Friday, November 16, 2012

learning to parent again

I sometimes feel frustrated parenting my teenaged son. Both of us are learning some things all over again, it seems.
Picture from

For example the other day I reminded him (many times) to clean the kitchen. He finally did but it took him a long time and he did not do a very good job. I tried to stay out of it and allow him time to do it. However by the time he was done, late in the day, many of the dishes were still sticky, and both of us were grouchy and snappish at each other.


My first thoughts were that he was fifteen years old and should already know how to do all of this. He has been helping with cleaning the kitchen since he was very little. After a cooling off period and some thought, I realized that I had made a couple of mistakes.

First I “nagged” him. It would have been better to let him know what he was responsible to do, within a time frame, and then trusted him to be able to get it done. This is best done in one conversation and then followed through by trusting that it will be done.  Also having a consequence if it is not done, for example, if it is not completed by a certain time he is not allowed to be on anything electronic until it is completed.

Second I did not ensure that he was well trained in cleaning the kitchen. You would think that after about 10 years of helping out he would know how. I forgot that a lot has changed in the last couple of years. This is really the first time he has been responsible to clean the kitchen from start to finish. Between me being unemployed, his dad being here and then leaving, and his sister growing up and moving out we are doing chores in a whole new way. He simply didn’t know how to do this and I forgot to make sure that he had proper training.

Children of all ages need to do chores. It helps them become responsible, feel that they are an important part of the family, and learn life skills. There will always be dirty dishes, laundry, and housecleaning. The battle of housework and children doing them often cause many parents to give up and just do it them themselves. It is so frustrating and a lot harder work to tell kids to do their chore or make a chore chart that only works for a while. I realized that in the last couple of years I have fallen into a trap of just doing it myself because it was easier. I forgive myself. I forgive my son.

Now I have had the conversation about what he is responsible for, when he is responsible for it, and when we will do the training for it. We are in training for laundry and dishes. Major things in our lives have changed how these things are done. We used to live in a nice big house with a washer and dryer that he knew how to use; now we use our apartment laundry room. We used to do the dishes together and now I am asking him to clean the kitchen from beginning to end, including mopping the floor (gasp!), something brand new to him.

This is what my son would rather be doing!

Once children have the training, know what is expected of them, and know that you trust that they will get it done, they will do their best. This works for children aged 4 and up. It is a simple respect you would give any adult new to any job, and it is a new job to children. One important aspect is the teaching part. Show them how to do it, watch while they do it and then check in from time to time and respectfully correct what they are doing.

What I do is set a time frame that makes me happy, I like to spend the afternoon in a clean house, or come home to a clean house, so currently my schedule is to do it in the morning. What I have been doing is asking that it is done by 10 am. I begin cleaning at a certain time so that I will be done by 10 am and this has so far gotten my son to start cleaning too. I am still helping him learn all the parts of cleaning a kitchen. It is a lot to learn after all, there is the actual work, time management, and self-motivation; but together we are learning.


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