Saturday, January 20, 2007

Book Review: Chores Without Wars

I admit it. In previous posts, I may not have been fair to this book.

I'm not repenting of my previous comments, mind you. It does drive me crazy when parenting books suggest you turn into the parenting of the Stepord Wives.

But, nonetheless, I hadn't finished the book. And as it turned out, there's a lot of redeemable information if you can ignore the overly-pristine examples and press through the first 37 pages.

What's truly fabulous about this book is it addresses one of the most oppressive aspects of being a parent, but especially a mother: The feeling that you're ultimately responsible for everything.

And I've seen this worsen as the family grows: My friends have to harass their children to finish chores, homework and basically act as the administrative assistant for the whole family.

Micro-managing people will create stress, nagging and resentment on all sides. Plus, we're not raising our children to be functioning adults when we manage their lives, are we?

Chores Without Wars authors Lynn Lott and Riki Intner offer the only possible solution for this dilemma: Stop. Absolutely stop.

Of course, you tell them you're going to stop first. And here's the smart part - you offer to help train them, help them come up with solutions - but you don't force solutions on them. But you do stop doing it for them.

Lott and Intner offer you alternative tools for helping your family become functioning, autonomous adults. The tools are:
  • Family Meetings
  • Training
  • Joint Problem Solving
  • Family Routines
As I read on, I saw how their approach would free you by allowing you to detach emotionally from the issue. After all, it isn't your problem or your job as a parent to make sure children do what they've promised. It's your job to help them, to teach them, but it's not your job to do it.

Instead of the family secretary, you become the coach. You set up routines that will help the family train and learn to succeed. You bring up problems that the family needs to solve. You formulate the game plan - but you let them do the work and play the game. Brilliant!

Besides chores, the book discusses three other major issues for families today:
Allowances. The authors do not want you to use allowances as a reward for chores. Instead, they see allowances as a way to train children to manage money responsibly.
Blended families. It discusses how you can use the methods to integrate stepchildren and grandparents into your household.
Dealing with grown children who move back or refuse to leave.

So who should read this book? I'd recommend this book if you feel like:
  • No one does anything around the house except you.
  • A nag or b**ch around your family.
  • Your stepchildren aren't helping out or your spouse expects them to do too much.
  • Your mother, who just moved in, expects everyone to live their lives around her needs.
  • Your teen refuses to help or take any responsibility.
  • Your school-age child isn't expected to do any chores.
  • Your children don't understand the value of a dollar.
  • Your 24-year-old lives in your basement and won't get a real job.

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