Grounding, Pleading, Yelling: How I Finally Found Something That Works

Posted May 31, 2011 by

I need to learn to delegate. Actually, I know how to delegate; I just need to learn to make it stick. I can give my twelve-year-old granddaughter Maddy chores to do: empty the dishwasher, clean the bathroom, pick up her room… but I forget to check to see if she did it. (Or I need it done quickly, so I end up doing it myself.) I have threatened to take away Maddy’s computer time or ground her, but next thing I know, she’s on the computer or riding her bike. As much as I hate to admit it, it’s so much trouble to fight with her about it that I just give in.
I know that this is exactly what she’s counting on;  I am by nature a non-confrontational person. I have realized that subconsciously, I want to help others and make life easy for everyone else, even if it means more work for me. This was fine when the kids were babies, but now I need to teach Maddy responsibility and life skills for herself. Actually, I meant to start this when she came to live with us two years ago, but I had a hard time switching from the role of “grandma” to “parent,” and Maddy had already refined her manipulating abilities. Grounding, pleading, (and I must confess, yelling)… I tried them all. Nothing worked.

I decided to try a new tactic that I have slowly been working on. James Lehman says that rules have to have natural, related consequences.  One of my pet peeves was that Maddy always left the lights over the bathroom sink on — a light bar with five light bulbs — and I could just see the electric meter churning away. I announced that this was not acceptable, and the rule was that she had to turn them off when she left the room. After that, whenever I saw them on, I made her stop what she was doing, whether she was in the middle of a TV show or riding her bike, and come back and turn them off. I could have easily turned them off myself, but I began to realize that she would never remember that way, and I hoped that the inconvenience of stopping what she was doing, or hiking back upstairs to the bathroom, might make her stop and think before she left the room.  Eventually it did pay off and now she (usually) turns the lights off when she is done in the bathroom. Once I made her come turn off the lights, only to find out that my husband had left them on. (Oops!)

With a little confidence under my belt, I progressed to making a new rule: clean up the bathroom after her bath or shower, or she will have to come back and do it. After several times of calling her back to do it, she now hangs up her towel and picks up her laundry, and rinses out the tub before she leaves the room.

So this summer, my resolution is to work on new chores for Maddy, one a time, with simple consequences if they are not done. I would like to think that this is the way I need to approach it, since Maddy has ADHD and does not take easily to several changes or lists of things to do at one time. However, I have to admit, it actually works better for me, as I learn to delegate with consequences that I can remember to enforce. They say it takes two weeks of doing something to make it a habit, so hopefully by summer’s end, Maddy and I will both have accomplished our parts in setting up and performing chores and following through as part of our daily routines.


Nicole Roswell is married with four grown children, and she and her husband are now raising their eleven-year-old granddaughter with ADHD. They also have two dogs and two cats, and a mole who lives in the front yard “whose life long goal is to destroy every blade of grass that we own.”

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