A recent article in Family Fun magazine discussed six dumb rules we hated as kids but totally get as adults. The rules included things like making the bed first thing in the morning, not putting elbows on the table at mealtime, always hanging up coats and others. You can read the entire article here: http://bit.ly/1DyZr40
The article goes on to talk about how adults “get it” and how kids don’t. But the problem is that telling kids to do chores and obey rules actually does nothing to teach responsibility and instill values.
A child who has to make their bed each morning while dad is yelling about how he’s going to be late will learn to hate making his bed and will probably resent his parents. But that chore won’t teach him to be responsible.
The child who is taught to keep their elbows off the table may learn that habit but they’re not going to learn to be considerate. The rule has no connection to a value for them – even if it’s explained over and over. In order for a lesson to take root, it needs to emerge from internal motivation.
And besides, the goal in giving chores and rules is usually not to get them to do some specific task, but to help them learn to make good decisions, to be responsible, respectful and considerate – as well as having good boundaries and trust in their own judgment. Children who learn from the “nagging” model will do just enough to get by and will not generalize that lesson to other areas.
So how can parents instill values if not by having children do chores and follow rules while hearing the value explained?
When kids see parents being conscientious and responsible – and they see it working well for them – it’s a good start. When kids are expected to follow that lead – to live by those values – it’s the next step. And when they are allowed to consider how to behave in ways consistent with those values, it stays with them.
This technique also allows for greater personal responsibility, leads to better decision making and is typically far better for the relationship. When children act on a value they’ve learned, it impacts every area. While a child expected to do a specific chore may do that chore only once – and not generalize that they are to do it every day, a child who is acting from a place of responsibility is more likely to act in that manner consistently.
It may seem like a lot of work, but how frustrating is it to nag and nag, to have family conflict and to finally just give up and do it yourself? The “nagging” model often leads to more disrespectful behavior and damages family relationships.
Inevitably, kids pick up far more on the habits of behavior they see than what parents preach to them. When kids are behaving in a way that parents feel are inconsistent with the values they’re trying to teach their child, the child becomes the teacher, providing a reminder to examine our lives to see if the values we want them to leave home with show up in the way we live.