and I am upset that my husband will not back me up here and actually undermine me in front of them by calling me crazy and accusing me of making everyone miserable over my cleaning. Please help with advice.

Thanks for your question Lisa; let’s see what we can figure out here. From my point of view, your goals and your thinking are on the right track. You want your kids to be responsible at home and certainly be cooperative and respectful when you make requests, guide them, and set limits. It’s important for children and teenagers to know that they need to contribute to the family, and learn skills for cleaning, organizing, even cooking and home maintenance tasks. It’s good for them to learn the skills, the good habits, and kids feel good when they’re part of things and make a valued contribution.

It’s important for children and teenagers to know that they need to contribute to the family, and learn skills for cleaning, organizing, even cooking and home maintenance tasks. Click To Tweet

But in your family, instead of implementing these important values and skills, we have a very destructive family dynamic going on. Mom makes a request, doesn’t get cooperation, reminds kids, Dad get’s upset with Mom for bugging kids, kids learn they don’t need to cooperate with Mom’s requests, and it goes on, and now Mom, you feel like “the bad guy.”

The Negative Pattern

It is important to note that your kids are all doing well with respect to managing school responsibilities and they have positive social involvement, and those are huge pluses to be happy about, so whatever negative dynamic is going on with respect to home responsibilities, it doesn’t seem to be effecting other critical areas of their lives, and that’s surprising under these circumstances. It helps me think that you might be doing better than you think. Still, the negative pattern needs to change.

In order to get to your goal of getting respect and cooperation from your three wonderful kids here, we need to change this pattern. The struggle between you and your husband is key here, right? So let’s try to understand it so we can end it.

Your husband seems to think that your trying to teach the kids healthy behavior is about you being a “clean freak” of some kind, that it’s about a personal thing and something wrong with you, and not about healthy parenting. Now even thinking this way, he should not be calling you names or getting in the middle of your relationship with the kids. He should be talking with you about his concerns, but he isn’t doing that. So the next question is, are you talking with him about your concerns about his behavior of getting between you and the kids? Or, are the two of you not discussing this because if you do, you just fight, so rather than discuss it and have it end up in a fight, you simply go on with you trying to get the kids to cooperate, the kids not cooperating, and your husband criticizing you and supporting their lack of cooperation.

Practicing Self-Care

That all sounds pretty miserable doesn’t it? Lisa, I’m sure your frustration level is pretty darn high at this point, and I’m willing to bet that you’re suffering some degree of Parental Burnout. When we are in parental burnout, our ability to think clearly and bring enthusiasm and creativity to situations goes down. In parental burnout, you’re not going to have a positive or loving tone of voice when you communicate. And the negative pattern around chores and behaviors is going to infect your entire relationship with your kids and husband.

So take a step back and implement some self-care strategies. Worry less about what the kids are doing or not doing, they’re doing okay in their lives for right now, and take care of yourself. Don’t be passive aggressive about it such as, “well if no one is going to listen to me then I’m not going to say anything.” Just worry less about how they respond, and invest in something just for you; walking, out with a friend, gardening, reading a novel you haven’t had time for, whatever revives you.

Worry less about what the kids are doing or not doing, especially if they’re doing okay in their lives for right now, and take care of yourself. Click To Tweet

Have A Conversation With Your Husband

After a week or two of things being calmer, have a discussion with your husband. Talk about how the two of you have been working at odds and putting the kids in the middle. Ask him about how it is for him and what he’s reacting to. I don’t know enough about your personality and how you come off and I don’t know enough about your husband and his personality and values, but let’s give him and you the benefit of the doubt, that you both want what’s best for the kids and you both want to respect and be respected by each other. In other words, you both have good intentions.

If your husband has feedback for you about your tone with the kids, or the way you’re communicating with them and him, be open to it. Even if you see your behavior as reactive to his behavior and the kid’s behavior, be open to seeing your part. See if your husband can be open to his part, that he’s hurting you and not helping the kids. And that if he wants you to change some behaviors, that you are open to it if he approaches you with the idea of constructive criticism.

Part of your conversation with your husband can be on the household chores which includes a lot of things, from shopping, cooking, cleaning up dishes, cleaning the house, yard work, car washing, laundry. Who does all that and should the kids participate in any of it and if so, how can we present it so that it’s positive and there is accountability? And I do hope your husband is doing his share of home responsibilities and not giving you the message that you’re supposed to do everything and be his and the kid’s servant.

Tips For Making Changes In The Family

Here are some ideas I have: set up some routines for getting things done as a family, like Saturday morning, clean the bathrooms, bedrooms, vacuum, etc. If everyone works together, the house can be cleaned up on a couple of hours. For doing dishes, I like an all hands on deck approach, that way it gets done quickly and teaches working together and the concept of many hands makes light work. Dishes involves clearing the table, putting away the condiments and leftovers, putting away the placemats, cleaning the table, washing the dishes or loading the dishwasher, drying and putting away the pots and pans and stuff that doesn’t go in the dishwasher, wiping down the stove and counters, and finally, sweeping the floor. That’s a lot for one person to do, but not so much for everyone to do together. Working together it can be fun and take 10 minutes. For one person, it would be 30 minutes or more.

By the way, I agree that the kids should clean their rooms. The kids don’t own their rooms, they get to have their rooms and like all things in life, it’s conditional. For instance, we get to have a house if we pay our mortgage, pay our taxes, and take care of it so it doesn’t fall apart. And cleaning their rooms is hygienic and helps them be organized. You’re right Lisa, it is important for them to learn to do these things.

Another thing you can do Lisa, is be sure not to have a negative tone of voice when asking or reminding or re-asking your kids to do something. If you need to ask your son a second time to take out the trash, go up to him, put your arm around his shoulders and gently say, “when I ask you to do something like take out the garbage, it’s because it’s important and I really need the help. I can’t do everything by myself and you are a strong capable young man. So please, would you take care of that now? It would mean a lot to me.”

And then when he does it, thank him and let him know again how supportive that is for you.

Now, let’s just say your kids, after your best effort to change your way of engaging them, still won’t clean their rooms. Let them know that either they can clean their rooms, or you will. And if you do it, you’ll be going through their things and deciding where things belong, and if things belong, and taking action accordingly.

Lisa, I hope you’re getting the idea here. Don’t let yourself be the “family bad guy”. You’re not bad and we simply need to change a stuck negative pattern. By taking care of yourself and getting out of parental burnout, and bringing a more positive, confident and engaging self to your family members, you’ll shift out of your painful control battles and have more fun being the Mom in your wonderful family.

Don’t let yourself be the “family bad guy.” You’re not bad. You simply need to change a stuck negative pattern. Click To Tweet

So parents, let’s ask ourselves, are we in any negative relationship patterns in our lives? Patterns we don’t like, yet participate in? If we do, we need to stop, take a deep breath, and re-examine our approach. We will not find solutions when we’re frustrated and burned out, so we’ll need to take a break from the problem and focus on our own needs. Then come back with a fresh approach, one that doesn’t feed the beast, doesn’t feed the Control Battle.

Thanks for tuning in this week listeners and special thanks to Lisa for her question. I’d like to ask that if you are enjoying the Healthy Family Connections Podcast, take a minute and leave a review on iTunes for me. It will let others know that they too can benefit from tuning in.

And please remember, take care of yourselves; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it. Bye for now.


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