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  • Cristina Smyser

Single Parent tricks of the trade

From the 'Terrible Twos' to the hormonal teen, everyone has a tip, a trick, and advice that you just feel does not apply to you. Well, most won't! How can we say "thank you, but no thank you" to those who insist they know it all? You can't. Just smile and nod and do what works for you. I am going to only discuss things I have done that worked for us. But not only am I going to tell you what I did, I am going to tell the full story and explain personalities of myself and my daughter. Keeping in mind that nothing works the first time, this section might take a while. Also, what works for one child, may not work so well for the next.


   


As time goes on, I realize that the structure kids learn at a young age, helps as they get older. It also helps us as their parents. For example, I work two jobs and have a very limited amount of time for house cleaning, playing, shopping, and dating. I have noticed a few things over the past month that once put forth, will help me to manage my time. Additionally, there is no reason kids of all ages cannot have some type of chore and learn a bit of responsibility, these tips I will also put under my Work/Life Balance page. 

For starters I will list my schedule for the week. 

Sunday: Clean kitchen, Work (9am - 1pm), clean upstairs bathroom, finish laundry, make dinner, clean kitchen
Monday: Work (6:30am-5pm), make dinner, clean kitchen, sweep floors down stairs
Tuesday: Work (6:30am-5pm), make dinner, clean kitchen, dust down stairs
Wednesday: Work (6:30am-5pm), make dinner, clean kitchen, clean down stairs bathroom
Thursday: Work (8am-5pm), make dinner, clean kitchen, sweep upstairs
Friday: Work (6:30am-9pm)
Saturday: Dust upstairs, laundry, mop all floors

Though this seems pretty easy but when you are a single parent and cleaning up after a pre-teen, you find that you can follow the trail of dirty dishes and clothes from the front door to the back of the house. Simply telling the child to pick up after themselves is pointless as most pre-teens 'forget' or just give you a blank look. To help keep myself calm, I have put one chore on the front of the fridge in the morning. If this one chore is not done when I get home from work, the child is grounded from all electronics for 24 hours. Grounding my child for a week is dumb. I have things to do, places to go..etc...when you ground your child, you ground yourself. I hate it and it is very ineffective. Additionally,  I find that when chores are not done when I get home, it brings out all my stress of the day and it is not fair to my child that I get so angry about her not picking up after herself. Yes, I feel it is a lack of respect in its own way but she will complete the chore after me asking again.

To help solve a few issues here, I simply talked to her. I told her how it makes me feel. Yes, of course angry but also disappointed and sad. The important part here is for my daughter to learn that there is more than just anger as a feeling and by explaining how I feel in different situations, it will help her to articulate her emotions as well. So far, this method has been very effective.  

Giving her only one task at a time is also very helpful. Once you start rambling to your child of everything that needs done, their little heads explode and they have no idea where to start. What is most important? How much time do I have? What if I mess up? They worry and then may feel anxious and confused. Below are some things I do that help both of us to complete tasks, communicate, and have fun doing it.

1. Helping start a chore by asking for their help "Please help me with the chores. I will help you get started."
    a. Start the chore together and explain how to do it and/or what you expect. Remember to keep this simple.
    b. Do not get discouraged. Your child is doing what you "say", they are not doing what you "think". 
    c. Encourage your child. Even if you feel they did not do as well of a job as you would've, you still must not only THANK them, but show some gratitude and appreciation for their help. 
ie "This looks great!" if you must show them something, say something like "Thank you so much for your help! Can I show you a trick so that next time it goes faster for you?" or "I really appreciate you helping me with this. Can you show me how you did it?" By asking your child to show you, you will learn at least two things: 1. How they did it. 2. How they feel about doing it. Pay attention to what your child is saying as well as how they are saying it. Do they take pride in a job well done? Or did they rush through the task just to say they have finished?

2. Ask them what chore they would like to do.
    a. By asking your child what they like to do, you will learn what their strengths are and you can help them build on these.

3. Make a game
    a. Pick a chore that you know can be 'rushed'.
    b. Instead of telling your child "You have 10 minutes to clean up this mess!" Try playing a TIME game. 
        1. You will need: a stop watch (every cell phone has one); a chart with all the chores you wish to time...title it BEAT THE CLOCK, and have some type of reward system. Remember, be consistent and follow through with all rewards.
    c. Pick ONE SECTION of the child's bedroom...ie CLOSET AREA/LAUNDRY and ask your child "How fast do you think you can get this section cleaned up?" Remember to explain what you expect so that you don't find clothes 'hidden' in other places. 
You can ask your child if they want you to be in the room or wait else where. The latter choice is better because it allows you to complete another task and may ease the pressure on the child. On the other hand, being there for encouragement might help for the first few times. Grab a stop-watch, and say "READY. SET. GO!"  
    d. Make sure you create a chart of some kind to track the amount of time each TIME GAME TASK takes and have your child try to BEAT the CLOCK for the next time. Rewards would be key. A special desert, movie night, money...





Remember that if you expect your child to use their manners, you must set that example. Have fun!