Do you ever get tired of continually asking your child if he made his bed, brushed his teeth, and took out the trash? You feel that if you don't continually remind and ask him if he did the things he was expected to do, they don't get done. If you happen to have a busy morning and forget to ask him if he cleaned his room, he is off the hook for the time being. I think most parents at some time in their parenting struggle with this principle, but there is a solution that actually works!
I haven't reached this stage yet in my own parenting, but in helping with my nephews we have dealt with this issue, and this one principle if applied consistently will solve this problem.
One of my go to books for anything parenting is the Childwise series by Gary Ezzo. All of his books are incredible, and I have found his methods to be very reliable both in parenting and in teaching.
This is one of the principles taught in his book,
So how to we instill this diligence in children to stay at a task until it is completed and to be responsible for their everyday grooming and chores? Before we delve into the answer to that question, we must remember two very important principles.
1. "Parents own all behaviors until the child is both intellectually ready and physically cable to take ownership." (Childwise, pg:175)
This means that as parents we are responsible for the actions of our children until they are old enough to be responsible for them. For example, your three old is playing outside and accidentally breaks the neighbors window. He is not old enough to pay for and repair the window himself, so you must help him. Another example would be that your two year old gets mud all over the floor. You wouldn't tell her to clean it up because she would just make a bigger mess.
There comes a point when a child will be old enough to pay for the window himself and help repair it as well as clean mud off the floor. As your child grows older, his capacity for responsibility increases as well. The big question here would be," What behaviors fall under the responsibility of the child and which ones belong to the parent?"
The Training Phase
Before a child can be accountable for his own actions, there must a training phase. I will use the example the book provides because it explains it excellently.
"For example there was a time when mom used to put out the paint set and coloring book for three year Lucy. Afterwards, mom cleaned up the mess because Lucy wasn't ready for that task. This is in the pre-accountability phase. But the day came when mom began to show Lucy how she could get her paint set down from the shelf, lay out the newspaper on the kitchen table, and then, after paint time, clean up after herself. This is making the transition to the accountability phase.
Mom is teaching responsible behavior for a specific task. As Lucy grows and becomes more responsible, she is taught to take more ownership of her own behavior. Eventually Lucy, not mom is held accountable for her own paint time activities. Mom has properly transferred it to Lucy." (Childwise, pg:176)
After you have thoroughly trained your child the responsible actions associated with a task and they are physically ready to take the responsibility for a task, it is theirs.
The problem with us parents is that once it is theirs we tend to take back the responsibility by continuing to remind and nag a child about chores or a certain task. How can we avoid doing this?
There is one simple phrase that works like a charm putting the responsibility entirely back on the child's shoulder without stressing the parent out. I do mean stress too because how annoying is it to continually have to remind a child over and over again to do the tasks that they already know they are supposed to do.
The simple phrase to combat this problem is, "Do you have the freedom to?" I will give you an example of how this works.
You have fully taught your children how to properly make their beds, brush their teeth, dress themselves, and do their morning chore. They are supposed to do all these things before coming down to have breakfast in the morning. So the next morning, when Roger sits at the breakfast table instead of asking him the usual ten questions of whether he brushed his teeth, washed his face, made his bed, etc; you ask him," Roger do you have the freedom to be here?"
You successfully left the ball in his court because now he has to think back to whether or not he fulfilled all his tasks. The next question, you may ask is what if they say they do have the freedom to be here, but in reality, they don't? This is where is consequences must come in.
Simply having a child do the task that was left incomplete is not a consequence, that was his responsibility. A consequence would be him losing the privilege of playing outside or giving him an extra chore to do. Do you see how this eliminates your need to remind him and helps him to develop diligence in his work?
Addressing the Heart
This next section is a little complex to describe but so necessary in parenting! I really recommend you purchase the book and read it from cover to cover. It provides so many more examples and so much clarity than what I can provide here. Here is the basic grasp of how to effectively train the heart of your child.
Transferring ownership to the child goes way beyond just chores and routines. In the end, you want your child to take ownership of their own heart actions as well. This next method definitely speeds up that process and gives you insight into how much moral knowledge you have given to your child.
Reflective Sit Time
" A Reflective sit time allows the opportunity for the child to sit and thing about what he should have done or said. It is a corrective strategy, not a punitive one. It is to help bring a child to repentance, forgiveness, and restoration and help a child morally evaluate his or her circumstance and then take ownership fr the present and future responses. Reflective sit time is a great tool for children six years of age and older." (Childwise, pg:186)
An example of this in action would be the following scenario. Both of your children, ages 5 and 7 are outside playing in the sandbox. Sam your five year old son is shoveling dirt when his brother Alex decides he needs the shovel. Alex roughly takes the shovel away and pushes him. Sam falls out of the sandbox and hits his head on a rock. You hear all the commotion and come running outside. After you figure out what is gong on, you remember this principle.
Instead of doing the most natural thing lecturing him, you tell him to go inside, sit on the couch, and think about his actions. You give him about ten minutes and then come and talk with him. You then ask him what he did wrong and let him tell you. Now you tell him that you want to spend the next couple of minutes thinking about what he needs to do to make it right. You leave him alone again for about ten or so more minutes. After that, you come back and ask him what he has decided. You then let him make restitution.
This whole process is helping him learn to own his own actions and take responsibility for them himself. When you tell a child exactly what he did wrong, you are robbing him of the ability to own his actions. This is one of the reasons lecturing is so ineffective and just leads to you continually reminding them.
I hope this truly helps you in your endeavor to raise children of character. I have been helped time and time again by using it.