Photo used for illustrative purposes.
Scott Ervin/ Tribune News Service
"Dear Kid Whisperer: I am tired of fighting with my 9-year-old about chores. I feel like I’m micromanaging her life, and doing a bad job. Ideas?"
I LOOOVE answering this question because I didn’t come up with this answer!
A 6-year-old former student of mine did.
For years and years, I used something called Real-World Workshop in my classroom. It allowed me to get every student I ever worked with to work hard and strive to be an efficient learner.
What’s most important is that once I started using it, I never had to tell or even ask a student to work hard again. It’s in my behavior management manual for K-12 educators, and many teachers tell me it’s the most important thing I ever taught them.
During a parent conference, a mom told me her daughter taught her how to use Real-World Workshop at home because she was tired of her mom nagging her.
To this day, I still use it with my own daughter.
Here’s a brief description of how it works:
Real-World Workshop for both home and school is based on a simple premise that everyone is familiar with: Once you are done with things that are necessary to sustain and improve your life and the lives of those around you, you can do things that may be more fun.
Things that must be done are called “Nows.” They include chores, homework and anything else a kid should do on any given day at home. All Nows must be done to your satisfaction, and your expectations of done-ness are your business.
The key, though, is to set the expectations once and, instead of lecturing or warning or reminding, simply not allow your kid(s) to experience their “Laters” — things your kid would like to do — until they are done with their Nows.
Warning: Kids who refuse to do their Nows must be allowed to stare at a blank wall from now into eternity!
Most families find that a Real-World Workshop dry erase board on the fridge works well. Some families will use email. For younger kids, the words can be replaced with pictures. For a 9-year-old, the “Workshop Board” may look like this:
Take out garbage
Piano practice (30 minutes)
Play video games
Feel free to give a break after school before "Workshop" starts, and make this fit with your own value structure and your own priorities (for example, if you want to put a time limit on video games, or not have them at all, great! It’s none of my business).
Here’s how I would hold your kid accountable once she’s in Workshop.
Kid is playing video games even though the garbage has not been taken out.
Kid Whisperer: Oh, dear. Feel free to do your Laters as soon as you are done with your Nows.
Kid Whisperer takes the power cord and video game console and stores them away.
Kid: NO FAIR!!! I have a right to video games!
Kid Whisperer: Oh, dear. I don’t argue. Feel free to do your Laters as soon as you are done with your Nows!
Kid: I’m just going to sit in my room and stare at the wall for the rest of my life!
Kid Whisperer: Oh, dear.
Kid Whisperer walks to a room where people may be acting more pleasantly.
I would keep “video games” off the board, and the power cord locked away, until Kid showed more responsibility — probably for at least a month.
Occasionally, you can replace the “?” with something like “Get ice cream with Mom.” This is called the Mystery Later: In life, when cool stuff pops up, and you are done with your work, you can do it. Don’t warn or threaten about it. Kids who are done with Nows can participate; kids who are not can’t.
When we avoid lectures and just let Real-World Workshop do its job, it encourages hard work while maintaining the kid-parent relationship!
Behavioral consultant Scott Ervin, M.Ed, is a parent and former teacher and principal. He is the author of “The Classroom Behavior Manual: How to Build Relationships, Share Control, and Teach Positive Behaviors,” published by ASCD.
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