How Can We Get Children to Lend a Hand
Many parents boast that their relationship with their
children is qualitative and fine up until the moment that
each one must do his designated chore or until the parent
asks the child to do something and he refuses. This problem
involves children of all ages, beginning with "Put away your
toys!" to "Clean up the kitchen." How can we get children to
help out without making them feel it's the end of the world?
How can we get them to help, altogether?
Children will cooperate much more easily when we make our
requests pleasantly, and when the general atmosphere is
relaxed and not pressured. In order to create such a serene
atmosphere, we must choose our words carefully. Not: "Why
aren't you doing what I asked? Go and fold that laundry this
very minute!" "Wash those dishes immediately!" Commands like
these cause a child to develop antibodies, resentment. He is
on the defensive and feels that he is at war; he is under
attack, in which case, he must retaliate. And as in war,
there is a winner and a loser. Possibly, in such a case, we
may be the winner and the child will comply to the command,
but a clever child will not remain wanting. He will prepare
his strategies for the next bout, or at least voice his
resentment if he does capitulate.
In order not to reach the state where one must force a child
to do what we ask, let us remind ourselves that no person,
adult or child, is perfect. And even if he does comply to a
request, it may be under duress or lack of interest. How
often do we, ourselves, neglect a certain responsibility or
push it off because we don't feel like doing it at that
moment? If we keep this in mind, we will be more lenient
with the child and won't get angry at him. And if our
reminder is gentle and understanding, he will not react in
anger. Instead of addressing him in the imperative mode,
with a stark command, or with accusations: "Go! Do! Why
didn't you do it?" we can say, "I see that you weren't able
to pair up the socks from the laundry yet," or "Mrs. Cohen
is still waiting for the package of flour I promised her."
Such sentences state precisely what we wish to convey --
only in more tempered words. It is far more pleasant for a
child to carry out a request presented in quiet tones, with
understanding, than an outright command which is almost like
a declaration of war.
Furthermore, it does happen that a child will refuse to do
something. He may have a legitimate reason, and sometimes, a
child should be given the freedom of refusing. But if the
mother has commanded him, he cannot bow out in the same way
that he could if she only requested it. He should be shown
enough respect that a refusal may be accepted, once in a
A CHILD NEEDS APPRECIATIVE FEEDBACK ON HIS DEEDS
Children will willingly serve their parents if their service
is appreciated and acknowledged and not simply taken for
We, too, enjoy that pat on the shoulder after doing
something good. Mother cooks a hot lunch because that's her
job; it is expected of her. Still, she enjoys being
complimented on it.
A child who knows that his parents are aware of his good
deeds and esteem him for them, will be sure to repeat them
to find further favor.
In order to encourage a child to be helpful, let us not take
him for granted, as a good angel, or a robot. He is not
perfect and cannot be expected to do every thing every time.
But if we show appreciation, even for something expected of
him, he will find it easier to repeat the performance and
not always expect the praise. This is positive
A NATURAL CONSEQUENCE OF HIS DEEDS
It is only human for a person to do something better if he
is rewarded for it. A mother who cleans the house will draw
satisfaction from the cleanliness and order. If it becomes
scrambled very quickly, she will despair.
Small children benefit from "If you do... then..." and we
are not talking about prizes and rewards, but with the
natural outcome of that deed. "If you gather up your toys
quickly, we will be able to do a crafts project," or
"Sheiny, if you finish up the dishes quickly, we can go
MAKING REQUESTS FROM CHILDREN WHO DON'T LIKE TO HELP
Mothers naturally tend to take advantage of those children
who enjoy helping and do so willingly. This child then earns
the honorary distinction of The Helper, Ima's Right Hand,
The Clever One, The Good Kid. The child who is not so good
or willing in executing chores around the house is labeled
as The Lazy One, the Unwilling Child, the Child With Two
We don't realize that in such a situation, it is the helper
who continues to help and who reaps all the encouragement,
while the other one, who is not necessarily lazy, but simply
not inclined to those activities,receives no encouragement
or praise because he is not even given the opportunity to
The necessary conclusion is to approach all of the children
at various times and spread the work among them so that all
will receive praise and encouragement, each in his own
Some children love to putter around in the kitchen, love
order, derive satisfaction from a clean house and
contributing to its smooth function. Others don't. But they
are not to be esteemed any less. They may be more of the
creative type. They may be more inclined to help Abba fix
things around the house, changing the order in a room, in a
closet, the decor. They may be ingenious in upgrading the
efficiency in various areas.
A very creative child does not like to do routine things our
way. He may be willing to help, but in his own manner, with
leeway. If we insist on our method, he may balk and we will
lose an important source of help. Better to give such a
child a general picture of what we want accomplished and let
him choreograph it on his own.
Remember Pharaoh? There are two important rules to be
learned from him. First, the way he got the Jews to work. He
organized a national work day where even he participated.
Instead of commanding the children to clean up their room or
else, why not pitch in and do it with them? Once you get
them started, they will accept the challenge and do it with
zest and you will be able to step out of the scene. Make it
a fun challenge.
The second rule is a negative lesson from Pharaoh, not to
delegate a task that is not suited to their skills or nature
or that has no built-in satisfaction, no beginning and no
end -- avodas parech.
A child who helps out gains self importance, he feels needed
and useful. Since we want to bolster his self image, it is
important to give a child the opportunity to help, even if
we can do the chore quicker and better ourselves.
A child who helps feels that we trust him and consider him
A child who refuses to help upon occasion does not deserve
any thanks or praise, to be sure, nor excessive scolding.
And we should see to it that he is given a different
opportunity to show his worth.
In order to train young children to help, we can make it
into a game: Instead of: pick up all those Lego pieces, we
can say: try throwing them all into the basket. The game
will be associated with the activity and eventually, the
activity will be an end unto itself.
Let us not expect too much of a child but only up to that
point where he will do it willingly and happily.
If any single request is very important to us, we can use
the direct form of command, provided that we usually present
it as a request, for then it will be effective.