Raise Responsible Kids By Coaching, Not Overdoing

Posted April 7, 2016 by

Raise Responsible Kids By Coaching, Not Overdoing

Doing the dirty work is a great way for kids to grow and mature. We hear that all the time. But getting kids to do that dirty work isn’t easy.

Have you been in this situation? Your child has been asked to do something that’s difficult or unpleasant. Maybe it’s a new chore at home, or a more challenging math assignment. Instead of meeting that challenge, your child sulks, gets angry, or otherwise acts out. Depending on how skilled they are at avoiding difficult challenges, they might even display a sense of entitlement or arrogance: “why should I have to do this stuff? I have better things to do with my time.”

It’s so frustrating, isn’t it? It makes sense that we are tempted to jump in and just do the thing that’s causing our kid’s frustration. It’s faster, less stressful, and seems like the right choice at the time. Until the next time. When they still haven’t learned to do it themselves.

Think back to when your child was learning to walk. If you picked them up and carried them every time they fell down, they would never learn to walk. Why face the challenges of learning something new, if someone will take the frustration away from you? Why learn new life skills if you can get someone else to do the heavy lifting for you?

It’s the same as our kids get older: if we remove their struggles, we actually prevent them from learning the skills they need to become successful, independent adults in the real world.

If you want your child to become a responsible, effective adult, able to overcome adversity in their own life, the good news is: you can stop working so hard. Instead of doing things for your child when you see him struggling, encourage him to come up with some possible solutions. If he’s frustrated when doing something difficult or unpleasant – like cleaning up after himself – don’t jump in and do it for him. Walk him through it with your words. If you’ve already done that, act as his coach by prompting him with the next step. For example, you might say, “I hear that you’re frustrated with the thought of cleaning up your mess. This is something you need to learn. We’ve gone over the system. First you pick the clothes up off the floor and into the hamper. What’s the next step?”

By breaking it down and encouraging your child to push through his frustration, you’re actually assisting him in a very effective way – even though he might not see it that way. Think of it this way – your coaching now helps create a grown man who can clean up after himself instead of waiting for the maid to come home! In the interest of your future sanity – let your kids struggle with the less than glamorous side of life!

Internal frustration plus external guidance equals growth. Keep your eyes on the goal: a responsible, self-confident, capable child able to make effective and successful choices in the real world. It’s not easy, but you can do it.

For more on this topic, check out this article on teaching your child skills for their future. And let us know how it is going in the comments section. We are all in this together.


Rebecca, Empowering Parents Coach


Rebecca Wolfenden is a loving Momma to her son and a dedicated 1-on-1 Coach. She earned her degree in Social Work from West Virginia University and has been with Empowering Parents since 2011. Rebecca has experience working with children and families in home settings and schools, and has extensive practice working with people of all ages who have survived significant emotional and physical trauma.

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  1. KWood Report

    My 18 Year Old Stepdaughter of 12 Years is a Game Player.She has to be the Laziest Person I know.I didnt are if she was doing homework or talking on the phone she has just 2 jobs around the home,One is the Dishwasher and then take the Trash Out.Now a Freshman in College taking 12 Credit Hours,she states “Im a Full time Student,I cant do this”….I couldnt believe what came out of her mouth.Her Room looks like a Landfill,I dont get it.her Mom will always do Her Chores which burns me up as she feels “Entitled” and above everyone.She had a Job as a Nail Salon Receptionist and was asked to clean the floors one day and quit…she wanted to sit on her duff texting her boyfriend.I hope she moves out and this will all be in the past,i know she hates me because I told Her if she doesnt do her chores then Im taking the Door off her bedroom.She is a Guest and doesnt respect this house.She feels she is an A Student so she doesnt have to do anything around the house…….I can imagine the poor guy who marries this piece of work.

  2. rwolfenden Report

    @Troubled Dad 
    It sounds like you have witnessed your son’s behaviors
    continue to escalate over the past few years, and it’s understandable that you
    would be anxious about him continuing to stay in your home.  The level of
    violence which your son is displaying is quite concerning, and I recommend
    prioritizing that first and foremost.  I strongly encourage you to work
    with local supports, such as law enforcement and crisis services, to develop a
    plan to keep everyone safe in your home.  For information about these and
    other services which may be available in your community, try contacting the http://www.211.org/ at 1-800-273-6222.  You may
    also want to consult with law enforcement about your legal responsibilities to
    your son due to his age.  We have a free downloadable worksheet you can
    use to guide your conversation with police, which you can find https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-talk-to-police-when-your-child-is-physically-abusive/. 
    I am sorry to hear about the troubling situation your family is in right now,
    and I wish all of you the best as you continue to move forward.

  3. evy Report

    daughter of 181/2, finished school with bad grades, wanted a special private (and expensive) college to get into tourism, we said ok. 8 months later she has flunked and hasn’t even taken the job for which she was selected because the college can not recommend her due to her lack of responsibility. She does not respond to anything I ‘ve tried….even very little pocket money….. Goes and stays out very late, sleeps all day, sleeps over friends…. What has gone wrong???? Am I responsible for all this? it is soooo disappoining….

    • rwolfenden Report

      I speak with many parents who describe similar struggles
      with their young adult; you are not alone in this experience.  The truth
      is, at 18, your daughter is an adult, is responsible for her choices, and for
      handling the consequences that come with those choices.  If she is not
      experiencing the discomfort that comes along with poor choices, she is not likely
      to make a different choice in the future.  Your daughter’s young adulthood
      also means that anything you choose to provide to her is considered a
      privilege, and you can use that to make her uncomfortable.  For your next
      step, you might consider writing https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/ground-rules-for-living-with-an-adult-child-plus-free-living-agreement/ with her, which outlines your expectations for her
      behavior in your home now that she is an adult. I recognize how challenging
      this must be for you, and I wish you all the best as you continue to move
      forward.  Take care.

  4. sandieb Report

    im having alot of angst. my husband and I are living with my sister and her partner. we had to bring our 12 yr old granddaughter into the household as things were not going well at her home.we are all over 60,one has neurological m.s.,and everyone is very set in their ways. the granddaughter has some chores, that are not much,but she loves to put them off to the last second.lots of arguments.no one is willing to try different approaches to get things done, but me. I am in the minority here, and its not really working.help?

  5. Terri Report

    Is it ever too late? My son is 17 & I am just learning the extent to which I’ve stunted his emotional & mental(?) growth. I am trying to undo what’s been done by me & his grandparents in the early years. I suppose we were trying to make up for his father not being there.
    Major depressive disorder runs in the family & he has been diagnosed for about 3 years & I believe in my well-intentioned attempts to be what I needed at his age regarding this issue, I further “handicapped” him. He has very, very slowly gotten better over the last couple of years @ taking responsibility & being held accountable & I have gotten better at being the mom that he needs to teach him these things. However-as I said-he’s 17 & he is still making bad decisions & shirking off responsibilities all too often.
    Is it ever too late to teach him responsibility, accountability & all the other things I’ve failed at?

    • rwolfenden Report

      You ask a common
      question which we hear from many parents, so you are not alone in wondering if
      it is too late for you and your son.  The short answer is no.  The
      truth is, change can happen at any time, and at any age.  While it is true
      that some long-standing habits can be more difficult to break or modify, that
      does not mean that it is impossible.  It sounds like you have already
      started making changes with your son, by giving him more responsibility and
      holding him accountable for his choices, as well as changing the way that you
      respond to him.  For more ideas and tips, I encourage you to read our
      article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/its-never-too-late-7-ways-to-start-parenting-more-effectively/.  Please
      let us know if you have additional questions.  Take care.

    • rwolfenden Report

      You ask a great
      question.  Unfortunately, it’s quite common for your child to feel more
      connected with peers at this stage of development, and most teens are more
      likely to confide in their friends rather than their parents.  It’s also a
      time when most teens are figuring out their own values, and what is important
      to them as they move into adulthood.  While you cannot make your child see
      things from your perspective, or hold the same values as you do, this does not
      mean that you are powerless.  As James Lehman explains in https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/parenting-teens-parental-authority-vs-peer-pressure/, you do have control over your
      own actions, such as being a good role model for your teen and being clear
      about your values and boundaries.  In addition, as mentioned in a recent
      blog, https://www.empoweringparents.com/blog/finding-calm-time-to-connect-with-your-family/ with your teen can go a long way to maintaining open
      communication.  Thank you for writing in; take care.

  6. wk Report

    but what if you wait and wait for the chore (ie. clean room) to be done and it just never happens…. at a certain point of seeing the wind storm of a messy room, my sanity of the insanity wants to just get it cleaned up!  thoughts?

    • rwolfenden Report

      I hear you. 
      The sight of a child’s messy room pushes most parents’ buttons, and it can be
      difficult not to step in and clean it yourself, so you are not alone.  The
      trouble is, by cleaning the bedroom after you told your child to do it, you
      could also be communicating that if your child puts it off long enough, you
      will step in and do it for him or her.  If you are able to do so, it can be
      helpful to simply shut your child’s door, and allow your child to deal with the
      consequences of having a messy room.  If you are not able to do this, or
      if it is a chore that affects other members of the household or is
      time-sensitive (such as taking the garbage to the curb or feeding pets), you
      can also set a deadline for the completion of a chore, and give a consequence
      if the chore is not done on time.  Sara Bean offers more tips on how to
      address a messy room in her article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/4-tips-to-help-get-kids-to-clean-their-rooms/.  Please let us know if you
      have any additional questions.

    • Drama no more Report

      1. Stop buying stuff they want until they pick up. 2. Lock up all electronics unil they earn them back. Made bed = 30 minutes on the computer, etc. If you give them allowance without them earning it, switch it to be tied to action you want, or if you give allowance without earning, reduce the amount for your maid services. It has to be uncomfortable for them or they don’t care. Discomfort and pleasure get people going…



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