It’s time to go back to the basics! Do you ever feel like you’re providing room service for your kids? In today’s episode, Dr. Leman breaks down how the home ought to be structured to ensure everyone is doing their part for the family.


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Doug: Sam, come get your shoes out of the middle of the hallway. Sally, how many times do I have to tell you you’re on dishes. It’s the only thing I ask you to do around here. I mean, for Pete’s sake, I feel like I’m a maid, not your mother. This is what we get to talk to Dr. Leman about today. Are you running a home or a hotel for your kids?

Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And we are so glad that you are with us today. If this happens to be your first time with us, just want to let you know that this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help. Well, Andrea, of all the people that are on this podcast, you probably are the closest to a mother, and do you ever get frustrated with trying to get your children to help you around the house?

Andrea: Oh boy. I think we’ve talked about this before. The number of different kinds of chore charts we’ve created over the years.

Doug: Oh, that’s right. So we created tons of chore chart. Remember the one where the little pegs and the little things that flipped over?

Andrea: The pegs, that was magnetized to the fridge. And if you knocked it off, you had about a hundred little circles.

Doug: Yeah. And then we had a little pack that they had to wear on their front of their shirts and all these things. So we tried everything until we tried Dr. Leman’s system, which is like gold and actually has worked beautifully. And this is what we’re going to talk about today. How do you get your kids to help you around the house? So Dr. Leman, help us, how do we get our kids to help?

Dr. Leman: Well, if this is an ongoing battle, and I love the way people send me messages, “Oh Dr. Leman, we’ve tried everything.” Well, really? Have you really tried everything? Well, that might be part of the problem. You’ve tried everything. You need to get yourself back on course and understand that you’re the parent here. We live in a home. No one member of the family is more important than anybody else in the family. But we all have responsibilities, and the key word is authority. Parents are in authority over children. That’s a God-given right and duty. Now, if you’re really frustrated, you’ve just had it and you’ve tried, in your mind, everything, I would try this, take a three by five card, or if you’d like something a little bigger to draw attention to it, in fear that your children will not be able to see the three by five card propped up on your kitchen counter, go bigger.

Dr. Leman: But here’s my advice, at the top of that three by five card, in bold print, I’d like you to print the words servant’s notice, underline it. And then number one, “We have resigned our positions.” Point number two, “Please be advised that all culinary, custodial, and transportation departments cease to exist as of this moment. We wish you well in navigating the waters of your young lives, love, your former servants.” That’ll get their attention. Now what’ll really get their attention is if you just fall in line and all of a sudden you’re mother deaf, father deaf, you don’t respond to anything. “I need lunch money, I need a lunch.” “Honey, you know where the refrigerator is.” You can say a few things, but just disengage the kids. You will throw them a curve ball like they’ve never been thrown before.

Dr. Leman: I guarantee you they’ll have an emergency meeting of the family council and try to figure out, “Hey, what’s wrong? I mean, are they crazy? What do we do?” It’s raining, and they expect to be driven to school. I mean whatever it is, get their attention, then follow through in their actions, and now you at least have open ears and open hearts, and we can negotiate some kind of a settlement that is respectful to all parties involved.

Andrea: Yeah, that’ll get their attention. I thought you were going to go with some chore list on the three by five card that we’ve all been taught to create.

Doug: Ah, Dr. Leman, I’m just sitting over here laughing. I just would love to do this with my children and print it off in big bold letters and leave it on the table, and Andrea and I are out for dinner and they’d come find that, oh, that would be awesome. Oh my gosh.

Dr. Leman: See I think, again, please don’t write to me and tell me, “I have a six-year-old and four-year-old and can’t go out to breakfast and leave them alone.” I understand that. But if you’ve got kids that are 12, 13 years of age, whatever, and you lay this note on them and they walk to school and sometimes they’d take a bus to school or whatever, I’d go out to breakfast, just leave for a while. I mean, do something that’s dramatic. Freak them out a little bit. Oh, Dr. Leman, you’re going to damage their psyche for life. No, we’re saying, “You know what, we’re sick of this. This is a disrespectful environment that you guys are really creating in our home and we’re done with it.”

Doug: So we do that. We get their attention, and we’re like, “We are resigning as the servants,” what’s the next step from here? What do we do next?

Dr. Leman: Well, they’ll come to the table, and they’re going to ask you to carry the ball and tell them what to do. And I think this is the second fun part. You don’t play that game. You say, “Hey, you guys know what this meeting’s about.” Because see, do you really believe that those kids don’t know what they’re supposed to do? Now let’s ask Andrea. How many times have you told the kids in your lifetime what they need to do?

Andrea: Over and over and over, I don’t know how many times.

Dr. Leman: It’s countless. So my point is the kids know what they need to do. Now if they need a little help organizing that sooner or later in that discussion, yeah, you can add a couple of things, but it’s got to be clearly on them. What happens though is we do the shocker, we get their attention, and then we end up micromanaging everything and organizing everything. What I’m saying is don’t do that. At Leman Schools, at Leman Academy of Excellence, at one of our schools, we have a great reputation for putting on great plays. We put on Annie and Aladdin, and do you know that those plays that, I’m telling you, you’d think they were college students, if you saw how good they were. Do you know the lighting director is a seventh grader? The audio man is in sixth grade. I mean, the kids put the production on literally by themself. Do they have a faculty member who oversees everything? Yes. And he’s marvelous, does a great job, but it’s run by the students, the scholars.

Dr. Leman: And so what I’m saying is in your home, when it comes to all of these chores that needed to be done just to make our home a better place, make sure you don’t step in and micromanage everything because it won’t work.

Doug: So Dr. Leman, let’s get uber practical here, and Andrea, the kids are supposed to do dishes, and nobody’s washing dishes, and they’re slowly piling up on the counter. What do you do about that? I mean, do you just let the dishes keep piling up and…

Dr. Leman: Yeah, you do. But a terse statement from Andrea or from Doug would really help, like, “Wow. I was thinking maybe we’d have dinner here tonight, but I see the kitchen is not ready for dinner,” and walk out of the room. Take your bride, and if you got a Whataburger in town, have a Whataburger. They’re great burgers by the way.

Doug: Ooh, they are good.

Dr. Leman: “Oh, Dr. Leman we’re vegan.” Okay. Deal with it. Have a celery stick. I don’t care.

Doug: So Andrea…

Andrea: We’re laughing.

Doug: Yeah, but now you can have meatless burgers. So that works out. So I don’t know. So Andrea, it’s your home and all of a sudden dishes are piling up on the counter, which is one of the things that drives you nuts.

Andrea: Yeah, there’s nowhere to work.

Doug: Right. Could you be like, “Okay, we’re going out to dinner and I’m just going to let it keep piling up and let these kids fend for themselves,” could you do that?

Andrea: It’s not my personality. Right? Or maybe it’s not my pattern. My pattern is to kind of keep making little reminders and maybe wash a couple of the big things that are easy to just kind of, “Wow, this will make a big difference if I wash this big mixing bowl and…”

Dr. Leman: Yeah, but Andrea, isn’t it easier quite frankly just for you to do it?

Andrea: Yes. Absolutely.

Dr. Leman: Yeah. And see, that’s the kicker that all parents struggle with because it is easier. And Andrea’s personality is that things have to look nice and things have their right place. And so you shrug your shoulder and say, “Oh those kids,” and they’re off to school, and now she’s got to look at it all day. It’s going to drive her nuts. And I’m saying fight the temptation, let it sit there, and deal with it that evening for dinner. But be prepared for you and Doug to go out for dinner and let the kids look at each other.

Doug: So you’re telling us, yeah, let the laundry pile up, let the dishes pile up. I mean, do your own, but let the kids… Of course, the boys won’t care about that. But the other thing that you have said in the past is about letting siblings engage in doing chores for them. Right? That you say if you do an allowance, right?

Dr. Leman: Right.

Doug: You actually pay, right?

Dr. Leman: Yeah.

Doug: How does that work?

Dr. Leman: Well, if you have one kid who wants to be responsible and the others are laying in the weeds being the slobs they are, and keep in mind a lot of boys, not to sound too sexist, they could give a rip about laundry piled up. They’d wear the same shirt for a week. I mean, my wife said to me yesterday, this is true confessions here on our podcast, she said, “Lemy, tomorrow you need to change your shorts.” I’ve worn them three days, I’ll confess. Three days in a row, my belt’s on them, I don’t have to put a new belt on, they’re right on the floor of my bedroom where it’s easy to pick up. I know where they are. I’m confessing way too much here.

Dr. Leman: But you have to realize some kids don’t give a rip, but if you got a little responsible kid and she likes to make money off of her sibling’s negligence, she’ll be a rich young woman before long. Because if you’re going to pay that young lady for doing her brother’s work or her sister’s work, and it comes out of that sister or brother’s allowance, you’re going to get that kid’s attention eventually. They’re going to figure out, “Hey, I’m broke, and she’s walking around like the queen.”

Doug: Well, I want to get the ebook special today, but when I come back, I want to talk about this very specific way that you suggested that we divide chores in the Terpening household, and it’s worked like gold. So let me do this, and then we’ll come back and tell you what Dr. Leman recommends on how to divide chores. And I’m telling you, this is the time to get a book from Dr. Leman, and it is Have a New Kid by Friday. You can get it now until the end of March of 2020 for $2.99 wherever ebooks are sold.

Doug: And this is the book that I got that had launched me into realizing that I needed to change my parenting. It is a New York times bestseller. It’s sold millions. This is, I was an unaware parent. I thought I was a great parent, but I didn’t realize all the things that I was. I was controlling, I was authoritarian, and Dr. Leman let me down or let me realize it in a really simple way. Go get this book. Have a New Kid by Friday ebook. Unbelievable. $2.99 for yourself. Go and get it today. And now a no-nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: Hey parents, I get a lot of questions about those computers and the new Goliath, the cell phone, and can kids use those in their bedroom? So many parents, and I think I’ve even made this suggestion years ago, that computers should probably be in a neutral place, but you know what? There’s history buttons, there’s all kinds of ways that you can run some control and some investigation on who your kids are talking to by way of the computer, what sites they’re looking at, et cetera. I wouldn’t make, again, the proverbial molehill into a mountain here. I think the message ought to be that we have confidence in you, and we trust your judgments. That’s the message that needs to go to your kids. So computers in the bedroom, it’s not the end of the world. I wouldn’t get too upset about it. Carry on. Do a good job. Be the parent you need to be.

Doug: All righty, Dr. Leman, so you said to us, “Okay, Terpenings, you want to stop the chore battles?” You gave us this crazy concept. Let the kids decide how they’re going to divide the chores and put it on one sheet of paper, or at least that’s how I remember it hearing. Did I get that? Is that what you say?

Dr. Leman: Right. Let the kids figure it out, and believe it or not, this principle, folks, works with almost everything. Your kid’s just got his driver’s license or his permit, let that son or daughter write the rules governing the use of the family car. So in other words, this is a one of those one-size-fits-all concepts that get the kids involved and committed. Big business uses this all the time, getting employees involved, to the extent of ownership. So there has to be ownership, if we can use that term, for your kids in your home. Let them divvy up the chores. And again, I want to make this point, as your kids grow older and that kid turns 14 and he’s in high school now or she’s in high school, her responsibilities should lighten up. Lighten up. You heard me right. Why? Because we tend to make the firstborn responsible forever, and they do far too much work. And once a kid gets to high school, some of those jobs ought to be handed off to younger siblings so everybody gets a good shot at being responsible in the home.

Doug: So we did this. So just to reiterate, you literally tell the kids, “Here are the things that need to get covered for chores, and you probably have more, kids, so here’s a blank sheet of paper,” and you walk away and have them sit at the table. And I thought this is going to be a total failure. Dr Leman is nutso. Our kids range from probably that time, I don’t know, 16 down to whatever that is, 8, and they all sat there and divided up and found chores that we didn’t even think of, and they’ve owned it ever since. And now as our kids are leaving, the other ones get together and reorganize it. I’m telling you, this is so simple and it works. The other thing that Dr. Leman said to us that we did too is not only did we say, “We resign as servants,” but we said, “We need your help to run this household. Without your effort, this household doesn’t get run.”

Dr Leman, explain why that’s so important to tell our kids that.

Dr. Leman: Because kids get a sense of wellbeing, self-esteem, if you will, from the mundane, from the predictable where they get to pitch in. Kids need to see that they’re needed. Okay? This goes back to basic needs, that their acceptance, they’re accepted by the parents, that they belong, that they have a sense of belonging. Where? In their home. And parents, you want your kid to identify more inside the home than outside the home. If your kid doesn’t identify with your home and he just identifies outside of the home with friends and whatever, that kid’s going to run aground here before too long because home is a safe harbor.

Dr. Leman: And then you have to teach your kids to be competent. It’s important that kids learn, “Hey, I can do some things in life.” Let me, I’ll ask you a personal question. I’m saying everybody who’s listening. Who replaces the toilet paper in your bathrooms? And I’d love to take a vote on this. Does the paper go over the roll or under the roll as it comes out? See, I’m an over the roll person, and once in a while Mrs. Uppington will take my job and she’ll put toilet paper, two-ply, on, but she insists on having it under the roll. What do you think, Doug?

Doug: Oh, totally wrong. Over.

Andrea: It’s confusing. It’s so confusing.

Doug: Over. No, it’s not confusing, over the roll.

Andrea: No, no, no. It’s confusing if it’s not coming the right way.

Doug: Oh yeah. But you sometimes put it the wrong way.

Andrea: That’s because I’m not paying attention.

Dr. Leman: Back to the kids. I mean the nitty gritty of a parent might be, if you got the seven-year-old changing the toilet paper in the bathrooms, as a parent, I’m going to find out, “Honey, is your preference over the roll or under the roll?” Because if it’s under the roll, I got a problem. I’ll use napkins from the kitchen.

Doug: Oh my gosh. Ah, but to your point, one of the things that we haven’t talked about is don’t criticize your kids when they do a project, right? Dr Leman?

Dr. Leman: Yes. You got to respect their efforts. Yeah. Respect their efforts is important.

Andrea: And that means don’t go back and vacuum the room again after they’ve vacuumed poorly. Don’t go back and re-dust the shelf.

Doug: So in conclusion, if you’re struggling with getting chores done at your home, A: don’t micromanage, B: quit being the servants. Acknowledge that you’re doing things and you’re going to do things differently. C: let the kids choose the chores, right? And then D: get out of the way. Let them do it. Tell them you need their help, and then however they do it, respect it. I’m telling you, it actually works. It’ll take you a while for your kids to get the new system, but it works.

Dr. Leman: Yeah. Let’s go back to the point that Andrea just touched on, which is really important. When your kid does something really slipshod, it’s not done well, I mean it’s still a mess or whatever, we’re not saying, when we say respect their effort that you allow sloppy, not completed work, that doesn’t pass. What happens in that case is the son or daughter says, “Hey, can I go outside? I want to go down to James’ home.” And you say to your child, “Honey, I see your room isn’t ready yet for you to go outside.” That’s all. In other words, he doesn’t… So now we’re go back to B doesn’t start till A gets completed. So parents, don’t feel trapped here. This is something you can pull off, be an authority. It works.

Doug: So especially for all the moms out there that are doing, you love your kids so much and it’s just, as Andrea said, it’s easier to do it yourself, I’m telling you. And it takes years and years and years to get it there. But like the other night we came home at 10 o’clock as a family, and our son, not to brag on him, was like, “Oh, that’s right, I got to do dishes.” And actually did them because he knows it’s his responsibility to get them done. And it does pay off. It’s kind of a fight at times, and you can’t let up, sorry. But it will change. It will change, and it’s you that has to change, but you can do it. So anything else, Andrea, that you’d recommend since you fight this more than anybody else on here?

Andrea: I don’t know. The one thing I was thinking about was with younger kids, there’s the training phase, and as they get older, then it’s the stepping back and biting your tongue when they decide their timeframe hasn’t run out.

Doug: Well, I’m really glad you brought that up. Sorry to add one more thing, but Dr. Leman said this, and again I thought he was crazy when he said it, but he’s right. Your five-year-old can start helping around the house, and if you set that ethos way back when, it helps so much.

Andrea: Well, your two-year-old can start helping around the house.

Doug: What was it, Dr. Leman? What is it like-

Andrea: Three?

Doug: … three or four, you said when they start helping with [crosstalk 00:22:01]-

Dr. Leman: Yeah. Yeah. Even a two or three-year-old can help with laundry or helping with the dishwasher, or we talked about the toilet paper roll. I mean a three-year-old can do that. My goodness.

Andrea: I remember our little kids, they would deliver the laundry to the bedrooms. It was one of their favorite jobs, and they’d put the clothes in a basket and they’d drive it like a train down to the bedrooms where it had to go, and they just thought that was a ball.

Doug: Yeah. So all you moms and dads out there, I hope this helps you, to give you some practical, practical ways that you can get help around the home and finally kill the chore monster so that you’re able to do it. So I will say if you want confidence to be able to pull this off, go get Have a New Kid by Friday, please, for your sake. You can get it for $2.99 between now and the end of March of 2020. If you have not read that book, I’m on my hands and knees begging you, for your sake. It is a great, great, great book and will give you tons of confidence on how to do this and relieve the anxiety and be able to love those kids a whole lot more. Well, it was great to be with you and we look forward to the next time we get to hang out and help add to that parenting toolbox.

Andrea: Have a great one.

Doug: Take care. Bye bye.