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Cleaning House

My kids won't pitch in. Help!

I have a hard time getting my three children to help me with household chores. They whine, they moan, they procrastinate. I work full-time and need their cooperation around the house, but I'm out of creative ideas to motivate them. What can I do?

Try this: Make a list of what you consider privileges—television, Instant Messenger, hang time with friends, computer time, etc.—and explain to your kids that in the real world, you work before you rest, earn before you spend, and pay before you play. Since one of your jobs is to train them to be successful adults, you're doing them a disservice to continue letting them enjoy a free ride. They need to earn their room, board, and bonuses by working around the house.

If I were you, I'd take this opportunity to go beyond just pitching in. Hey, you work full-time—you need more help than that! Think of all the household duties and divide them up between the three children. They can vacuum, load the dishwasher, even do all the laundry. Make a daily chart of responsibilities and post it in a prominent spot.

Make all privileges contingent on completed chores. Sure, they may shirk their responsibilities and say, "I don't care. I don't want to watch TV anyway." But believe me, there will come a day when they desperately want to go to a friend's house, or absolutely have to check their e-mail, or need to watch a television program. That's when you calmly ask, "Are your chores done?" Stick to your guns. You'll probably have to prove you mean business a few times, so don't cave in.

One more thing: Don't allow yourself to get drawn into their moaning, whining, or arguing. Simply explain the rules, post them for all to see, and stand your ground. Eventually they'll see the wisdom in doing their chores every day because they never know when an opportunity for some fun might just present itself!


My ten-year-old son recently shouted at me, "You love Brandon (his younger brother) more than you love me!" His words stung. Of course I don't love his brother more, but the uncomfortable truth is, I like Brandon more because he's easier to parent. I don't want to play favorites, so what should I do?

I have a similar situation with my daughters. Haven, the eldest, is strong-willed and constantly pushes the limits. Clancy, the youngest, is a peacemaker who longs to please. Not surprisingly, one is in trouble all the time and the other enjoys the blessings of obedience.

What seems to help us is to talk to both girls about their strengths and weaknesses. For instance, I recently had a discussion with Haven about her tendency to be bossy and controlling. Rather than pile guilt on top of correction for this behavior, I pointed out the positive aspects of her temperament. I told her how excited I am to watch how God's going to use her strong personality for the Kingdom.

On the other hand, I've talked to her honestly about Clancy's easy-going personality and the fact that she rarely does anything wrong. This quality is certainly admirable and will be blessed by the Lord. But Clancy also needs to concentrate on pleasing God instead of man so she won't be easily influenced by the world and peers.

Although Haven understands I must discipline any obstinacy, she no longer feels I don't like her because of her assertive traits. Instead, she knows I admire her strength, and believe in her and the Lord to use them for good.


My 13-year-old daughter is upset because she's a late bloomer. Most of her peers are wearing bras and have started their period. Someone recently teased her at school about how "flat" she is, and now she's self-conscious with her friends. How can I help her understand her body's on its own timetable?

I asked my 13-year-old daughter for advice on this question. Her response? "That's why God invented Kleenex." Obviously, that isn't the answer either you or I was looking for. At the same time, perhaps there's a nugget of wisdom in that wisecrack. I'm not condoning stuffing one, but what do you think about one day, out-of-the-blue, announcing, "I think it's about time we buy you a bra, young lady!" Perhaps simply wearing one will help her feel a little more like "one of the girls." She may even wear it awhile and discover that it isn't all it's cracked up to be.

That's definitely true when it comes to the whole period thing. Emphasize that right now she still doesn't have to worry about not going swimming, or having an accident, or not being prepared. Let her in on the secret her friends aren't telling her: that being prepared means carrying around pads in your purse. Cheer with her that she doesn't yet have to deal with PMS or painful cramps.

Not that I'm trying to dodge the ball on this one, but I'm not so sure there really is a right answer to this question (although I'm pretty sure it isn't the one about Kleenex). Raising a daughter is a complicated balance between empathizing with her emotions and teaching her not to be led by them.

Lisa Whelchel is the author of Creative Correction (Focus on the Family) and the mother of three. Visit her website at www.lisawhelchel.com. Have a parenting question for Lisa? E-mail her at tcwedit@ christianitytoday.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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