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CHORES IN THE WHITE HOUSE

It doesn’t matter what your politics are, every parent should be thrilled about the two little girls who now live in our White House.

Sasha and Malia Obama are very lucky children. Being the daughters of the President gives them some great perks. A New York Times article on February 22, 2009 noted “…the perils of parenting in the White House” and listed all the special stuff available to the girls like a movie theater, bowling alley, swimming pool, chefs and staff ready to serve any whim of food. Plus trips on Air Force One and helicopters, rides in motorcades, meeting celebrities from royalty to rock stars, and your own retreat in the country at Camp David.

But the best things these girls have is their parents. I have no idea if the First Parents have read any of my ParenTips but they sure practice what Dr. Heins preaches. These are parents concerned enough about their children to establish and enforce rules. They understand the importance of chores.

According to the New York Times and other sources Sasha and Malia have an 8 o’clock bedtime. They are required to set their alarms and get themselves up and ready for school. They make their own beds and clean their rooms and will walk and scoop when their long-awaited puppy arrives. Michelle Obama has wisely made these rules clear to the many White House staffers.

Though they could afford household help before they moved to the White House the Obamas took the necessary time and effort to teach their children how to do a chore. No doubt they also EXPECTED the kids to do the chore and enforced appropriate CONSEQUENCES if it was not done. Believe me this takes more time than asking the housekeeper to do it. But parents like the Obamas give two invaluable messages to the child: “You are responsible.” and “You count around here.” When the maid makes the bed the message is “You are an privileged child.” Kids figure out that means the parents have money. But this message doesn’t do a thing to help the child gain a sense of accomplishment and competency without which no one can truly feel a sense of self-worth.

You see, it is not the task. It isn’t difficult to teach a child how to make a bed or use the vacuum. It is the time the parents spend with children teaching them how to take care of their own things. It is the high expectations the parents have that their children can do a grownup task. It is the trust that develops on both sides when parents not only expect the task to be done but expect it to be done without reminders. This is only possible when parents realize how important it is to teach their child to develop pride in taking responsibility.

Parents: Use the Obamas as your parenting role models. They are great at parenting. They get it. They realize it is not the stuff you give the kids or the perks they happen to get because their father is president. They understand that parenting is the job of raising children to be responsible adults and it starts in young childhood.

Today’s parents are sooo lucky. If your kid balks at chores you have the perfect retort: “The kids in the White House clean their room and so will you, young lady!” (Boys too).

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