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Dr. Kirk: Who's the Boss?

by Michael E. Kirk, PhD
Dr. Kirk is a local clinical psychologist, father and grandfather, who specializes in working with families, adolescents, and children.

Shirley beseechingly asks her daughter, “What do I need to do for you to get you to do just one thing for me?” Her daughter, Robin, smirks and says to her mother, “Why SHOULD I do anything? All you do is yell at me and complain about my room and my grades! Just stop it,” as she rolls her eyes to no one. Robin continues to sit curled up comfortably on the couch, which was paid for by her parents, using her parent’s iPad and using her parent’s wifi, which they pay for monthly with their own hard cash. Shirley sighs, shakes her head, and resigns herself to cleaning up her daughter’s mess in the kitchen, again.

The problem here is two-fold: (1) mother is once again cleaning up her daughter’s mess, and (2) the daughter does not seem to care. These issues are of great concern and should they not be resolved, the mother will continue to perform chores for her daughter, perhaps forever, and her daughter will never mature into a responsible woman.

How does one motivate a child to be respectful, to recognize the responsibility that one has to contribute to the family (often performed through necessary family chores,) and to become responsible, all in an eighteen year time slot? Well, it is difficult, but should one be persistent, doggedly determined, and recognize in advance what may be coming up for a young person as they grow in this world, it can be done. Who is going to do this for the child? Not reality television. Not social media. Not their friends. Nope. Just you, the parent. Only you can save your child from a life of embarrassment and juvenile decision-making. Yes, just you, the parent.

Who is running the show? It had better be the parent.  And it is the parent’s job, for 18 years per child, to make sure that this child can cook, clean, pay bills, save money, and successfully plan and carry out objectives. How does this get accomplished, one might ask? The child needs to do the work. In the home. The parents are like supervisors, and the children are like employees. You do not typically see the supervisor doing all the work while the employees sit around lazily perusing the iPad.  You Tube does not offer careers for most people.

What next? Well, if the parent is running “the show,” then the children should begin to work. They need to learn to clean the bathrooms. They need to vacuum and learn to use the washer and dryer. They need to learn to cook for the family. It is a simple process: The child performs the required task, and when it is completed to the parent’s expectations, the job is done. Until then, everything else is off limits except for eating, brushing teeth, and sleeping. Someone needs a ride somewhere? “Sure,” says the parent, “Just as soon as my daughter cleans the kitchen to my expectations.” Someone needs a cash advance for a school project? “Sure,” says the parent, “Just as soon as my child has cleaned the house to my expectations.” Someone wants his iPhone turned back on? (It was turned off due to surly behavior toward the parent.) “Sure,” says the parent, “Just as soon as my son can show us all respectful behavior in this house.”

Simple. In the real world, no one gets paid until they have done the job. Some parents are leading their child into a nightmare of adult expectations when no one is around to do the work for him or her. They’ll have only the boss to deal with, and SHE expects results. A parent does not have to respond to arguments from the child. If the parent argues, then the child is taught to expect her supervisor to argue with her, which won’t happen. The adult child will just be fired. A parent does not have to remind the child. All that is necessary is for the child to begin to realize that if she or he wants privileges, then Do. The. Work.

Simple. When the parents are running the show, then the result will be more adults walking around being responsible. More adults walking around being kind and sympathetic. More adults walking around being productive and feeling proud. That is what happens when the parents are running the show.

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Tags: Parenting

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