Calm/Assertive Procedures like this one give kids two choices and two choices only. Kids can either:
Suffer the consequences of not being cooperative
Either way, we can be calm and empathetic because we do not allow this third option to exist:
Do whatever you want, develop bad behaviors, and become a person people don’t want to be around
The possibility of allowing choice C is what makes us angry, excitable, and sometimes irate because we love our kids and we know where kids who get to use choice C often end up.
Calm/Assertive Parenting Procedures like this one take into account all possible ways that kids will try to get to choice C. We stop those channels to C and reroute back to either choice A or B. We do this all without ever trying to control that which we cannot control.
Here We Go…
Kids pretending to forget, or actually forgetting, to do household chores can present a frustrating problem for parents. Pretending to forget to do a chore is a time-honored kidskill that has been used for centuries. Even my own wife, who was otherwise a very dutiful and cooperative kid, has admitted that pretending to forget to do chores was usually a successful strategy that resulted in getting her mother to do the chores for her.
The following is a bullet-proof method for training kids to do their chores.
What Not to Do
Never, ever do your kids’ chores for them without payment.
Do not lecture about the importance of chores, hard work, or responsibility.
Do not warn your children of consequences.
Do not tell kids to do their chores.
What to Do: Setting the Limit
Apologize to your kid for any warning or lecturing you have used in the past. Let them know that these actions will stop. Instead, you will explain one time, right now, how chores will be assigned and completed. This will be the last time this will ever be explained or discussed.
Explain that each day, there will be a dry erase board or a piece of paper posted in some convenient common area. We will call it a “Work Board.” Oftentimes this is placed on the refrigerator or somewhere else in the kitchen. It will have two categories: Nows and Laters. Nows are assignments or chores that must be done before anything else, including Laters. In short, when a Now is on the board and has not yet been completed, the kid’s life stops. They can either do the Nows or do absolutely nothing. Those are the only two options. Nows generally consist of chores, as well as homework during the school year and extra academic work during the summer.
Laters are activities that kids can do that are usually fun. Your kids already do these things, you just don’t call them Laters yet. Play outside, read, watch 30 minutes of TV, knit, practice driving the car, or do an art project are all examples of Laters. You will come up with many others.
The idea behind this Real-World Work Procedure is that it allows parents to teach kids the realities of work and play and their relationship to each other: if you play without doing your work, your life gets worse. Again, these lessons will be taught by adults taking action, instead of by adults using a lot of words. Kids can either learn this now, or bill collectors and landlords can teach them this later.
The Work Board does not have to have any Nows on it. On the weekends, during summer, and for kids who are not yet of school age, there can just be a list of Later activities. This can serve to give kids ideas about things they can do. When kids wake up in the morning, especially in the summer, most parents choose not to have a Now awaiting their kids, unless they wish to use breakfast as a Now.
There are three ways for parents to introduce Now activities. Usually, there will be multiple Nows.
- Just Add It: If it occurs to you that a chore needs to be done, simply put it on the Work Board and say the following exactly as written: “There is a Now on the Work Board. You know what to do.” The expectation is that your kid checks the Work Board immediately. If they fail to do this, use interventions or go straight to consequences.
- Have it Ready: Simply have the Work Board ready when the kids come home or when they wake up. The expectation is that kids will start on their Nows immediately.
- Give a Time: This works well for when kids wake up in the morning or come home from school and the parent wants to give them a break (that often involves breakfast or a snack) before they have to get to work. For instance, a Now could be Walk the dog (at 8:30).
Here is an example of what a work board can look like. If you would like Nows to be done in a certain order, number them. For non-readers, you can use pictures or drawings instead of words.
- Take out the trash
- Clean the bathroom
- Play outside
- 30 minutes of TV
- Play with toys
What to Do: Intervention #1
On occasion, kids will need to be gently prompted to begin their Nows. Remember, we never want to warn, lecture, threaten, or even tell kids what to do, since these actions create resistance. Instead, you can use interventions to prompt their actions without getting into power struggles or taking a lot of your time and energy.
The following quick statements and questions can be used to prompt kids. They must be said in passing and while walking away from the kid. Only use these one time before either moving on to Intervention #2 or Consequences. Intervention #1 can be skipped, as can Intervention #2. Here are the questions and statements that can be used:
- It’s time.
- What’s next?
- What should you do now?
What to Do: Intervention #2
These interventions are the same as the #1 Interventions, but you will choose one and say it only once, and then look at your kid until they begin a Now. Only wait for three to five seconds before moving on to consequences. Again, Intervention #2 can be skipped and you can go straight to consequences. Only use interventions before your kid begins Nows. If your kid begins a Now, and then starts doing anything besides Nows before he is done with them, go straight to Consequences.
What to Do: Consequences
If a kid is doing something besides their Nows before they are done with them, there needs to be immediate action instead of words. First, use a calm response, Such as “Oh, man” or “Oh, boy.” Then, physically remove whatever activity is being done. If a kid is still eating breakfast, remove it. If they are playing video games, physically take the power cord out of the TV. If a kid is using a tablet, take it. Put these things away so the kid can’t get them back. Do not respond if a kid argues. If he asks when he will get something back, only say, “You’ll see.”
If the kid stares off into space, take no other action. Doing nothing is fine, since doing nothing involves suffering a consequence of having to put one’s life on hold until they do their work. Continue to take away things and activities if Nows are still undone.
If the kid continually refuses to do his Nows, simply tell him how sad this makes you feel, and that you are going to take care of this later. Do not do anything more and allow your kid to continue to do whatever he likes. Then, later, remove every single activity that your kid could possibly engage in from your home. All screens, books, toys, and games need to be placed in locked storage. Do this when your kid is not home. Do not talk about this. Just do it. If you have multiple kids, their possessions should be kept in a space away from the refusing child.
If your kid is refusing to do chores, use this procedure.
Referring kids to the Later list can be a good, simple action for when kids say, “I’m bored.” Simply ask, “Where is the list of things you can do?” If kids whine or argue, only say the following: “I’m not sure what else to tell you.”
The purpose of this CAPP is to help with kids who struggle with doing chores; however, the purpose of a Work Board can take many forms. Nows and Laters are simply a great way to help your child be self-guided, as well as a tool to provide some independent structure during the day when you need it.