Parents often come to me with parenting issues, and I thought I’d heard everything. That is, until recently, when one of the parents told me that they didn’t give their child any chores or responsibilities at home. NONE. The rationale here was that they wanted to give their son the” optimum environment” to be successful in school. This kid was 9 years old, and didn’t have to take his dishes to the sink after a meal, make his bed, or even tie his own shoes!
His mother told me that her son was so slow at everything and that she had to do everything for him, including tying his shoes in the morning because they would be late to school if she left it up to him! I had to bite my tongue and count to ten before I offered tips on helping him move a little quicker.
To assess the situation, I started to observe him in the classroom, on the playground, and on field trips. Mom was right about him taking an inordinate amount of time to put his shoes on. The morning carpool would often be late because he would take a full 5 minutes to tie his shoelaces. I suggested to the driver of the carpool from school that she tell all of the students that the van would be leaving precisely at 3:00 pm each day — with or without students.
The following day, he almost missed the carpool. I told him the van would be leaving in 1 minute and he just ran, holding his shoes in his hands. The next day, he watched the clock and sprinted to the shoe cubby to get his shoes on. When the world stopped catering to his needs, he was briefly stressed out, but that passed quickly. Funny thing: he learned to tie his shoes quickly after that — in 20 seconds, not 5 minutes!
When his parents saw this remarkable change, they agreed to give him more personal responsibility at home. What’s amazing is that he started getting his homework done faster when he realized he had to do the dishes after dinner, and he ate breakfast quicker and got dressed for school in half the time. You know the old adage: if you need something done, ask a busy person to do it. The same lesson holds true for kids. The sooner a child learns how to manage their time to accomplish their goals, the sooner they become independent and successful. So don’t think of them as chores, think of them as learning experiences.