It’s a well-known fact that some adults have more success with difficult youngsters than others. One reason for the difference can be a youngster’s perception and belief that some adults are more reasonable, fair, and logical in their expectations. (Interestingly enough, reality doesn’t have much to do with it; the youngster’s perception is what affects behavior.)
One easy way to accomplish “reasonable, fair, and logical” with tasks is to offer a discard for satisfactory compliance. In effect, it’s a “Get Busy!” discount. It worked great for years in our home with our oldest child, our son.
“Give Two Back to Me”
Here’s how it worked. In that period of time between coming home from school and supper, I would give him five chores to do. Before he had a chance to think much about resisting, I would say, “If you can finish three of these by 5:30pm, you can give two of them back to me.” As I recall, he always went for the deal. He relished handing unfinished chores BACK to me. The strategy worked well, especially since I never told him I only wanted him to do THREE chores to start with.
This “three of five” approach works even better with cards showing the chores. For instance, “Take out the trash” might be a digital picture of the trash can; “Feed the dog” might be a picture of the dog’s bowl. The idea here is to reduce verbal instruction and thereby reduce issues of verbal “backlash” from the child. Laminate the cards, or cover them with wide tape so they can be used over and over again.
Changing the “Look” of Chores
In the example given, the youngster passes back two chores, undone. What if they were given six, but the requirement was the same: to do only three chores in the time specified? In this instance, the youngster gives back half of the chores in return for doing the remaining half within the time specified. Can you see how this makes chore time seem more reasonable, logical, and fair? (Besides, if three chores were the target, it doesn’t really matter how many the youngster gives back, so long as those three were done. Result: Everyone feels like they WON!)
Once this approach gets rolling, you won’t even need to give the chores to the youngster; simply leave them in an envelope with the instructions. It also helps to mix the chores so they aren’t the same ones every time.
A nationally recognized child and adolescent psychologist, author and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is in demand for his expertise on emotionally and behaviorally troubled youngsters, and his skill for sharing it. He the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, a popular internet radio program supporting young people and their families, and every month he publishes The Changing Behavior Digest, offering tips on managing difficult children and teens. Both resources (and others) are available at no cost through his website, http://www.DocSpeak.com.