Parenting Help: Don't Do It For Them | Teaching Self-Government

Parenting Help: Don't Do It For Them

How often do you pick up the slack for your children? Do you ask them to do a task and then later fix it or finish it for them? What do you do when you realize the task wasn't done? Most parents just do it themselves with the attitude that if they want something done right, they have to do it themselves.

I once asked my son to take some garbage to the garbage can. Later, I went out to the trash can and saw the garbage I gave him sitting on the car. My first impulse was to put his trash in the can, which would have been the easiest solution. But then I had a flood of other thoughts: How will my son learn to complete a task properly if I do it for him? How will he learn cause and effect if I remove the learning opportunities by doing it myself? Will it really save me time if I have to keep doing this for him in the future?

I left the trash where it was. 

I then went inside to talk to my son. The conversation went like this: “Quin, I noticed the garbage I told you to take out is sitting on the car instead of in the trash can. You didn't follow instructions. Remember that the last steps in following instructions are to do the task immediately and check back. You didn’t do either one. You should have looked at me, agreed to the task or disagreed appropriately, done the task and checked back.” Because he didn’t follow all the steps, he earned an extra chore. 

My son responded that he didn’t finish the task because he didn’t think the trash would fit in the can. I told him that if he doesn’t know how to complete a task, he needs to disagree appropriately with me about it. He could have simply explained the situation and asked for help to put the trash in another can. 

I explained that if he talked to me about problems instead of just leaving things undone, he would earn positive attention instead of having to do extra chores. If he had just checked back with me, I could have helped him do the task properly.

When I asked my son what he had learned about leaving tasks undone, he said, “It's better to do the job all the way through even if you have to get help instead of slacking and hoping nobody will notice.”

Cause and effect is the most important part of self-government. We can't pick up the slack for our children and not talk about what went wrong. We need to give them the opportunity to learn by allowing them to do it again and earn negative consequences for not doing it right the first time. Of course, only give age-appropriate tasks to your children. The old saying, “If you want something done right you have to do it yourself” is wrong because if you do everything for your children, they’ll never learn how to do things correctly. 

Do your children a favor. Let them do tasks again and earn negative consequences for the things that aren’t done properly. Discuss what they should have done and practice doing it the right way. Then everyone will be happy and learn self-government.