Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Why kids with Asperger's need to do Chores... and why they need to be doing them well.

When I was growing up, I liked to potter about in my father’s garage. He used it as a work shed and it was full of awesome tools. I used to try to make things, just like he did but all of my efforts produced pretty poor results.

Most of the time, it didn't matter. I built a few rather pathetic wooden Star Wars themed toys and I played with them and loved them regardless.

My father was less easily pleased, often telling me that I was wasting good wood. On the odd occasion that he did get involved with my creations (never on frivolous Star Wars things of course), he would take them over entirely.

I was generally fairly happy when he did this. It meant that I didn't have to do work that I wasn't suited for and he always did a much better job. I'd watch for a little while and then wander off to do something useful while he completed my work.

Consequently, I learned nothing about woodcraft despite having a dad who was one of the top craftsmen of his time. I learned to be helpless in that particular field.

The same thing happened with mechanics and several other trades. I used to blame my dad for being a "poor teacher" and a bit of a perfectionist but if I'm really honest, the truth was that I was secretly relieved to be able to drop my burden on someone else.

All kids are inherently lazy when it comes to things that aren't "fun". Nobody will do anything that they don't have to, if they can see a way to avoid it. The kids of today, with their preference for staying indoors and playing computer games are particularly talented at this and are experts at manipulating their parents into doing the chores for them.

What Goes around Comes Around
Fast forward a few decades from my childhood and I find myself on the other side of the fence doing exactly the same thing to my own kids. I'll find myself taking the garbage out because I'm too tired to follow the kids around and correct all their mistakes, In fact, often I'll do the chores extra early while they're sleeping in because it's a way to avoid conflict and to get things done to my level of satisfaction.  It's the cheater's way out, I know.

When I do ask the kids to take the rubbish out and I later discover that the rubbish has been tossed "at the bin" instead of in it. Full garbage bags have been dragged instead of carried and have burst on the concrete (or worse, inside the house), leaving a pile of foul smelling rubbish (and liquid) everywhere, sometimes even on the carpet.

When I get to the bin, I find that the recycling bin is full of household rubbish, something that our council will fine us for, and the lid is up, leaving the rubbish to blow all around the neighbourhood. I've lost count of the number of times I've chased bits of paper up and down our street trying to fix this particular problem.

The hinges on our bin and the ground around it is strewn with rubbish and the bins inside the house no longer have bin liners and quickly start to leak and smell.

When you try to bring the problems up with your teenage kids they quickly turn it into an argument, the end of which is always "if you don't like it, YOU do it".

It's not hard to see why parents will frequently do these jobs themselves rather than entrust it to their kids.

A Self Perpetuating Problem
The problem is that although it makes the both the parent’s and the child’s life easier, it doesn't do the kids any favours. As a parent, you're teaching your child that if they do a poor job of something they hate, they can be excused from the activity. It's a lesson that they’ll take to school and later, to work, where they'll find that being "excused" is actually "being fired".

There are a few lessons that every child needs to learn if they are to be successful in the workplace;

  1. Do what you are asked to do, when you are asked to do it.
    Not in your own good time. When it comes to work, your schedule affects everybody else.
  2. Do what needs to be done cheerfully.
    Not with arguments, not with a scowl  and certainly not with a temper.
  3. Do it once, do it right.
    Sloppy work just makes more work for others. Short-cuts make a task take longer.
  4. Anticipation is better than being told to do something.
    It's better to see a job that needs doing and ask someone if they want it done than it is to stand around and wait to be told.
  5. You can do it if you try.
    Kids need all the confidence boosters they can get.
  6. There's no shame in asking for help.
    If a job is too difficult or you're not sure where to start, ask for help.
  7. Sometimes you just have to do your best.
    Nobody is perfect and even experts make mistakes. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. 

As parents we need to put these rules into practice if we want our kids to be able to hold down a job…. And that "practice" starts at home.  Learning to do jobs independently, and to do them well, is the best way to avoid "learned helplessness". 


janet ginger said...

This happened in my childhood.My father was ill from 1st world war and Mom was not strong and did all the chores, saying we should just go to school. Our father died when I was 15, my sisters, 13 and 8. We two oldest dropped out of school and Mom was so unused to guiding us, she fell apart and ran in front of a bus, trying to kill herself.She was taken to a mental hospital and me and my 2nd youngest sister were kicked out. My youngest sister, then 10 was put in an aunt's home.

Sue Benham said...
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Lee said...

I agree with every word in this article. I see people with Asperger's syndrome indulged and mollycoddled all the time, myself included.