Spoiled by summer? Kids may need an autumn attitude adjustment

Sep. 15, 2011 at 9:48 AM ET

After the lazy days of summer comes the back-to-school reality check: homework, chores, early bedtimes, and a general back-to-business mindframe.

So why can’t the kids buckle down at home instead of leaving their bed unmade, demanding extra TV time and refusing to help around the house? Sure, some things slide a bit over the summer (who cares if they watch extra TV when it’s 100 degrees?), but now you’re ready to get back to the daily grind. If your kids are resisting, it might be time to tune up the rules and regulations at your house to beat the summer spoils.

1. Start fresh with a new routine.

If you’re having troubles getting your kids out the door or doing homework, a When-Then routine is the answer. Structure the time so that all the not-fun stuff happens before the fun stuff. Tell them, “When your homework is finished, then you can have TV time.” You can use a When-Then routine for anything from getting household work done (“When the dog is walked, then you can see your friend”) to bedtime (“When your teeth are brushed and you’re in your pajamas, we can read your book. But remember, lights out at 8:00.”)

2. Don’t do things for your kids that they can do themselves.

Does your seven-year-old really need help pouring cereal, or your 12-year-old really need you to make her bed? Probably not: your kids are trying to pull you into “special service.” Sure, it’s nice to help each other out, but if your child’s request is unreasonable and you feel annoyed, he most likely doesn’t need help. What he does need is to feel empowered and capable, so by taking the time to train him in the task, and then expecting him to complete it by himself, you’ll help guide him toward independence. And by the way, there’s no reason for you to listen to your child whine for help when you know he doesn’t need it. Simply leaving the room works wonders—your child will get the message, and you’ll get a little peace and quiet.

3. Decide what you will do.

Let’s face it: you can’t control your kids. But you can control your own actions when it comes to housework, rides, mealtimes and more. When you’re facing a potential power struggle, decide what you will do, and inform your kids in advance of your decision. If you’re tired of nagging about dirty lunch containers, for instance, you can tell them, “If your lunch box is cleaned out and in the cupboard, then I’ll be happy to pack lunches. If not, then you are welcome to pack your own lunch.” There’s no need for badgering on either side.

With a refresher course in family etiquette and a few new systems in place, you’ll soon be able to get back in the swing of things—on your terms.

Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. For easy to implement strategies for happier families and well-behaved kids, follow Positive Parenting Solutions on Facebook.