Monday, May 30, 2011

Parenting Goals and chores

I am looking at ' chores' from a Self determination theory – SDT and Collaborative problem solving - CPS perspectives. Kids are more likely to identify with our goals and values with respect to chores or even find some of them ' intrinsically motivating '  if their needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness are supported and problems are solved in a collaborative way.

The first step is to examine our   Parenting Goals.

Before we try to engage our kids in helping around the home , we first need to ask ourselves -  what are my  primary and long term goals for my kids and how will my approach to chores impact on these goals.

 If not, and especially when it comes to chores  -

 ' We may be tempted to focus our energies on overcoming children’s resistance to our requests and getting them to do what we tell them. If we’re not careful, this can become our primary goal. We may find ourselves joining all those people around us who prize docility in children and value short-term obedience above all. I realized that this is what many people in our society seem to want most from children: not that they are caring or creative or curious, but simply that they are well behaved. A “good” child–from infancy to adolescence–is one who isn’t too much trouble to us grown-ups. '   -  Alfie Kohn

 If our goals are to build a trusting and caring relationship with our kids , helping them to become  intrinsically motivated ,autonomous, competent , responsible and caring people we need first to find another more successful word for helping around the home other  than ' chores'. 

When our goal is simply ' compliance ' , chores describes the reality in the home , an economic or contractual relationship between parents and kids , where kids are taught  - you need to give in order to get ,  kids are rewarded for doing chores , and  chores are tired to allowance money or privileges . No worthwhile attempt can be made to promote or enhance a commitment to the value of family, interdependence and group goals, supporting one another, how a clean, tidy and aesthetic home can contribute to the family and its members. When kids are threatened or bribed they are taught that they cannot be trusted to help or chores have no intrinsic value on their own.  Parents in fact have thus converted the ' social norm ' of making a contribution to the home into an economic norm , something which is valued only in monetary terms and changes a social relationship –  kindness and caring into a contractual relationship.  The kid  learns to ask ' what will I get if I do ……, what will be done to me if I don't   ….,  what's in it for me '? . Doing chores may become a habit done in a rote mechanical  way , something that kids would rather not do but are forced to do by parents or at best an internal compulsion  motivates them. Instead we want kids to reflect on how their actions impact on others, to reflect on the type of person they want to be and the values they want to live by. As parents we can pursue our expectations by ' working with kids', supporting their autonomy and solving problems in a collaborative way.


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