ability vs. responsibility - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 22 Old 06-04-2002, 12:00 AM - Thread Starter
 
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What do all of you do with kids who want to do EVERYTHING? My oldest daughter is six. At this point, I would say that we are pretty much self-directed learners at our house (two younger siblings, three and one). I have always included the kids in things like cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. I try to encourage them to do for themselves and have consistently showed them how and then allowed them to do things like pour drinks, stir things on the stove, chop vegetables, turn on the washer and dryer, etc. The problem I am running into now, is that my oldest daughter wants to do everything for herself (except, of course, when she is complaining that I didn't complete some small task for her) but her desires and abilities are far ahead of her understanding of responsibility. For example, she knows how to use the record/tape/CD player, but she leaves the records, tapes, and CDs all over the place; she knows how to make a fruit smoothie, but leaves the frozen bananas turning to mush on the counter and puddles all over the kitchen. How can I allow her to do what she is able to do without driving myself crazy or constantly nagging her to pay more attention to what she is doing?
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#2 of 22 Old 06-04-2002, 12:31 AM
 
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She has to earn a liscense to do any task.

Like, anyone who wants to drive a car must take a course and take a test to get liscenced. This should gor for any job that requires a process.

1) Sit down with her and work out all the steps that are needed to do something, including the putting away..

2) create a checklist of the order that things must be done, with a space for her to tick when each thing is done.

3) If she can do all the little jobs on the list, in order, say 3 times under supervision, she gets a liscence to do that job on her own.

Hint. Don't put the tidying jobs at the end, but weave them into the process, so there is little to do at the end.

Hope this helps.

a

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#3 of 22 Old 06-04-2002, 01:57 AM
 
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What I did was not let her move on to a new task until she was done cleaning up the old one.
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#4 of 22 Old 06-04-2002, 02:48 AM
 
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Hmm.

This can generate resentment though. And what is you are not around?

Does she handle this happily I wonder?

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#5 of 22 Old 06-04-2002, 03:29 AM
 
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Actually shes 12, I rarely have to mention it. I sometimes say "you need to clean that up before you bring more stuff out". It's not a big deal.

Obviously a six year old and a twelve year old aren't the same. But I do think most six year olds are mature enough to understand the concept. Of course at six, I helped her if it was needed. At 12 I rarely need to.
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#6 of 22 Old 06-04-2002, 08:22 AM
 
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You might also just let things run their course--if one leaves the frozen bananas out on the counter they won't stay frozen and she won't have them for the next smoothy. If she doesn't put the cd's/tapes away, it will be more difficult to find the one she wants next time, etc.

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#7 of 22 Old 06-04-2002, 09:02 AM
 
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Yes, a box called "the Dump" for all extanious (sp) toys.

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#8 of 22 Old 06-04-2002, 11:02 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Great suggestions, some of which we have tried. We definitely get a lot of anger, resentment, and just plain misery when I enforce cleaning up before going on to the next activity (which can also be difficult when everyone starts arguing about who did all the clean up "work" and who should/shouldn't be allowed to do the next fun thing). I try to let things run their course when the consequences only affect the unwilling child and his/her own things, but some of the music belongs to me or my husband, and let's face it, bananas aren't free and dd#1 isn't the only one who likes smoothies. I like Alexander's idea, but dd doesn't take very well to being told what to do, even by a chart; they tend to work for about a week (if that long). She does OK with supervision and knows (in theiry) what to do, but the things she doesn't enjoy (clean up) are always "forgotten." We even have this problem (huge battle) over toys/games and what it means to put them away. My favorite response to "Where's my...." is "Well, I know where it's supposed to be." Please keep the suggestions coming, we really need help on this front, as you all know, as homeschoolers we spend a lot of time in each others' space.
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#9 of 22 Old 06-05-2002, 10:56 AM
 
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my ds also takes badly to being told how to do things...I usually approach it by saying something like"If you choose to make smoothies you must ....................of course if you don't want to follow the way things need to be done, you may choose not to make them. Either way is fine with me" then I just walk off. Of course every once in a while he just doesn't follow what I say and I just act like he has made a choice not to make smoothies again. He still gets a little tiffed when I do that but he understands now (he's 9). Of course when he was 6, he would argue and get really mad sometimes...saying "I didn't make any choices" etc. I think that is to be expected of a six year old...it's one of those ages where they are trying to seperate from you, growing up, and they just don't want to be controled by grown-up rules.

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#10 of 22 Old 06-05-2002, 12:13 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by Cassidy
I like Alexander's idea, but dd doesn't take very well to being told what to do, even by a chart; they tend to work for about a week (if that long).


OK. If you can get her to work for a whole week, I'd say you have won. The trick is to get her to look at a medium term goal, then a long term one.

Different families use slightly different systems, but the "awards chart" on the wall, where house jobs get marked up every time a child does one is a great way to see motivation carried forward more than one week. Tidying up someone elses mess gets double points, or auctioned up till someone takes it.

It is very imp0ortant not to subtract from this the chart. Penalizing just pisses the kids off and they resent the chart.

As kids, we had a system like this that evolved though time to become a very sophisticated one.

Right now I am designing a system for the Democratic School we will open next year, that includes an "exchange" for trading "lets" (release bonds)!! There is no reason that this could not be carried to the home.

Hope this helps.

a

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#11 of 22 Old 06-05-2002, 01:15 PM
 
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I agree with Alexander - a week of success is great at this age! You need to let systems evolve, introduce new 'novelty' factors etc to keep the motivation going. Plus give lots of positive reinforcement re the week's success. Eventually it will become habit, but you need to instil the habit first.

The only warning I'd give is not to get too enbroiled in extrinsic motivators, the motivation for her should eventually be being able to do the task, not the system. The 'system' should kick-start her better habits, but not become a motivator in itself. The idea should be to wean off the system and just do the job well for its own sake.

Hope this helps.
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#12 of 22 Old 06-05-2002, 01:43 PM
 
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"The idea should be to wean off the system and just do the job well for its own sake. "

So here's a question: Isn't there a way to skip "the system" part and simply "do the job well for its own sake?" I've known many people who use rewards and it works just fine for them, but I always found these systems too much trouble--it seems to be double work--first teaching to do "X" for the reward, then teaching to do "X" without the reward. In any event, even if I wanted to use such a system, my kids would never go for it. When ds was in school, there was a reading program where if a child read a certain number of books, they would get rewarded with pizza. His response was, "If I want to read, I'll read and if I want to eat pizza I'll eat pizza. I don't get this."

I realize this is a side trip from the original question, but does anyone else see rewards as a negative?

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#13 of 22 Old 06-05-2002, 01:43 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by teachermom
Of course when he was 6, he would argue and get really mad sometimes...saying "I didn't make any choices" etc. I think that is to be expected of a six year old....
Yeah. This is another issue actually, and one that we must be sensitive to. I am not at all convinced that a 6 Y/O can be expected to remember to do these little jobs, and the way we try to induce this "desirable" behavior seems (instinctively to me anyway) flawed.

I should write more on this.

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#14 of 22 Old 06-05-2002, 01:47 PM
 
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Joan, I totally agree with your son's view on reading books and eating pizza. It especially ticks me off in that particular situation because the schools treat books as being a chore. :

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#15 of 22 Old 06-05-2002, 02:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Teachermom and Alexander (and, of course, anyone else),
I totally respect that dds age (6) is a major component of this "problem." I don't really expect her to remember all aspects of project clean-up, but I do expect that, once reminded, she will be (reasonably) agreeable (or at least compliant) about picking up. She doesn't seem to be making the connection between "privilege" and "responsibility;" rather, she sees the exercise of her abilities as an entitlement. While I would be lying if I said I have no control issues of my own, I do think I am (mostly) amenable to her expanding abilities. Problems arise, however, when others are negatively affected. Expecting others to clean up or live with the mess is not OK. Losing, breaking, or endangering the property of others is not OK. Leaving choking hazards right in front of little brother because you don't feel like putting them away is not OK. Which, I guess, leaves me back where I started: how do we live together through this time (a couple of years?) in a way that will maximize opportunity for child to learn and practice new abilities and doing the right thing because it is the right thing (I also tend to be anti-program) while minimizing nagging, harping, arguing, and sanity lost on my part? I really want to help her grow, and I really don't want to feel angry and resentful as it happens.
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#16 of 22 Old 06-05-2002, 08:42 PM
 
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Joan, I totally agree with you. I don't believe in extrinsic 'reward' systems or in punishments. I was talking about the sort of system that had been discussed earlier, with her agreeing what needed to be done to complete a chore - I think Alexander called it getting a 'licence,' not about offering the child direct rewards for doing the job.

Like you, I think that pizza vouchers for reading are a terrible idea - one of the worst parts of the US attitude to thinking that you need to be rewarded for doing anything worthwhile. What you create is an enthusiastic pizza eater, not an enthusiastic reader. Ugh. Just as incentive plans for employees have been shown to demotivate, so do these sorts of reward systems used on children.

However, Cassidy was looking for practical suggestions and ideas on how to help her dd to learn to follow through with projects that she has started. I do believe that a system can help here. This does not necessarily have to rely on rewards - it can be a contract/agreement where when she has a success she can be given the 'licence' to work alone and take more responsibility. However, having said that, sometimes a system that involves 'novelty' can help to kick-off and start a new habit if a family has already reached a situation such as Cassidy's.

This is one of the faults, in my opinion, of Alfie Kohn's philosophy. He assumes that every child is a blank slate and that there is therefore never any need to be creative in finding solutions to problems that already exist. Idealistic, but not practical. Sometimes you can use a system to get something going and help the child to be successful, then withdraw the use of the system as the habit is instilled and it becomes unnecessary. In reality, people use systems like this - my message was intended to give some practical help and support rather than ideology (in which I totally agree with you)
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#17 of 22 Old 06-05-2002, 11:28 PM
 
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Cassidy
I did not mean to imply that what you felt in response to your daughters behavior was wrong. I often am still (even with ds at the age of nine) frustrated and annoyed that he doesn't seem to respect others enough to do what he's told. Sometime my feelings are justified, sometimes they are just what I feel. I wasn't even excusing your dd's behavior just offering another idea of what may be behind it (the early pushes for independance). Mostly I just wanted you to know that I sympithise with what you're going thru and have been there.

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#18 of 22 Old 06-06-2002, 03:38 AM
 
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This thread is freying somewhat, but the ideas and problems are very interesting. Probably worth starting a new thread for some of these.

I suddenly got clarity on this because DD#1 (6) left her sunglasses on the floor right in front of the front door. I could not pick them up (hands full) and she just ignored me when I asked her to move them from this dangerous place. That's another story, however, to the point in hand.....

It boils down to this:

If she does not have the ability to tidy up, then deprive her of the privalage of doing these things

or

Do it for her.

My gut feeling is to do it for her while you are not able / prepared to do it with her.


The truth is though that as soon as we try to apply "teaching techniques" to bringing up our children, we are doomed to failure. Everything we have learned about the inadequacy of the current education system should be enough to tell us that it is not going to work outside the class room either.

Children learn best when they have a model to copy. This is why they like to do things with their parents or older siblings.

The "If I want to read, I'll read and if I want to eat pizza I'll eat pizza. I don't get this."

This can be applied to the cleaning of mess: "If I want to clean up, I'll clean up and if I want to drink smoothy I'll drink smoothy. I don't get this."

Not unreasonable.

The crux of the problem lies (I think) in an adult misconception of child development. Seeing a child, 6 already, doing (grown-up) things like making milk-shakes, we assume that the social maturity that we associate with this activity now goes with that child.

How wrong we are. In my experience, that kind of social responsibility follows between 3 and 6 years later, and with an inclusive model, little "training" is required, if any at all.

In the case of your daugter, you can make a choice.

1) Restrict her activities as a way to coerse her to bend to your will.

2) Let her be, and do what parents are (I think) supposed to do for their young children, take responsibility for their actions (along with feeding, pooping, bathing, nursing etc)

--- The upside of the first measure is that you may succeed.

--- The down side is that it may take you as long as it takes for children to naturally learn to do this anyway,

+ strain on the relationship,

+ the feeling that you are constantly failing,

+ you are diminshing her opportunities to explore and grow in the world around her,

+ creating a need for her to cheat and lie, feel and carry guilt (a common and unintended result of the current education system),

+ feelings of inadequacy before she even starts a project because of the memory of the constant conflicts at the end.


--- The upside of the second measure is that it gives the children a chance to do more with you, and learn from you,

+ they learn at the natural rate,

+ there is no strain in the relationship

+ each "help me put this in the fridge" is a little success for both of you.

+ she can learn to ask for help at the appropriate moment.

--- The downside is that you will have to accasionally wipe up a banana.

Hope this helps

a

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#19 of 22 Old 06-06-2002, 11:26 AM
 
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perhaps this is poor parenting technique, but I tend to take a very strict approach where safety is involved: if a small toy is left where the baby can get it, it goes in the trash, period (unless, of course, it is an expensive or special or heirloom toy, in which case it and all of the other parts go in a box and are put away until the baby is no longer putting things in her mouth). dd knows this, and she really doesn't do it anymore.

I also follow the old adage of 'with privelege comes responsibility'. that doesn't mean my child has to remember how to do everything herself, but it does mean that clean-up is seen as part of the process. we have found that stating expectations before the fact helps a lot. when dd is getting something out, I remind her that she will also need to clean up afterward. it usually works, but i need to be vigilant about keeping tabs on what she is doing and giving advance reminders. I think the advance reminder doesn't come across as nagging because it's not 'Do this now!', it's "remember, dear".
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#20 of 22 Old 06-17-2002, 01:30 PM
 
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my oldest is only 4yo, so I may not be much of help to you. She likes to help me make tofu shakes with the blender, cook, bake, and everything else I do. She is my Big Helper around here. She constantly sees me cleaning as I go. She watches me put things back where they go. So, when we prepare our shake we clean our messes along the way and when we pour the shake into glasses, the blender gets clean, the remainder of the food gets put away, tofu box in the trash, etc. BEFORE we drink our shakes! THis way, we do not forget. She loves wiping down the counters since she sees me do it. I HELP HER clean it always. She sometimes fusses about cleaning if I'm not willing to help her. Same goes for cleaning her toys such as blocks, etc. She must clean after she's done playing with something. We are examples for them to follow and they are examples for the younger siblings to follow. We help them and they help the younger. If we pick up after ourselves always, and help them pick up after themselves, it may help them want to do it by themselves one day. I don't know.... but so far I haven't gotten to the stage where you are yet, as she is only 4yo and right now enjoys helping with everything and that includes the cleaning part of the job.

I think I may make fake licenses. "little credit card looking licenses" that says "license to operate blender" and "license to use toaster".... etc. and she may have to earn the license by showing full responsibility to clean the mess, if she doesn't then it's taken away, until she shows that she can do the full job. Just like actual drivers' licenses are given after tests are passed but revoked if you demonstrate improper driving behavior. same goes for forklift operator's licenses.... etc. hunting licenses... etc. everything can be earned ... then revoked.... if no responsibility is shown.

I don't know if I will actually do that since cleaning up after oneself is a MUST in this house. But my little ones: 5 mo, 2yo, and 4yo are still young and I always help them and they help me. We do not eat any meals or take any naps until our toys are cleaned, stove, counter, etc. are cleaned. That is the only way that things will stay cleaned in this house. I am totally NOT a "born organized" person and my home can be a disaster area in a matter of minutes with my 2yo and me leaving things out so we clean our hot spots twice a day or so. I also have a laundry basket for misplaced items and items that were left out. They can have it back after they realize why it was put in the basket.

I really have no advice for you, as I am not in your situation and never have been: but I may be in the future. I was just showing you what we do. I do have problems with my 2yo cleaning up after herself, but I just keep enforcing that we work together to keep it clean or the 4 yo help us clean to show her how to clean up. And insist that no other toys are brought out until it's clean. - BUT that is another issue in itself.

I do hope that your 6yo improves in this area soon! I'm sorry I may not be much help. Parenting can be difficult at times.

Starlyn
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#21 of 22 Old 06-17-2002, 02:51 PM
 
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Sometimes part of the problem is that our homes are not set up with tools that are made to fit a child's hands and sense of balance. If you want your child to learn to 'tidy' and get satisfaction from knowing the job is done well, I suggest providing appropriate materials from the beginning. We have a 'montessori' home and even my 2 year old knows to get a sponge and wringe it to clean a spill. She enjoys it and I do not have to scold or ask to clean. We try to keep clutter way down and everything has a place- and that is a place that is accesible to the children. Care of self and the environment is the first thing learned. We don't have stepford children, but our kids all pick up after themselves and they ENJOY it. I leave out a basket of small towels because the little ones like to fold them so much. Very satisying task.
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#22 of 22 Old 07-01-2002, 12:05 AM
 
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Wow! It's like reading about a parallel universe. My daughter is 6 and life is much like this around our house, which is smallish with no designated "homeschool space" so things need to get and stay picked up.

Cassidy, congratulations on striving to meet the autonomy needs of your children. So many parents give in to the knowledge that it would usually be easier (or at least quicker) on one level to just do everything ourselves but that sends our kids the message that they have no worth in our lives and in their home. My dd has been anxious just lately to "be big" and do things on her own, but of course reluctant or downright determined not to clean up. We generally follow the can't get anything new out til the previous activity/craft/game is put away. We also do what StarLynn suggests, clean as you go,(which we call CAYUGA), especially in the kitchen. We just say, and we want to do CAYUGA so we don't leave ourselves a mess at the end. She thinks this is very funny, but perhaps she's easily amused. I do help her to clean up many of her messes, but I DO NOT clean up for her. In other words, if I'm helping and she's distracted and starts playing or lollygagging, I'm done and she knows why. Also,she knows that if things get left lying around, they will "dissapear" for awhile, just like starlyn suggested putting things away in a basket.

I think by six kids need to know about the responsibility of cleaning up their messes and though I'm not a strict mom or super-neat, I am the only one amongst dd's friends whose mom makes them clean as they go or help clean up before the end of the playdate. I expect dd to help her friends clean when she's at their house but those moms don't bother (I expect they end up feeling it's just easier to do it themselves) and I believe we do our children a disservice by this age not to be consistent about encouraging them to take responsibility. They are asking for autonomy; with that comes responsibility and we don't serve them to wait until they're teenagers to begin to expect that from them.

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