By Dorri Olds
Your kids begged for a dog and you obliged, believing their promises they would care for the pet. So, what can you do now that you are doing all of the work? Donât worry. Our experts have answers.
The Behavioral Chart
One approach â especially for younger children â is to create a behavioral chart. âChildren do the best with limits and consequences but not if you become emotional,â notes therapist and author Judith Belmont. âA chart can be a successful tool.â
Basically, you give your child very specific responsibilities. âSpell out what you want them to do, for example, walk the dog after dinner Monday, Wednesday and Friday; feed the dog in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Check off when theyâve done each task. When a certain number of boxes are checked, they have earned something. For example, five checks and you take them to a movie.â
Coming Up Against Resistance
Okay, so what if they still wonât do what is expected of them? âThere needs to be a consequence,â says Janette Sasson Edgette, Psy.D, an author and licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in family counseling. A dawdling child who consistently misses the school bus might be required to pay back her mom for having to drive her to school.
For slacking on pet responsibilities, âpay back time can include helping with paperwork at the parentâs office, or donating time to the parentâs favorite charity,â suggests Sasson Edgette. âIf they are older, have them run errands such as taking the pet to the vet or going to the grocery store. I call these types of repercussions âconsequences of inconvenience.ââ
These repercussions donât need to be harsh and they shouldnât be done to punish. âItâs as if youâre saying, âWell, that was an unfortunate decision. As you know, hereâs what happens now.â It works to motivate because the next time sheâs about to be casual about time in the morning, she remembers having to work over the weekend.â
Donât Pick Up the Slack
âIf at any time the chores are neglected,â adds psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., âthe penalties should be the same as for not doing homework or neglecting other household chores. Be firm. Until they have completed the tasks do not allow the child certain luxuries, like the use of electronic devices, their smart phone or watching TV. If you pick up the slack youâre teaching your child to be irresponsible.â
Positive and Negative Consequences
âChildren can adhere to a behavior to avoid a negative consequence,â says Belmont. âAvoiding a negative consequence is knowing ahead what to expect. If it is raining and you bring your umbrella, you can open your umbrella and stay dry; if you donât bring your umbrella, you will get wet. That is a negative consequence directly related to your behavior. You want to teach a child responsibility. You give them a choice. They can avoid a consequence by doing a positive behavior.â
What about Teens?
âTeenagers always want something and they want it very badly,â notes social worker Tara Kemp. âIt may be they want to go to a party, or to the mall for new clothes. So, it is up to you to say, âYes, you can do those things, as soon as you walk the dog.â It is an unavoidable part of parenting to set limits for your kids. That is your job.â