Let your kids take turns planning meals and cooking dinner at least once a week, but inspire them not to cook the same meal twice in the same month (unless it's a birthday request). This allows them to be clever about planning and organizing meals, which makes it a fun activity rather than a dull chore. Also, allow your kids to produce unusual but edible concoctions from recognizable foods (my 8-year-old recently invented something she calls "nacho pie"). Or, ask them to clean a sibling's room instead of their own for a change.
Present a Greater Purpose
When kids are allowed to participate in something that is larger than their own selves, a sense of life purpose grows. "Even though children may say and act as if they don't want to contribute to the running of the household," writes Susan Tordella in Raising Able, "everyone craves the feeling of feeling important, needed by, and connected to others." Encourage and praise with, "Thank you for helping out. Our family makes a great team." Give high fives all around when your kids help walk the dog or help fold and put away a mountain of laundry.
Allow Kids Some Autonomy
Bossiness is not motivating to kids. Letting them give input is essential in preserving their sense of self-reliance and self-assurance. The key is not to use controlling language. Instead of dictating to your kids what they should do, use gentle suggestions such as, "It would be extremely helpful if you..." or "Hey, look, it's 5:00. Time to feed Snowball." Give your kids confidence by also saying, "In our family, kids make their own beds because they look so pretty." The more independent kids feel, the more motivated they will be to take on tasks and accomplish them from start to finish.
Copyright © 2011 Meredith Corporation.
Christine Carter, Ph.D., is a sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center. She is the author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, and she teaches an online parenting class at www.raisinghappiness.com.