Written and Provided by Heather Murray

Hi I’m Heather Murray from RaisingGoodHumans.com.  I have spent my entire career in the field of education, as a teacher, mentor, advisor and principal. I started my website to help parents and children navigate school and life.

At this time of year, I notice kids struggling with controlling themselves and I know holding our children to behavior standards at home helps them self-regulate in school, life and helps with friendships too.  If students can’t control themselves, they often look to control circumstances that are not theirs’ to control.  They often tell stories out of spite and want to get people on their side.  None of this works well in the long term.

From the get go, the moment we enter this world we learn how things works by what we see, hear, taste, touch, and experience.  As young children, before the age of six, we have no filter to know if what we belief is truly how something works.  Children take it all in and make sense out of what they learn based on their inner child.  

At the beginning of our life we receive validation that we are good or punishment for that which is deemed bad from our parents and guardians.  These people serve as our authority figures and depending on how our first interactions go, we learn to interact with all authority figures for the rest of our life. We learn to be obedient, self-controlled, or defiant, depending on what we learned at this early age.  We generally end up seeking guidance externally rather than learning to control ourselves.  It is our duty as parents to teach our children how to control internally rather than externally.

As parents we often repeat how we were raised yet if we are to create a better tomorrow for our children it is time for us to learn how to raise children who can think for themselves and make good decisions that work well for their lives.

Our children are born with their own personality. If you have more than one child you have likely thought to yourself, how can they be so different.  The answer is that they are born who they are and DNA allows for a lot of variation.  I like to say parent the child you have.

I would guess we all want our children to be happy first and successful second. In order to have both they need social and emotional skills. Learning to handle our emotions and knowing how to get along with others are skills that play the largest roles in success and happiness.  

The child you gave birth to needs your love and guidance. They need you to be their champion and guardian.  They need parents to guide them about what works and hold them accountable to be their best.  None of this is easy, but if we are to help them reach their personal best this is the work we must do.

One of the things that life demands of us is doing something we don’t want to do. Learning how to control our uncomfortable emotions when this happens plays out in friendships, work, and marriage. Being with friends often means doing what they want and this can be hard to handle. School and work demand we complete tasks, which may be hard, and even though we don’t want to do it we must.  How do we motivate ourselves?  Or maybe life demands we work through our marriage, with all its problems, instead of just giving up and going separate ways.  How do we make ourselves work through that?

A successful technique used in all of life’s difficult situations is: we see what needs to be done and we do it whether we want to or not.  You are likely wondering; how do I help my child with this?

The way we develop this ability in our children is via completing non preferred tasks.  In other words, chores. Bumping up against the feeling that arises when we are assigned a non preferred task is frustrating and learning how to work through that feeling is a recipe for success.

Chores are completed, not for money, but because we are members of our family.  We do chores so that all the necessary things get done and we don’t get paid because it is our duty.  I can’t stress enough how important learning to do this is to our children’s success.

When I see children struggling in school, not being able to focus, blurting out, having trouble keeping their hands to their self, making bad choices, I know they are having a hard time working through non preferred tasks.  I meet with the family and I recommend they start chores. There may be other things going on as well but this is a great place to start.

The chore most often chosen is making the bed.  That is a good start and when the parents decide on this I suggest the child makes the bed after school rather than in the morning when things are already rushed and stressful.  Making the bed is a nice first step.  Keeping their room clean is another.  

Keeping the room clean isn’t because of cleanliness as much as it is about holding oneself to a higher standard.  If we demand our best, and always keep our room picked up, we learn what it means to be consistent with decisions and goals we make.

If you haven’t tried chores before, start by meeting with your child and discussing the plan.  Let them know that chores are important to their lifelong success.  Also let them know they will get frustrated along the way and will need to work through that feeling.  Explain that you are helping them train their brain to do what they have to even when they don’t want to.

Explaining beforehand helps your child know they aren’t being punished, rather they are in a training program. Acknowledge their feelings of frustration along the way, let them know each time that you completely understand and you get frustrated too, but because you want the best for them you will not let them quit. Hold them accountable in a loving and kind way, but none the less hold them accountable.  Changing a habit and or training a new one isn’t easy and consistency is everything.  

If you are wondering about age appropriate chores, Pinterest has many ideas. You will be surprised by how much very young children can accomplish and you will be amazed at the self-confidence they will gain from being a valued, capable member of your family team.  Keep me posted as to how it is going.