For many years, I assumed that I was supposed to sacrificially serve my family and say nothing about my own needs. This only resulted in resentment on my part and insensitivity on their part.
I will share some lessons I learned along the way that helped our whole family to be more considerate and work together as a team.
- Identify our need and be specific about how the other person can meet that need.
For example: We might say to our spouse: I could use a long, tender hug, right now. Would you be willing to give me one?
(We must be careful not to chastise them if they don’t do it the way wed like. Instead of saying, That wasn’t much of a hug, thank them for it.)
Once I had a creative discussion with our daughters about when they could set the table so that I wouldn’t have to interrupt their play time. I needed their help but was willing to work with them on finding a solution that worked for all of us.
- Decide what’s truly important to us and what isn’t.
If something is not important enough to enforce it, we shouldn’t ask our children to do it.
In my younger years, I was often guilty of asking our children to do something and then I’d let them get away without doing it, usually because I was tired and didn’t want the hassle of an argument. The problem with this is that the children could either assume that I didn’t really need their help, or they could learn to ignore me. Consistent follow up is crucial!
- Teach our children how to do the tasks we want them to do.
First of all, we should make sure our expectations of them are realistic. Once we’ve identified what they are capable of doing, and what we want them to do, we need to show them how to do it. Be sure to give them lots of praise for their effort! It also helps if we can turn the chore into a game, such as seeing how creatively they can fold the napkins or decorate the table.
- Set up chore charts or assignments and hold them accountable.
Depending on the child’s age, we might have a chart that lists their chores and then give them a sticker to put on the chart whenever they complete a task.
It’s important that we and our spouse agree as to how to use rewards for accomplishments and consequences for a failure to follow through. We need to be clear with the children as to what the rewards and consequences are, how many warnings or reminders they get, etc. Once we initiate the charts, we must make sure we’re consistent! This will teach them to be dependable and it will be a big help to us, eventually.
It’s amazing how well children respond to responsibility when their parents praise them and follow through consistently. When we nurture a helpful spirit in our children, everyone in our family will benefit!