Written by Doctor G

Getting Kids to Help At Home

Hi, I am 43 and raising my four grandkids; their mom left them behind two years ago so I now have custody. We talk about their mom often, and they seem to understand that her leaving had nothing to do with them, but they still want her to come home. But the problem I have seems to be my fault, or my part. I can’t get the kids to mind or listen to me, I am constantly having to clean up after all of them, they won’t do much for themselves and they fight all the time. The 6 and 8 year old fight constantly and here lately they really hurt one another. They all are constantly saying watch me do this, watch me do that , which is fine, but I can’t watch them all at the same time, and they really get mad when I can’t. I am constantly cleaning, fixing them drinks, sandwiches, refereeing, and finding time to read and play with them. I just can’t seem to get a schedule between taking care of them, cleaning, cutting grass and errands.  I want the kids to be happy and for us to have a great life together.

Brenda, state not given

Brenda, what a gift you are giving your grandchildren. So often, kids in this situation end up in the foster system and separated from their siblings.  As generous and fantastic as many foster families are, we know that the outcome for kids is usually best when they are taken in and raised by family, as you’ve done.

First, let me say that you are right to let them talk about their mom as often as they want. It is normal for them to want her to return. It is really wonderful that they seem to understand her leaving had nothing to do with them.

It sounds like your kids are dealing with a lot of anger. They are taking that anger out on you, each other and probably themselves. Do they each get counseling at school or in your community? Talking to a professional about their feelings and experiences is valuable, and usually paid for by medical insurance.

Now let’s talk about your frustrations. In addition to supervising, supporting, playing with and caring for your grandchildren, you are doing every household chore and errand. Not only is this too much for you to do, it’s not teaching your grandkids any good lessons or skills.  Were you cared for like this as a child or teen? Or did you have to step up and contribute to the family?

Many of those things that you feel you “have” to do? You don’t!

Brenda, I want you to take next week (start Sunday) to make a list:

  • As you go through your week, write down every single thing you do for your grandchildren, and for your home.
  • Next Sunday put a star next to each thing one or more of your grandkids could accomplish if you showed them how.
  • Then, next to each task, write down the names of each child that could do that task. If you’re not sure, ask each child which of his or her sibs they believe could accomplish it and why.
  • Now it’s time to teach and delegate!

Brenda, you owe it to these kids to stop catering to their every demand and be the parent. Right now, they will each grow up thinking they can push others around, deserve to be waited on, and don’t need to know how to care for themselves or others. Even more importantly, pitching in will connect them to your newly formed family, help them each see how important they are to the whole, build their self-confidence and belief that they belong.

Kids who have been abandoned by their mom and dad develop very seriously low self-esteem. Being a part of a unit will strengthen them, even if they don’t want to do the work.

How? Don’t be afraid of their displeasure.

Have a family meeting, explain that you have given them this period to adjust and now it’s time to be respectful and responsible. Explain what the consequences will be when they’re not, and then keep your word! Prove to these children that you do what you say you’re going to do, that they can count on you each and every day. Far more important than making them happy, you will make them resilient and self-assured.


Has anyone else turned around their kids’ entitled behavior in some way? What worked?

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2 thoughts on “Getting Kids to Help At Home”

  1. I am not a father and, in my early twenties, I was WILD. I mean it – I was a party animal with no direction in life, a sub-standard education and even worse social skills. THAT is why I suffered substance abuse problems: I had all these strong emotions and absolutely no way to deal with them. There was NO PERSON who would have said ‘Bryan would be an excellent dad.’ Nobody… not even myself. I was too angry, volatile, moody, silly, immature, over-reactive and poor. These statements were true and accurate. Then I met a woman with three kids; thirteen, ten and seven years old; boy, boy, girl. I knew only ONE THING about myself – that I’d been raised in one certain way, and I was NOT about to risk duplicating my fathers disciplinary style with, well… ANYBODY. So, I DIDN’T. I was not warm and kind to them, nor was I cruel – if anything, I was distant.
    Then, one day, I HAD AN EPIPHANY.
    Children DESPARATELY want… wait for it… THE SAME EXACT THING AS ADULTS. They want to feel PROUD of themselves, and they want PEACE. Even if nowhere else but in their own home, they want to FEEL GOOD. When the parent begins to actually believe this is true, everything will begin to change.
    That is only the first two seconds of a one HOUR long epiphany.

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