Dr. Susan Bartell, America's premier family psychologist, offers parents advice on how to teach children generosity and appreciation, on Mother's Day and all year long.
Mother's Day comes but once a year. Too bad, because for many moms it is the only time they don't feel guilty sleeping late, eating breakfast in bed, and not doing the dishes (if they're really lucky!)
But, it doesn't have to be this way! In fact, Mother's Day is an opportunity to begin teaching your child that being generous, not just with gifts, but with time, effort, and heart, is an important part of growing up into a great adult. The key is teaching this lesson all year long. Once you are successful, the bonus for you will be a little extra downtime, added help with chores and more appreciation for all that you give your child.
Step one: Recognize that requiring your child to accomplish regular chores is good for her. Being a mom doesn't require you to do all the household work! Participating in age appropriate chores (taking into account time constraints given school and other commitments) teaches responsibility. It should not be tied to receiving an allowance-you don't get paid to wash the dishes, neither should your child.
Step two: Teach your child to give you a break sometimes. For example, get a babysitter and go out. Do not give up your plans even if your child complains or has a tantrum. Remind him that you need time to "play" just as he does, and that he will be fine for a while without you. As long as you have good child care, you have no reason to feel guilty, regardless of his behavior. Soon he will learn that being a good mom means that you will not always give in to his demands for your time.
Step three: Help your child become more appreciative of everything you do for her. Children (especially teens) are naturally self-involved, but yours can still learn to be more sensitive and grateful. Start by making a point of soliciting a "thank you" from your child when you help her with something (homework, solving a problem, accomplishing a task etc.), buy her anything-no matter how small the price-or in any other situation that requires appreciation. In addition, model appreciation by thanking your child whenever appropriate.
Step four: The final and trickiest step in this process - ask for what you need from your child. He will only learn to be a giving, loving and generous person if he is clear about what he needs to do in order to meet your expectations-so tell him. For example, if you would like your child to ask you how your day was (rather than you only asking him about his day), then tell him, remind him until it becomes a habit, and then thank him when he does it. Ask for what you want without being critical, fighting or yelling and always have a practical solution at hand that you can offer your child.
By consistently following these steps, not only will you start to see your child become more caring and giving all year round, but soon you will find that Mother's Day isn't the only time that you get help with the dishes!
Dr. Susan Bartell is America's #1 Family Psychologist. Her latest book is The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask. You can learn more about her at www.drsusanbartell.com.