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.