Have any of the following ever happened in your family? When the mention of work or chores is made kids break out in whining, tears, back talk, or stomping their feet throwing a fit. Some even run and hide.
No? It never happens to you? Well. Maybe you should be the one writing this series of posts instead of me! Joking aside I think all families face this dilemma at some point in time. How do you handle it? How do you go about teaching your kids to not whine, or back talk, or complain when work needs to be done?
I don’t claim to have all the answers. My kids might be drastically different than yours. But I do have ten of them and I have found some things that seem to work with almost all of them no matter what their personalities or dispositions are like.
The first place to start is with ourselves. It might seem unfair but how we approach our work as mothers and the duties we have to perform greatly influences our families and their attitudes about work. Do you dread figuring out what’s for dinner? Do you despise cleaning toilets? You do? Oh good! You are totally normal then. Everyone feels that way about some chores. What we have to realize though is how we express those negative attitudes about family work, family service shows our children several things. It will either show them that the work we do is undesirable and not worth doing or it will show them we, too, do things we don’t like but we can do it without complaining and whining or they will learn to turn things upside down and make something loathsome into something lovable. Okay, maybe not quite that but you get the idea. Our kids often mirror what they see and that can be a harsh reality some days.
I’ve found when I really get cranky about doing housework it’s not that I hate serving my family but rather I just feel overwhelmed. Ah! Thus the reason why family work – involving everyone together – is so important.
Children need to work with their parents—to wash dishes with them, to mop floors with them, to mow lawns, to prune trees and shrubbery, to paint and fix up and clean up and do a hundred other things where they will learn that labor is the price of cleanliness and progress and prosperity (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley , 707).
Helping Younger Kids
Little children love to help! Have you noticed that? They are eager to do simple tasks and to please their parents, looking to them for recognition that they have done a good job. So what changes as they get older? Could it be that our constant ‘fixing’ of how they do something kills their desire making them feel as if they aren’t good enough anymore? Or maybe we forget to acknowledge what they did right and focus instead on what they did wrong? Or is it possible that instructions we give to them are clear to us but not very clear to them? I’m guessing it’s a combination of all three and more.
The following are suggestions that I have found work most of the time for younger kids. Using just one of these usually stops or prevents any whining or complaining.
- Give younger children their own tools. (Apron, spray bottle and sponge, mini broom, miniature gardening tools) It can be hard for a four year old to sweep with a broom that is bigger than they are. Invest in good quality cleaning tools that are sized just for them.
- Think outside the box– wear old socks dipped in water to skate around the floor while mopping.
- Give important sounding names to jobs (i.e. window washing wizard).
- Give clear instructions. For younger kids it’s helpful to have pictures to remind them of what they are to do.
- Don’t “fix” their best efforts. If you are constantly fixing or doing it better they will just see their chores as another way to disappoint you. If your standards aren’t being met ask yourself a few questions: Is the job just too hard for their skill level? Can I live with the child’s standard of work while they are learning to do it better? Can they work alongside me to learn?
- Set an alarm for 5 minutes. Let them race the clock. After 5 minutes praise them for whatever they were able to do. Don’t point out what was not done or what was done wrong. Set the alarm for 3 minutes of silly dancing. After they get some wiggles out set the alarm again for 5 minutes and have them race the clock again. Repeat this scenario until the child’s work is complete.
Helping Older Children
Handling the whining and complaining of older kids can be tricky. You don’t want to turn it into a yelling match or a game of wits.
- Set consequences and follow through. One of the main reasons kids, toddlers through teens, whine is because it works! The number one mistake parents make, I am guilty of this too, is not setting clearly defined consequences or not following through on those consequences. When I am consistent in following through the amount of complaining or whining is drastically reduced. My kids find it is fruitless to whine and only adds to their “misery” with privileges being taken away or extra chores being added to their list.
- Talk about what emotions they are really feeling. Sometimes older kids complain or whine because they don’t really know how to express what they are feeling. Help them learn more effective ways of communicating. Ask questions, be kind, and . . .
- Don’t feed the tiger. When we react to whining with complaining or whining of our own we are just giving them meat to feed their behavior. Learn to respond rather than react. Simple responses let them know you acknowledge their feelings but aren’t going to allow your buttons to be pushed. “Hmm, sorry you don’t like that. I hated doing that job as a kid too.”
- Don’t ask children to do a chore that you as a parent wouldn’t do. Sometimes it’s okay to work alongside your teen helping them do their chores even when you know full well they can do it themselves. It provides a good opportunity to talk one-on-one. Who knows, maybe, just maybe, next time they’ll be a little more willing to do their job because there is a good memory attached to it.
Other Tactics for Kids of All Ages
- Time-Out. As with all of us, there are good days and bad days. Sometimes no matter what we try there just needs to be a time-out, either for us or our kids. Send them (or you) to a distraction free place for a set amount of time to cool down.
- Remove a privilege such as outdoor play or playing with a friend, mobile devices, etc. Each child will be different so find what you can remove that will really work for them.
- “Work Practice” – Tell your child they must need to practice more and have them pick a popsicle stick with an extra chore written on it, or an index card from a box of “consequence” cards, which they must do after the family chore is completed.
How do you deal with whining and complaining, especially about chores, at your house?
More posts to read that might help on this topic:
This post is part of the Establish a House series.