“You know, I just can’t believe you! I do your laundry, fold it, and even put it away for you. I make supper every night and I even clean your room for you so you won’t have to bother. I hardly ever ask you to do anything around the house. The least you could do is to be a little responsible for your things. How can you be so ungrateful? “¦.”

Children are born with an innate desire to be helpful and productive. As toddlers and young children, they imitate the behaviors, actions, and reactions of their adult models. As any parent of young children is aware, when young children try to “help” they usually make the job more difficult.

Very often when I take out the room to sweep the kitchen floor, my two year old son will bring his little broom and begin to sweep alongside me. The only problem is that as I sweep the crumbs into a pile he scatters them around the room. I have to remind myself that these are his efforts to be productive. If I lash out at him or shoo him away it will send him a message that he cannot be helpful and with time it will stifle his desire to help in the future.

Engaging in a helping task strengthens a child’s self-esteem. It grants him/her a feeling of ownership and instills the message that his/her contributions are appreciated. Children’s faces light up when they believe that they are helpful just like adults. The wise parent will praise and thank his/her young child for their work and for being such a productive member of the family.

By nature, when a person feels that his/her contribution is valued and appreciated he/she will be more eager to continue to produce, even if it requires great exertion and sacrifice.

As children mature, it is important that they be given responsibilities based on their maturity level (not necessarily based on their age). Although children are generally resistant to performing assigned responsibilities, in the long run it is an important component of their growth. What about when a child refuses to do his/her chores? The best response is to use consequences without anger. We cannot force to child to do something, but we sure can control whether we give him a treat or take her to a friend’s house.

Children need not need to be rewarded for finishing a job or doing a chore. If they are constantly receiving treats and rewards for fulfilling their responsibilities they learn to perform only for external reward. Doing chores should be expected as their contribution to the family, much as a mother prepares supper and does not get rewarded for it.

It must be noted however, that praise and compliments are always important. Everyone needs positive feedback and encouragement, especially children.

“I would love to take you to gym now, sweetie; but I won’t be able to. The dishes are still in the sink!”

“But Ma, I am not going to be able to get into a game if I am not on time. You know I wait all week long for gym and Rebbe says it’s important for me to play.”

“I really am sorry honey. Please let me know when the dishes are done.”

“You must be kidding?! What kind of parent are you? If you loved me you would take me now!”

“I’m sorry you feel that way, sweetie. I’ll be upstairs. Please let me know when the dishes are done. If you finish in the next ten minutes, we may still have time to make it to the game.”

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About the Author

Rabbi Dani Staum LMSW, is the Social Worker at Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch in Monsey and the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead in Monsey, NY. He also maintains a Private Practice. His website is: http://www.stamtorah.info Rabbi Staum can be reached at thestaums@kewnet.com

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