APSGO Parenting Blog

Helen’s Help – By Helen Jones

When my daughters were teens, I had a choice to make. I could remind them of what needed done around the house and I could complain if the work wasn’t done the way I wanted. Or I could come up with a plan that was respectful of everyone and got the work done.

I decided on the latter. I made a list of things I would like done around the house and how much I was willing to pay for each one done to my satisfaction. I left it in a prominent place. (The fridge, everyone eats) It wasn’t long before it started to produce results. Without me having to say anything, things were being taken care of. Sometimes small chores and sometimes more extensive ones. I never had to say anything. The amounts I paid weren’t large, but this plan gave tremendous freedom and control to everyone, my children and me.

(For those of you familiar with the Needs portion of Choice Theory, Control is another word for Power.)

This plan worked well and lasted for a long time. Long enough time for the list to be old and marked with checks to signify work completed.

One day one of my daughters told me in conversation, about her best friend who received the same amount of allowance each week, no matter what chores she did and even if she didn’t do any. I asked her if she would rather we had that kind of arrangement. Immediately and quite firmly she replied, “No, this way I get to have how much I need and when I need it. It feels good.”

I am relating this now because I know that many of you get caught up in plans which are complicated and unsatisfying for everyone involved. Parents think plans are intended to return control to them. They feel helpless because they have ‘lost control’. In fact, as parents, we never had control. Even when our children were infants, we couldn’t make them sleep or eat what they didn’t want to eat.

As they grew and realized how they relied on us for their everyday needs, they chose (most of the time) to do what we wanted them to do. As they became older, they became more aware of our limitations in controlling them.

When parents realize that they don’t have to fear letting go of what they never had, they will find that they have influence, something much more valuable. It is the job of the group leaders to help them by asking the right questions which will help them come to this understanding.

I will contribute more examples from my work with parents both in APSGO and referred to me by other agencies, of plans which like this, were uncomplicated, not controlling and successful in helping everyone satisfy their needs.

Email me if you have any questions or thoughts on the above or on anything else.



3 Responses

  1. My humble contribution to this issue of the newsletter is really about parents giving up control which they don’t have anyway. It isn’t about chores and getting help to do them..
    My hope is that it will demonstrate how much more effective our plans are when we focus on what we do and less on what our sons and daughters are doing.

  2. Hi Helen

    Could you give me some examples of exacting influence for a 13 year old boy with ADD who refuses to do almost anything I ask without saying no, can I do it later, revising to go to school etc… do chores? I really liked that you explained we have no control and I think it’s hoss way of gaining his control back but I just don’t know how to get him to do anything without him losing his tech:(
    I would like some ideas on how to influence without getting into a fight everyday all day? If you have any?

    • Hi Heather,
      It is time to examine exactly what is your responsibility and what is someone else’s responsibility. Homework is your son’s not yours, and since the teacher has give it, it is up to her to oversee it. Chores could be in part your son’s responsibility but if you are not getting cooperation it is time to make changes that work for you.for your son’s sake as well as yours, I suggest you let him know that you are happy to leave homework with him and won’t be reminding him. You could reinforce this by emailing his teacher in a brief and friendly note that you are letting your son take control of the homework and having the teacher provide any oversight she believes is necessary. Thank the teacher for his/her work. Copy this to your son.
      Take time to think of the chores that affect you and consider using the same approach. Do as many as you can and do them the way you like. Again in an email or note let your son know what you have decided. Let him know that since you will be doing more around the house, you can’t promise to be available to help with his responsibilities. (His laundry? etc.) Also, this may mean meals could be more casual or absent.
      It is essential that you start small and be confident and cheerful. This not a punishment. It is simply a new way of doing things.
      I also suggest you start doing more things for yourself. Even small things like reading a good book. Texting or calling friends, listening to your music. Etc. are great ways to let your son and others know that things are changing.
      The best and really the most respectful way to effect change in others is to change your own behaviour. They may not be too pleased at first. Stick to your decisions and be confident and calm. Don’t do too much at once. Start small. Write if you have questions .

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