I once asked a mom about what her 13-year old son did to help around the house. “Oh, nothing,” she replied. “All I ask is that he do his schoolwork and get good grades. I take care of the rest.” That was already a tip-off to me about some of the difficulties in her family. In a way, this young man was allowed to call the shots and to believe that the world revolved around him. Let’s get real. Grades are important, but they are not the only factor in determining self-confidence, self-esteem and future success.
High self-esteem does come from good grades, athletics, and performing arts, but there’s more to this picture. Even the mundane – especially the mundane – can build a sense of self-worth and competence in children of all ages. Children must also know that their participation in all aspects of family life is important and appreciated. Let me start the list for you: mowing the grass, cleaning toilets, organizing a closet, clearing the table, doing laundry, putting away groceries, dusting, changing sheets. These are not just chores. They are life skills and confidence boosters. (Yes, I really did say that cleaning the toilet can boost your kid’s confidence… as part of the bigger picture, of course.)
There’s one thing you must do first: let go of your need for perfection and attention to detail. Although you can probably do it more efficiently yourself, it’s time to sit on your hands and zip your lip. If the bed’s not made perfectly, who cares? A few dust bunnies left after sweeping? Not important. Practice makes progress. You get help, and know that you’re preparing your child for life after the cocoon of your home. He develops practical skills and feels competent.
He may not enjoy the work, but it’s necessary because:
1. He needs to know how to do these things.
2. You can use the help.
3. Every member of the family must contribute in some way.
4. He’s part of something bigger than himself.
5. Not everything is fun. This is the real world.
6. He’ll have a story to tell about something icky.
7. There’s a sense of satisfaction when it’s finally done.
8. One day he’ll want this from his own kids!
I know you have a to-do list for the house. Who will be on your work crew today?
Fern Weis is a certified life coach who learned that caring and good intentions are not enough in parenting. In fact, they are often the problem! Fern supports parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, including addiction recovery. She helps parents release guilt, end enabling and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life's challenges. Her articles are featured in Thrive Global, Medium, Motherly, The Teen Mentor, and Bergen County Moms.
Learn more about coaching and classes at www.fernweis.com. And then download your free guide, "Five Powerful Steps to Get Your Teen to Talk." For information on Family Recovery programs, visit www.familyrecoverypartners.com.