Chapter Review – “Roots of Responsibility”
In The New Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children John Rosemond recommends a no-nonsense approach to teaching children responsibility. Quoting the famous God Father he says, “you must give them a deal they can’t refuse.”
In his approach to good parenting John recommends:
John suggests that one of the best ways to mold children into responsible individuals is to give them age appropriate chores and he suggests five practical outcomes to prove his point:
- It helps them develop the skills for running a home and enables them to become independent.
At the very least a responsible person is capable of being independent but in order to feel “needed” some parents will retard the development of this quality in children. That’s a mistake that can cost you excessive amounts of money, time and energy over a life time. It is more important to have your children love you as capable and independent individuals than it is to have them need you.
Assigning chores is one small way to teach your children independence.
- It enables them to develop a sense of significance in the family.
Children with no chores are like athletes who only sit on the bench. It is hard for them to accept rewards for team achievements when they don’t get to play the game. They really don’t feel a part of the team.
Children who get something for nothing loose respect for the things they get and develop a skewed perception of how life works.
- Chores finished responsibly contribute to self-esteem.
Contributors are happy people, non-contributors feel useless.
- It enables them to develop a contributor’s mentality, a sense of initiative.
If managed properly on an emotional level – i.e., the child’s best effort are accepted without constant criticism – the positive reinforcement will move them to begin doing what needs to be done rather than only what they are told to do.
That, by the way, is the description of a prized employee. Someone who sees and does what needs doing rather than sit around waiting for the boss to assign tasks.
Children who contribute to the family learn to think more about “us” than “me.”
- John says that chores in the home enable a child to identify and bond with the values of the family and he uses rural America as proof.
Everyone in a farming family has chores and farms maintain the tradition of conservative values better than other more suburban areas do.
I can’t say he is absolutely wrong on this point but I’m not convinced. The idea needs a little more philosophical shoring.
The Right Approach
John suggests the following approach to assigning chores:
- Be supportive not directive.
If children ask for help, provide it but the best approach is to assign chores they can do without you “looking over their shoulder.” Leaving them to work out the chore says “I believe in you” and that attitude, in turn, encourages self belief.
Don’t give chores they can’t handle or you couldn’t afford for them to mess up. If there is no emotional backlash when they mess up – break a glass – they learn that life includes a few hiccups and there is no sense in “crying over spilled milk.”
Also don’t assign chores that can only be done one way, yours. Allow them to figure it out for themselves before you start coaching.
- Provide a schedule or a time frame.
When they first get up have them straighten the bedroom and feed the animals. When they get home from school have them unload the dishwasher and put things away. After supper have them clear the table, load the dishwasher, put food away and put out the rubbish.
A schedule helps them learn to do things in a timely way on a regular basis.
Without a sense of time management how can any person know what commitments they can or cannot accept?
- Don’t pay for getting the chores done but do give an allowance.
They are already rewarded with housing, clothing, food, medical care and many unnecessary personal and recreation goodies. No contribution they are able to make could ever be equal to the benefits they normally receive. Don’t pay for doing chores.
An allowance, however, should be given and must be allotted for specific things: clothes, shoes, recreation, etc. without being attached to chores. The primary purpose of an allowance is to help children develop a sense of financial management not reward them for doing chores.
- Don’t alternate chores between children.
When a specific chores isn’t assigned to one person no one takes responsibility for it and it opens the door to arguing over whose turn it is and whose to blame when it isn’t done.
- Don’t renege on penalties for lack of performance.
The rule of thumb for nurturing a sense of responsibility in your child is: for every infraction of a rule a penalty must be imposed.
If the child forgets to complete a chore or fails to respond to usual requests – like get up in the morning when called – then a penalty must be imposed, i.e., take away some privilege for the day: going outside to play, visiting a friend, TV time, etc.
To start this plan:
- Sit down and make a list of all your child’s privileges, the things they really enjoy.
- Then make a list of the age appropriate responsibilities – fewer for younger, more for older.
- Assign a penalty – loss of privilege, a consequence – for failing, forgetting or refusing to fulfill the responsibilities.
- Sit down with the child and explain the plan very clearly making sure they understand.
- Apply the rule.
And be sure not to renege or falter. Like a referee at a sporting event, impose the penalties exactly as prescribed without discussion or hesitation. This approach will inoculate children against wasteful lifestyles and aimless living and will transfer the burden of responsibility from the parents shoulders to that of the child.
John says this process will help them develop an informed conscience.
When children become responsible the parents have a reason to be proud and will be relieved.