10 ways to get your children to do what you want

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By Úna Rice

When your gentle persuasion doesn’t work, you may need to adapt a different approach...

Whether it’s a few household chores, music practice, a better study plan, or to stop seeing you as a human ATM, just a few little tweaks to how you operate can get the children more enthusiastic and engaged. Here’s how... 

Hold family meetings
Children love family meetings. In these days where everyone is so busy, sometimes even too busy to share family mealtimes, a meeting can be called to go through that list of stuff that’s making you feel less than chilled. Are the children throwing dirty laundry on the floor? Leaving crockery in the bedrooms? Constantly asking you for money? Draw up your list, give the meeting a time start and end (say about twenty minutes) and address all your concerns with your suggested solution. It’s only fair to take on board everyone’s input, this gets children engaged and interested in helping you make the changes. Teenagers can be less interested in doing stuff that doesn’t motivate them, so if you make family rules they have to understand that everyone has to comply or it won’t work.

Chart their success
When children see their tasks being ticked off, earning stars at the end and working towards a reward it fires them up to keep going. Not only that, but the right sort of praise makes them glow with pride. Use reward charts for household chores, piano practice and homework well done. Make sure that it’s achievable though, or your child will give up with exasperation or tiredness. Give age appropriate chores like emptying the dishwasher, setting the table or putting out the bins. 

Make family habits
Experts claim it can take 21 days to create a new habit. Great new habits to put in place are family walks, a Saturday morning clean up, organising bags for the charity shop, tidying up a little of the garage every weekend, getting in a bit of gardening. Over time all the efforts pay off. The important thing is it’s something the family can take responsibility for together.

Give them money
Money and rewards is a great incentive. Allocate basic cash for pocket money with the chance to earn more for jobs done. Go one better and if you have the time make a chart listing all the jobs you want done, and pop the corresponding ‘cash reward’ into a money bag, stapled to the chart. Want the furniture polished? That could be €2. The car needs a wash? That might be worth €8. Children can chose their job and get their cash quick.

Make it easy for them
You may want your child to keep a tidy bedroom, but it may simply be too overwhelming if it’s jammed with toys and personal belongings. See if you can improve the storage systems making it easier for your child to get organised. The same idea applies to children sitting tests and exams.  A couple of extra shelves or a bookcase can make all the difference to clearing the clutter of a desk.

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Don’t pick up after them
Your teenager will never know the joy of being organised if you continually pick up their clothes off the ‘floordrobe.’ Make a new rule that nothing gets washed unless it’s in a laundry basket, with pockets emptied and not inside out. If necessary, put a laundry basket in every bedroom and the bathroom. Now there is no excuse for clothes and towels on the floor. If you teen doesn’t comply, they don’t get clean clothes. Simple.

Pick your moment
There are moments in the day and the week that your children are more receptive to what you want and need done. Obviously when they are tired or in a bad mood it’s not a good time to say they forgot to cut the grass and why didn’t they empty the washing machine. Particularly with older children in the house, an adolescent or teen, trust them to fulfil the task at hand. You could say, ‘I’m giving you the responsibility of XYZ. It’s important you do it by (and state the time).’ Let your young adult demonstrate maturity.

Get someone else to say it
Sometimes your best intentions go unheard. If exams are approaching and you are beginning to sound like a nag as you try to inspire your young student to get sorted and do more revision, you might be better off getting a close family member to say something instead. Is there a relation or friend who’s been through the exams before your child? Get them to give their advice and help and you might find your student is suddenly paying more attention.

Box clever
Maybe you just want your children to tidy up after themselves and not leave a trail of socks, sweets, toys and paraphernalia after them wherever they go. If you keep picking up after them, they’ll never appreciate the extra stuff you’re doing. Instead, give a warning that if belongings aren’t put away, they’ll be placed in the box under the stairs for collection.

Keep it simple
Make basic rules that everyone has to stick to. For example, the lid goes back on the toothpaste. Give the sink a quick clean with a disposable wipe after you use it. Never leave an empty container in the shower room. Always fold a towel neatly. Put your own mug in the dishwasher. Put your socks in a pair before they go for laundry. Simple rules make life easier for everyone.

Catherine Devane