Chores: The Great Debate

I’m not going to lie. When the girls were growing up, there were some days it was just easier and faster for me to do their chores for them.

Have you ever been guilty of this? Most parents I know have. Some parents cave in to avoid confrontation while others don’t have the energy, patience or time to hold their children accountable. I also know plenty of parents that don’t want to inconvenience or impose on their already over scheduled kids.


None of these are good options because chores are, or should be, a necessary part of growing up.


Responsibility – holding children accountable for chores can increase their self-worth because they will feel good when they meet their obligations.

Life skills – cooking, cleaning, laundry, taking care of a pet and yard work are all skills they will need when they leave your home.

Hard work – life requires work… house work, school work, job work, etc. Chores provide the training ground for these essential life skills.

Here’s what you can do:

Model positive behaviors. If you whine about doing the laundry or mowing the yard, your children are more likely to complain about cleaning up their rooms.

Be patient. If you tell your son to put away his video games before dinnertime, then don’t complain if he hasn’t started the task by mid-afternoon. Give him the opportunity to complete the request without begging, pleading or nagging.

Compliment cooperation. Acknowledge when your child completes a task—even if the toys aren’t on the right shelves. You’ll get more cooperation if you refrain from criticism.

Start young and start small. A one-year-old can start age-appropriate chores, such as picking up books and blocks. And it’s okay for you to help them! Make it fun. “I’ll put my block in here, now it’s your turn. My book goes right here, yours goes next to mine.” By the time our children are six or seven, they should be able to do their chores unassisted.

What is the state of the parent-child relationship? Keep in mind that kids want to please but the connection has to be there. Also, they will be more apt to embrace your values regarding chores as well as your work ethic if the parent-child relationship is strong.

What if?

The ever-present question from parents is “What if they don’t do their chores? What consequence should I give them?” I don’t believe there always needs to be a consequence, especially if they are younger. Remember, you are training and teaching them—be positive and supportive and work alongside them until they are done. Yes, this does take more of your time, but if you can put in the hard work and training at the front end, the ultimate result will be that as they grow up, you should be able to say it’s time to do your chores and they will be able to do just that.

For older kiddos and teens, yes, a consequence might be in order. When they complete their chores then they can go out with friends. Say “feel free to go to Haley’s house when your chores are done.” This teaches him to govern himself and enables you to parent in a positive way. The more negative approach goes like this “No, you can’t go to Haley’s. I’ve told you a hundred times you have chores to do. You always wait until the last minute and you’ve known all along what you were supposed to be doing.” This kind of reaction doesn’t encourage cooperation.

Of this one thing I am certain: Your children will not thank you for insisting they do their chores while they still live in your home. Hopefully, they will thank you someday… after they are living on their own.

There’s Always Hope,





Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more.

Mealtime: Take the Focus Off the Food

How many meals do you and your family enjoy together each week?

Being together at mealtime can be one of the threads that holds the fabric of a family together. Relationships, specifically family relationships, are at the core of a satisfying life, and sitting down together at least once a day with your family gives everyone time to relax, talk, listen, laugh and find love and understanding. Children have an opportunity to talk about what is on their mind and receive support from parents and siblings. Everyone can engage and the whole family can leave the table feeling satisfied and refreshed.


What is mealtime like at your house? It can be enjoyable and satisfying or dreadful and stressful. Oftentimes, food can become the focus, and then a big battle ignites! We all want our kids to eat well, but we cannot make a child eat. I was reminded of this again –just today actually. Wilson is nearly one now and he politely pushed my hand away when I tried to feed him yogurt. He did not want yogurt. He wanted blueberries. Wise parents know that trying to force a child to eat can cause problems. Some parents resort to bribes or threats. It is best to focus on things we can control like what we prepare, how much to serve and when to serve it. Food should not become a battle. If they don’t want to eat, that’s their choice. Let them be in control of that. Be sure to let them know if they choose not to eat, that’s fine with you but there will be nothing more until the next meal. They will not starve!

Benefits of eating together as a family:

Better grades Higher self-esteem
Expanded vocabulary
Greater social skills
Fewer behavioral problems
Connection to the family unit

Guidelines to consider:

Unplug – turn off all electronics
Make good manners a part of the ritual
Be attentive and listen
Be respectful to each other
Keep loaded discussions for a later time
Let kids help with the cooking, setting the table and clearing the table
No nagging and lecturing

Make mealtimes a priority, yet be flexible with everyone’s schedule. The family meal doesn’t have to be dinner, and even an occasional family meal is better than none at all. If your family doesn’t currently do mealtimes together, why not consider working one or two into your schedule soon – despite soccer games, baseball practice, piano lessons, dance class, meetings and everything else that gets in the way of this important time.

Remember that food is not the only nourishment that kids get from dinner. They get emotional nourishment just by sitting together with their loved ones. This is good for the soul of family life.

There’s Always Hope,





Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more.

Ask Amy: My Child Hates Me!

“My 6 year old told me recently he hated me and he wished he had a different Mother. I couldn’t believe it! It hurt my feelings and at the same time made me furious. I told him that was disrespectful and he was not allowed to talk to me that way. I then sent him to his room. I don’t know if that was the best thing to do. What should I do if it happens again?”

PWA Sept Ask Amy

It is hard to hear a remark like this from someone we’ve invested so much into for the last 6 years, isn’t it? You will probably hear it again, so let’s come up with a plan.

Rest assured that most young kids I know that say things like this do not really mean it! It usually comes on the heels of them not getting something they want or things not going their way. In other words, they are mad when we say no! The bottom line is they haven’t learned how to use their words to let us know they are feeling angry.

Here’s what we should do.

Acknowledge the fact that they are mad, give them permission to feel that way and then teach them to use their words appropriately.

The next time you hear “I hate you,” respond by saying “I think you’re trying to tell me you are mad because I said no. I want you to know it’s ok that you’re mad and you can always say, Mommy, I’m mad at you because you won’t let me buy this toy”.

You are modeling for him what you want him to do the next time he’s upset with you. That’s addressing the real issue, which is his anger.

Getting angry with him, telling him to stop talking to you like that, sending him to his room, making him apologize to you are all things that further ignite his anger.

Let me know if this helps!

There’s Always Hope,





Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more.

Family Spotlight: Shannon Harris

I don’t know what I don’t know. I keep learning this lesson over and over.

I love being a mom. However, it often feels like we are walking a tightrope between teaching grace and yet providing discipline, having a sense of humor and teaching respect, deciding when the small ‘stuff’ I actually ‘big’ stuff, and vice versa.Parenting with Amy

Two years ago we attended a parenting group with Amy. These few things have made a big impact for the way we parent:

As a working mom, ‘mom guilt’ can occur daily. Amy taught us to give our kids at least 15 minutes of quality time per day. While this seems like a small amount of time, it gets all to easy to be ‘busy’ and miss this opportunity. So, whether I am coloring with the kids, having them help me make dinner, throwing a football with my son or reading books together…. I know it is critical to make the time.

It is innate to ‘fix’ our babies. If they fall and skin their knee, get a bandaid. If they are hungry, feed them. If they are sad, cheer them up. While I still need to tend to their physical needs, Amy taught me that I don’t need to ‘fix’ their feelings. I need to teach them that I am ok when they are sad, or mad, or hurt. I need to validate what they are feeling. Let them sit in their feelings. I can say “I know you are mad at me because you didn’t get….” And just let them be mad until they want to work it through. I have started to see the fruit of this process now with my 7 year old. Recently, when he has been disrespectful to me, I have shared with him from my perspective, “I don’t like the way you spoke to me. It makes me sad when you talk to in that manner.” And then I am quiet. On his own, he has now gone off, only to come back 30 minutes later and apologize to me. This shows me he is taking time to process how I am feeling. Which means he is taking time to process his feelings.

In our house, we have a saying “When you mess up, you fess up.” Often as the parent, your instinct is to not show weakness with your kids. But, Amy gave me permission to tell my kids that I am sorry. Or come back to them and explain ‘I didn’t like the way I handled the situation’ today, or ‘I have thought about what I said and I have changed my mind.’ A lot of times we excuse our behavior as parents with the rationale that ‘kids are resilient., or unaffected, or won’t remember.’ As resilient and forgiving as they are, they do remember. I love that we have BOTH Authority in our home AND show humility with our children. My kids are learning that the expectation is not to be perfect, the expectation is to OWN their choices and the consequences. This has to be taught by example.

When we were on a family vacation, my daughter was coming down an elevator with my sister. The doors shut before my daughter got out. For 45 terrifying seconds, she was hysterical in the elevator alone. She seemed to be ok…just frightened…until about one month later when she wouldn’t let me out of her sight. Cried when I left her at school. Didn’t want to her dance recital or school concert. My natural inclination was to push her through so she (or I) wouldn’t miss out. I was coached to ‘let her heal.’ I needed to build her confidence and trust. Not put her in situations that caused anxiety. Pull back and meet her where she was at. And so we did. I had to keep the normal school and church routines, but soccer, playdates, dance, performances…I had to let them go. It took almost a year for her to fully regain her confidence and not have a ‘spirit of fear.’ But, now she is thriving: dance, playdates, rides the bus to school, skiing. I was so thankful to get guidance during this period, and have a plan to deal with her anxiety.

Lastly, in working with Amy, you learn you have to stop comparing your parenting to other parents. You as a parent have to discern what is best for your kids. And it is valuable to have someone objective, who can know your parenting style and your issues, and give you the ‘words’ to say to your children. I feel empowered when a challenge comes up, but I have a plan on how to handle it. For example, when my kids: roll their eyes, use inappropriate language, have a disrespectful tone, have power struggles with friends, feel inferior in sports or academics, etc. I am equipped with ‘words’ and actions to handle these things. I can validate their feelings, discern if I need to step in or hold back, and be available to talk through the next step or consequences.

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Revealing the Truth About Spanking

Let’s cut straight to the chase. Please, don’t do it! Period. That could be the end of this newsletter, but let’s go on.

Spanking is probably one of the most hotly debated topics of parenting and one where we might just have to agree to disagree. I can’t argue with parents when they sit in my office and tell me “well it worked on me.” I agree withSpanking doesn’t provide the long-term results you desire. them, because it probably did work — for the moment anyway. Children usually straighten up after a spanking because they are fearful of us and they are in physical pain. Emotionally, they are sad, embarrassed and angry. But, this kind of change in their behavior is not for the long term. Most importantly though, because of the hitting, there is a disconnect in the parent-child relationship. When that connection is gone, we’ve got problems.

Parents also say to me “my parents spanked me and I turned out just fine.” I agree with that too, because they probably are ok. Then, I ask them

if they hadn’t been spanked, do they think they would be less likely to spank their kids? Did they feel close to their parents after they were spanked? Did they trust their parents and feel safe enough to go to them with important matters. And then, I want to know how they remember feeling after they got a spanking. I also want to know if it made them feel like cooperating or rebelling.

With a steady diet of this negative way of parenting, children can become:

  • Defiant
  • Revengeful
  • Rebellious

One mother was in disbelief when her child told her that he liked to make her mad. He was paying her back. For what?  He was so angry with her because of the way she punished him. By the way, yelling, threatening and spanking were her preferred ways to try and manage him.  

Spanking relieves parents of their stress since they usually wait to spank until they’re at the end of their rope. That is unfair to take their frustration out on their kids in this way. Before most parents spank, they usually feel out of control. Nothing they are doing is working and they are furious. Spanking allows them to exert power over their kids and feel more in control.

A child’s self-worth is usually negatively affected when they are hit.  Who could feel good about themselves after a spanking? If you were paddled as a child, stop for a minute and try to remember how you felt about yourself after the fact.

Aggression begets aggression. Expect that if we hit our kids, they are likely to hit when they feel angry too. Is this the lesson we want to teach them?

The parent-child relationship is hurt when we hit our kids. This is the most detrimental repercussion from spanking. Keep in mind that this is the most important relationship in their life and how conflictual it is for them to feel close and loving to someone that is hurting them. Hitting devalues this precious relationship. When kids experience a disconnect from their parents,  they are resentful, fearful and distrustful and much less likely to be cooperative and do the right thing.

When we spank, we miss an opportunity to teach our kids how we expect them to behave. They’re in trouble for something, we smack them, yell at them and send them to their room and it’s over. The next time, instead of deciding to spank when they are misbehaving, stop yourself and ask how you can use the misbehavior as a teaching opportunity.

Warning. This does require more patience on your part.

Spanking does not work and the research is clear. Some of the long-term effects of regular spanking can lead to depression and anxiety. If you’re interested in the research, Elizabeth Gershoff, Ph.D. at UT, and Catherine Taylor, Ph.D. at Tulane, cite some of the latest findings in their research.

Honestly, there are two things all spankers say to me.

  • They don’t want to do it and never thought they would
  • They don’t feel good about themselves after they do it

No matter how you might try to justify it, spanking is not the answer. The opposite of that is loving guidance reinforced by a strong parent-child relationship. Carefully reconsider if you are a spanker.

There’s Always Hope,





Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more!


Discipline is not Punishment

“Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better?” – Jane Nelsen

That quote is an oldie, but I still love it because it’s so true. Most parents I know feel a need to punish their kids for doing something wrong. Punitive measures tend to make children feel embarrassed and angry and when they feel that way, their desire to cooperate will be much less. For example, they have a bad day at school, we want to immediately punish them, in part, because we’re mad and embarrassed about it. So before thinking it through, we might take away computer privileges when they get home. We believe that simply by punishing our children for misbehaving they won’t make the same mistake again. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Let’s clarify the difference between discipline and punishment. Many parents get confused with the two. They say “I’m going to discipline her” when what they’re really meaning is “I’m going to make her pay for this.” That is punishment. Discipline is not punishment. They are two totally different things.

Punishment is negative and punitive. It makes them suffer for their wrongdoing and focuses on parental control. That is called external locus of control. This control causes children to respond in a defensive way. Punishment focuses on the wrongs and breeds hostility and frustration in both parent and child. Punishment shames and usually doesn’t work. Then, when it fails, we’ve got frustrated parents. That only escalates their need to work harder to get their child under their control. Healthy parents do not want to control their children.

Discipline, on the other hand, is positive and nurturing. It means to teach or lead and focuses on internal control. This teaches kids to think for PWA_Discipline Articlethemselves so they can be self-regulated. We allow them to own their problem and figure out ways to solve it. Discipline is teaching children how we expect them to behave, in other words, guiding them. It is something you do with, not to your child. Discipline creates an attitude of concern on the parent’s part. Kids usually respond to that attitude and want to change their behavior.

To be effective disciplinarians, a strong parent-child relationship must be in place — a relationship where the child feels connected and loved unconditionally.  When children are connected in this way, they usually want to act right and do what is right.

After you are certain the parent-child relationship is solid, look at yourself. Are you leading by example? In other words, are you behaving the way you want them to behave? Surprisingly, many parents do not. So many of us expect our children to be what we are not. It is a mistake to expect our children’s behavior to change without changing ours. It’s unfair too.

The more positive we can be, the better. Focus on what your child is doing right, not what he is doing wrong. Catch them being good. To validate positive behavior, high five them, hug them or even notice what they’ve done by expressing it verbally.

Try to get to the root of the misbehavior. Are they mad at us? Did they have a fight with a friend? Did they have to go to the principal’s office and are afraid to tell us? Sometimes they just don’t have the words to tell us what they are feeling.

Why not begin to consider yourself a guide, much like a shepherd? They gently guided and lead the flock. Intentional parents walk beside, instructing, inspiring and encouraging but never provoking or bullying. Remember, from here on out, that the parent-child relationship is your secret weapon in effective discipline.

There’s Always Hope,