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.