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.

Ask Amy: Can I Learn to Connect to my Child?

Jeni writesYou always talk about the significance of the parent-child relationship and how important that connection is. I’m not sure I know how to really connect because I’m pretty sure I never experienced that from my parents. Could you talk about ways to connect and stay connected to my child?

Great question Jeni! You’re right, if you’ve never felt really connected to your parents, it’s highly unlikely that you would know how to do it. The good news is, you can learn!

Ask Amy Nov resized

Connection takes time. Your time. Your undivided attention is the best way to let your kids know how much you value them. Why not start by playing with your child if they are younger or just hanging out with them if they are older? These times of connection are not times to teach, lecture or nag. They are times for letting the child lead the play or conversation. It’s on their terms and their choosing. You’re just along for the ride doing and talking about things that are of interest to them, not you.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Peek a boo
  • Hide and Seek
  • I Spy
  • Chase
  • Go on a walk
  • Ride bikes
  • Cook
  • Wrestle
  • Tickle games
  • Sing and dance
  • Board games
  • Cards

Hopefully, these ideas will get you started. Thirty minutes, one time a week, is what I like to suggest for this kind of one-on-one time. No distractions from technology, siblings, spouses, friends, chores, etc.

Of course, it’s also important to connect in a quicker way each day. Take 5–10 minutes to check in and see how their day was, what they are feeling and if all is well in their world.

I can promise, if these times are done correctly, you will have a child that is more compliant, cooperative and happy.

I’d love to hear how this works for you, Jeni!
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: How do I get my child to shake the shyness?

“My daughter is so shy. She hides behind me when people speak to her and when she gets invited to birthday parties; she is glued to my leg while everyone else is having a great time. I hate this for her and it is embarrassing for me. How can I help her?”

PWA Oct Ask Amy

Relax! If you’re anxious, you’re making things harder for her. She sounds like the kind of child that is slow to warm up. Give her time to scan the room to see who is there or check out the person that is speaking to her.

In your embarrassment and uncomfortableness, do not call her shy in an apologetic way. ”Oh, she’s just shy” is what many parents say. When kids are labeled, often they live up to their label.

Make sure you do not answer for her, or tell her what to say. Things like this embarrass a more introverted child.

Since kids learn best by playing, role-play different scenarios at home with her. It is always a good idea, before going out, to prepare her and set the expectation. “You don’t have to carry on a conversation, but I do expect you to make eye contact and say hello when someone speaks to you.”

Encourage her by pointing out how brave she was when she looked at Macy’s Mom and said hello.

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: Wendy Stem

In the spring of 2011, after our older daughter Abigail had started second grade, she began experiencing frequent stomach aches. They would usually come in the evening around dinner time, she would become flushed in the face and just need to lie down. After six months of doctor’s visits that included everything from strep throat to allergy tests and even an endoscopy, the stomach aches went away.

Parenting With Amy

Six months later, our younger daughter Sarah, shortly after starting first grade, began experiencing the same symptoms. Unfortunately, Sarah’s were more intense. She had stomach aches, cramping, and painful constipation. She became fearful of several things including being sick, going to school, and being by herself. There was a lot of crying, a lot of screaming, and several trips to the pediatrician’s office. After testing for a few things, it was becoming clear that Sarah was on the same path that Abigail had been on. Fortunately, this time around, our pediatrician recommended visiting with Amy to investigate the possibility of Sarah’s symptoms being related to anxiety.

During our first visit with Amy, she assured me that all of Sarah’s symptoms, while they could be something physical, aligned with a child feeling anxiety. Because Sarah is very verbal, often times we feel like we can reason with her and explain situations, but trying to explain Sarah’s anxiety to her and tell her the “right” way to view it was clearly not helping. Amy has helped us better understand the viewpoint of the anxious child. She has helped us learn how to talk with Sarah in such a way as to acknowledge what she is feeling, to help Sarah feel validated in what she is feeling, instead of feeling differently or wrong about it. The following spring, Sarah was doing very well in her first grade class.

It was late that same spring that we had a huge family change – we decided to take an assignment overseas with my husband’s company. We all felt nervous but very excited. We were busy with plans, selling our home and getting ready to move in August when we were delayed by an indefinite amount of time while we waited on immigration paperwork. We moved into a small apartment that was fun for the first week, but the reality of leaving our home, our neighborhood, friends and routine soon hit. We were all grieving, not sure how long we would be in this apartment and not sure what our lives would look like when we moved overseas. It was an emotional, scary time.

We were all feeling quite uncertain about what we were doing, but it is Sarah who is somewhat of the “thermometer” in our household. She felt all of the insecurity and emotion intensely. We had crying and screaming fits, periods of deep sadness, even a period of time when Sarah did not want to get off of the couch to play.

I am so thankful we were able to reach out to Amy again. She was a neutral person with whom Sarah could talk, and who, according to Sarah has great dolls to play with! As her parents, we had this idea that we could just tell Sarah how to “fix” what she was feeling by doing something different, acting a certain way, or believing something specific. One of the most important things we have learned from Amy is how to validate our children and their feelings. Simply being able to listen to them and acknowledge what they are going through as being normal has given them a confidence to work through a lot of these anxious moments.

While nothing about our move overseas was easy, we have done it. Our first move was an amazing adventure, but definitely filled with moments to practice the skills we have learned from Amy! The adjustment continued to be filled with sadness, anxiety, and a little anger, but both girls started new schools overseas, made many new friends and enjoyed an amazing experience. We continue to face fears and anxiety, but with an openness to talk, acknowledge, and validate. We have learned to be aware of our stressors, to recognize what are reactions to anxiety and to reach out for help when we need it, all of which is an ongoing process.

Our girls are now entering seventh and fifth grades, and we have made another overseas move. We have faced the grief of leaving another home, the sadness of leaving friends and the anxiety of not knowing what the next months will be like. Sarah and Abigail have both felt this intensely and have had the same feelings manifest. However, they are beginning to recognize and verbalize how they are feeling, and we know we can work through it as a family. We are thankful for the skills we have learned from Amy, and thankful that we are able to continue to seek her guidance and resources!

Wendy Stem

Help! I’m Ready to Send My Kid to Bootcamp!

At some point along your parenting journey, you will probably get to deal with defiance. If you don’t, I’d be surprised because it is normal and part of growing up. Back talk, disobedience and arguing are ways defiance often comes out. Little defiant people have temper tantrums while teens can get aggressive.

When we think about defiance, we usually think about a more overt child that is loud, negative and determined. But, defiance is evident in a more compliant and cooperative child as well and can appear as a quiet passive aggressive defiance.

Developmentally speaking, the times we see defiance most often is when they are either a toddler or teen. Regardless of their age, if the behavior persists for a long time, seems like it’s inappropriate for their age and disrupts the family, it might be time to consult with a professional.

It’s so hard not to react when our kids are being recalcitrant. But here is what I know to be true. Your self-control is the best tool you can have in your toolbox. If you react to the defiance in You are not the boss of me.anger, they get angrier and the problem just gets bigger. If you can just respond with empathy, it diffuses the situation rather than escalate it. “I hear in your voice that you’re mad and I want to hear what you have to say just as soon as you can use your kinder voice.”

Many parents tell me they are so hurt by their defiant child when they say things like “I hate you, you are the meanest daddy, and you’re the devil.” Don’t take it personally or even get mad and react. I don’t believe those words are disrespect. I think they are just trying to tell you how upset they are and that’s the only way they know to tell you. Just respond by saying, “boy, you seem mad at me about that.”

Their misbehavior is an opportunity to check in with yourself and see if the parent-child relationship is off track. If there is a disconnect, think about what you can do to reconnect. A 30-minute playtime with your child, lunch with your teen or perhaps a board game? Keep in mind that when our kids don’t feel a connection to us, they feel bad and when they feel bad they act badly. Warning! It is very easy to get disconnected from a defiant child.

It can be helpful if you are able to determine the reason they are so angry. Could they be mad because you’ve asked them to do something and they don’t like being told what to do? Are they tired? Have they been following commands from teachers all day and they’re sick of adults telling them what to do? Are they getting sick? This doesn’t mean you’re going to excuse the behavior it just helps to know what’s driving their reactions.

Finally, remember to focus on the good and positive in these kids. When we are continually frustrated and exhausted by their behavior, our tendency is to get in a rut and focus more on what they are not doing right. If you can shift your thoughts to what they are doing that is right, it will make a difference. Compliment them or notice the good they are doing. “I noticed you were so responsible this morning. You were ready to walk out the door right on time.”

These defiant kids are more of a challenge to raise yet they are the leaders of tomorrow. If we parent them appropriately and effectively through the years they are in our homes, they usually soar. They have a strong core, they know what they believe, they are not afraid to take a stand and they are movers and shakers.

There’s Always Hope,


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,