Holiday Parenting Tips; by Dr. April Nesin, PhD


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As the holiday weekend approaches and many of us are running around trying to get the house and yard ready for the Fourth of July family bar-b-que or other celebrations, I am reminded of the lessons of teaching kids responsibility and finding opportunities for providing them with positive feedback.  I recently read an article about a woman named Jessica Stilwell – a social worker in Canada with three children and a foster baby – who went on strike at home.  As she looked around the house, she realized her children had created all of the clutter.  So, she decided to let the household chores go and see how it went!  After about a week, the kids got tired of the mess, and began cleaning up. What struck me the most about this situation, though, was her daughter’s statement: “That’s what parents are for – to clean up after their kids!”

These days it seems kids are expected to do fewer things around the house.  Common reasoning is frequently some version of, “It’s just easier to do it myself” or “they are too busy.”  This can be especially true in families of children with a chronic or life threatening illness – parents are often compelled to feel that their child is facing so much medically, that they should not be burdened with additional expectations. However, as Ms. Stilwell concluded, not having expectations for our children is a disservice to them.  It sets up the expectation that people should be doing for them what they can do for themselves, and it conveys that they are incapable. Additionally, for children with a chronic illness, it inadvertently communicates that they are defined by their medical condition.  Kids learn self-worth and value within the family system.  Participation in household activities, chores and preparations for special events affords them an opportunity to be told, “Great job!”

As I look at people in my own life whom I admire, I realize the thing I admire most is their ability to solve problems and get things done.  My husband is one of those people who can do anything – he can fix things around the house and sew on a button.  Where did he learn these skills? AT HOME.  He lived in a family with two working parents and four children, and everyone was expected to participate.  For example, every person in the house was responsible for dinner one night of the week.  That individual was expected to plan the meal (based on food purchased by parents), cook the meal (younger ones could ask for help), and clean up after the meal. Additionally, if they lost a button or needed a shirt ironed, they were coached and expected to try for themselves.

Setting expectations for our children to help out around the house, holding them accountable for these tasks, and being appreciative of their completion has enduring positive consequences.  It builds mastery, confidence and positive self-worth. Making this change may be difficult, and often things may take a little more time, but it will be worth it when your child’s future roommate or life partner thanks you for raising a helpful, caring and skilled individual! So, as you look around and start preparing for this holiday weekend, or your next vacation, or its simply time to do a few chores around the house, go get your kids and begin to set expectations for their help and participation. It’s likely to be far, far down the road, but one day…….they will thank you!

For more information on how to set expectations for responsibility and chores go to:


Chore Monster is a helpful app for chores that parents and kids both enjoy – is a blog that has a helpful list of age appropriate chores

National Association for Child Development has a great handout detailing skill sets and recommended chores for children 2-10+

Happy Holidays,

April E. Nesin, PHD

Hatch’s House of Hope; Licensed Clinical Psychologist