Diane whose teenager, Laura, hadn’t earned her allowance “in forever” because she never finished her chores all the way, decided to try a different tack and ask Laura for some advice. Diane said, “I have an employee who wants to be paid, but he hasn’t been doing his work. He knows what work needs to be done, but he isn’t doing it or isn’t finishing it all the way. What should I do?”
(What Diane had forgotten was that if you try to “game it” with your teenager, she will always win. Her top priority has been to know you better than you know yourself, and by 13 one of her favorite games is Psyche Out Mom.)
Laura (age 13) advised her mother to provide more encouragement along the way. “For example,” she said, “did you notice that I had done the laundry without being asked?”
“No, I hadn’t,” said Diane.
So Diane put laundry on a list of things to do so that Laura would get credit for doing them. They then agreed that Laura needed to complete that list before she could go play laser tag that evening. What Laura did without being asked was to take the laundry out of the washer and sort it to be hung, but she did not hang it. She did not start the drier “because I wasn’t sure everything in there could be dried.”
So the bite-sized appreciation Laura asked for seemed from her mother’s point of view to be the equivalent of “applause for getting your shoes, applause for putting them on, applause for walking out the door,” and she wondered if she could—or even should—do that.
After a day or two, with some frustration in her voice, Diane said, “It seems you want me to break every task into 3 to 10 steps and say thanks for each of them….maybe I can. But first I am going to talk to another parent about this. I am sure we will start laughing! Remember that employee I told you about? If someone I worked with thanked me that much I would feel so incredibly condescended to….like I was an unproductive teenager. Should I really do that for the employee?”
As you can imagine that conversation ended badly.
Got any advice for Diane?
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