Tag Archives: Chores

Me Want It (But Me Wait): Teaching Self-Control to Children

In the summer of 2013, Sesame Street released a fabulous video in which Cookie Monster is learning about self-control. Self-control is an important skill for children to master, as it will help them succeed at school and manage their behavior at home. Naturlly, young children have no self-control. Children with ADHD or similar issues may lack self-control up till a much older age./P>

There are many ways in which a parent can teach a child self-control. With babies, you need to begin by modeling. Remain calm yourself when your child is distressed. There may be various ways in which a baby is calmed. Some need lots of physical contact, while others need to be laid down for a bit. People vary in their opinion on self-soothing, ie. whether you need to attend to a baby when crying or ignore them. I think it depends on the baby.

Listening skills are a first requirement. Teach your child to come when you call them. Rigidly enforcing social skills like eye contact may not be appropriate for some children, like those with autism, but your child needs to learn to listen to their name and to attend to you.

When a young child cannot get what they want, cannot do what they want to do, or for another reason gets frustrated, they may tantrum. For a one-year-old, consequences don’t work, but distraction does. When your child is a little older, like from the age of two on, use brief time-outs as a consequence for tantrums. Like I’ve said before, make sure your child knows when the time-out is over. This means for a young child that you will need to call them back out of time-out. Again, this reinforces listening skills. For older children, you can ask that they come back when they’ve calmed, but this may not work for children who are still unable to understand their own emotions, like most children with autism. You can point out signs of them being calm again when you call them back out of time-out. This may help children learn about their own emotions and behaviors.

Besides giving consequences for impulsive behavior or tantrums, it’s also very important to reward self-control. If you’ve promised your child ice cream after dinner and they’ve behaved according to your reasonable expectations, give them the ice cream. That way a child learns that not only will impulsivity be punished, but also that patience and self-control are indeed going to get you farther along in life.

Motivation is not the same as self-control. If a child can focus fine on a computer game but not when tidying their room, that’s not a problem with self-control. It is more likely that they lack the motivation to tidy their room. It is however possible to change your attitude. Children will need help with this. For example, as a parent, you may turn tidying the child’s room into a game. You also need to model the right attitude. If you approach tasks like they’re nasty chores, much energy will go into motivating yourself to do the task. If you approach them with a positive attitude, you will find it’s much easier to stay motivated and thereby use your self-control skills. With children (and as adults!) who have a special interest, you can use the special interest as part of the nasty chore.

Of course, there are other skills required for completing tasks besides motivation. Your child will need to have the attention span to focus, the working memory to remember what they need to do, and the organizational skills to plan their task and get it actually finished. Until I did my research for this post, I thought this was the problem with me, but then I realized I can focus fine on this blog post, which requires reading and summarizing multiple sources. I’m now thinking that motivation may be an issue for me, and see above for solving that.

However, when someone truly has poor atttenion, working memory and/or organizational skills, these skills still can be trained at least in children. Computer-based games that reinforce memory or attention have some evidence of effecitveness behind them. Similarly, there are games that reinforce self-control directly. You know the game of stop and go, where a green light means go and a red light means stop? When the child is used to these rules, reverse them and your child will practice keeping their impulse to follow the original rules in check. I’m pretty sure there are computer-based variations to this game.


Making Your Disabled Child Do Chores

A few days ago, the author of Brielle and Me had a post up about making your disabled child do chores I was never really expected to do chores. This was partly because my parents didn’t know how to teach me and felt the household would be running much smo other if they did thigns themselves. In this sense, they were lucky that my sister was always veyr independent, but even then, isn’t a chore always over quicker if you do it yourslef rather than have a child do it?

Some children are severely disabled, and it’s often hard to think of what they can do, keeping non-disabled standards in mind. Let me say to this that your child doesn’t need to become like non-disabled children, but they do need to grow in their independence. You can break a skill down into parts. For example, my chore in the institution is to make coffee, but I get someone else to fill the water reserve because it’s too heavy and high for me to work.

One of the reasons you need to make a disabled child do chores, is to give them a sense of pride and self-worth. I have experienced that chores for this purpose need not to be too difficult. For example, I was told when I first came to this institution that I needed to make my own bread, and self-worth was used as an argument. However, I don’t have the fine motor skills to do this and was constantly failing. While failure is part of life, constant failre will only make a child anxious and avoidant. I therefore recommend starting with a chore the child can already do, and introducing more difficult chores later on.

One thing I want to share though: don’t use long0term, vague consequences as threats to make your child do a chore. My staff at first told me stuff like: “You really won’t live with you rhusband if you can’t make your own bread, so go make it now.” That only got me to feel depressed and like I had no hope. For a child with disabilities, even though you as parents need to start planning for their future early, you’re setting them up for despair if you use your plans for their future as an argument why they need to do chores now. For example, I knew early on that I needed to leave the house at eighteen, but this scared the crap out of me because I had no clue how I was going to achieve this. I was as young as nine. Remember: children don’t ave the brains to plan for the distant future, so don’t bother them with it.