Tag: nagging

What to Do if Your Kid Leaves Dirty Dishes Laying Around

Teen girl washing dishes at kitchen sinkThere are times when a parent has no clue what to do. This especially happens when our innocent babies and precious toddlers become willful and defiant ‘tweens and teens. Kids capable of making choices out of laziness and disregard for their parents.
Poised, charming 23-year old Annie sat on the couch in my counseling office today and told me a brilliant parenting strategy that her dad pulled on her when she was a young teen.

As a middle-schooler, Annie used to leave her dirty dishes setting out on the kitchen counter.  A very typical problem with kids – but an issue that many parents find hard to put an end to. Her single dad got on her case.  He told her not to leave her dirty dishes sitting out in the kitchen.

Well, she thought she would test the limits and show him he couldn’t boss her around!  She stopped leaving her dirty dishes in the kitchen.  Instead, she started leaving them in her bedroom!  Once he discovered her pile of dirty dishes with crusted-on food, he came up with a plan to deal with his defiant daughter. He went out and purchased the largest package of cheap paper plates that he could find.

The Effective “Opportunity to Learn”

Annie wasn’t allowed to use real plates again until she went through the entire stack of paper plates.  For months, every meal she ate at home, she ate on a flimsy paper plate.  Just think of your experience with cheap paper plates: the sauce soaks through, a knife cuts through the bottom, leaving little bits of paper in your food, and you surely can’t carry the thing around the house for fear it will collapse in half.

Annie hated this consequence.

By the end of the 3 months it took to use all of the paper, she was willing to (begrudgingly) scrape her plate and place it into the dishwasher.

The best thing about her dad’s delivery of this “opportunity to learn?”  He never said a single word about it.  Not one.

Ten years later, Annie admitted that it’s still an effort to rinse her plates and put them in the dishwasher in her little apartment, but she does it.  With the consequence gift she got from her loving, patient, creative dad, she learned a lesson to last a lifetime.
Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

Getting Kids to Pick Up – With No Nagging!

A dad I work with just announced to his 3 little boys that he has a new plan for a “Sunday Shelf.”

Getting Kids to Pick Up Their ToysHere’s how it works:

• When the kids don’t pick up their stuff as asked, dad picks up for them and puts everything on the “Sunday Shelf.”
• On Sunday, he pulls it all out and charges them x cents for each thing he picked up.
• If the kids protest, he says with empathy, “This is how it is in the real world… you can either pick up after yourself or hire someone to do it.  Looks like you chose to hire someone.  There’s always next week and you can do it differently if you’d like.”

After Dad explained the new deal, 7 year old Ethan complained, “That doesn’t sound like such a good deal for us, Dad.”

Words like that are a great indicator that you are giving your kids opportunities to be responsible and well-prepared for the real world as an adult.

And one more thing….

Dad does the “Sunday Shelf” fee collection just moments after giving them their weekly allowance to make sure they are able to pay their fines.



Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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How Do I Get My Kid To Do The Dishes?

Getting Kids to Help With ChoresFirst, it is important that children contribute to the household. Not only does it send an important message to our children –

“You are a valuable member of this family and we count on you to make our family function”

– but it gives them a sense of accomplishment and self-worth.  Studies also show that kids who contribute at home do better at school and are more responsible with their homework.

How do you get started?

Call a family meeting. Announce that you are going to talk about each family member’s contributions.  Start with Mom and Dad’s roles.  Ask, “Who is going to pay the mortgage?”  Write it down in Mom & Dad’s column.  Then move on to who will pay the electric, gas, phone, cell phone, internet, and food bills. Continue by asking who will shop for food, prepare food, etc.  Then, when the parents’ list is nice and long, ask, “Who could set the table?”  “Who will clear the table?” “Unload the dishwasher?” “Vacuum?” “Dust?” You will be surprised with how willing the kids are to discuss what “contributions” they will volunteer for and how they decide to split them up among the siblings.

One dad reported that his 6- & 9-year-old boys argued about who got to take out the trash.  “I should, I’m older.”  “No, I should because you have more chores than I do,” said the younger. Another mom found out that her 7-year-old daughter was upset that mom got a housekeeper because she liked cleaning the bathrooms!

How do you implement?

Give kids a deadline.  Ask them to have a chore done by Friday dinner, tonight before bed, or before soccer practice.  Don’t demand.  We adults don’t like it when our bosses treat us like that!  Then, go on with your business.  Don’t harp, don’t remind, don’t nag.  If the contribution is not done, then you say, “This is so sad. I’m going to have to do something about this, but not now.  Try not to worry.”  Then the kids worry while you have time to come up with a plan for a logical consequence. If you want more information on how to come up with good consequences, I teach classes and offer parent coaching on this skill.

Should you pay them?

Don’t pay for their contributions.  You want the little voice in their sweet heads to say, “I’m doing this because I’m a valuable member of the family,” not “I’m doing this because I’m getting 5 bucks!”

Should they get allowance?

Yes. Just like you give them books to practice reading, give them money to practice spending and saving. Just don’t tie the allowance to their contributions. The general guideline out there is $1 per year of age, so a 10-year-old would get $10 a week. However, you should do what makes sense for you, the child, and the family budget.  Let them spend it and pray they make bad decisions and buy things that break easily.  Better they learn the lesson when the cost is low than in the real world when the cost is expensive.  Some parents like to have the kids set aside a certain percentage of their allowance for savings and a certain percentage to give to charity.

At what age can you begin?

You can start as early as 3-4 years old.  That’s the age when you start the association between the job, fun, and you!  Get the little guy to walk with dad as he takes out the trash. He gets a high five and a “good job” from dad.  Now he associates trash with love!  And at age 6-7, you step out of the picture and the child still has the job and the fun!

Parents who try the family meeting, contributions, deadlines and allowances report amazing stories of participation and cooperation.

Isn’t it at least worth an experiment to see if these steps will get your kids to do the dishes?


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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How Many Ways I Can Be Naughty at Bedtime?

Putting Toddler to Bed

Three year old Wes used to play his favorite game at bedtime. It was called, “See how many ways I can be naughty.”

He was the only one enjoying the game. His single, working dad certainly did not. Wes was very creative in how he played the game: he ran away when it was time to put on his pj’s. He clenched his jaw when it was time to brush his teeth. He screamed and threatened to wake up his baby brother. He jumped on the bed when it was time for tuck in. Sound familiar? It’s a very popular game amongst the little people. It’s a game though, that doesn’t usually end well for either the child or the parent.

Wes’s game ruled until Daddy came up with a better game called “Earn a Minute.” This game starts at the beginning of bedtime when Daddy whispers to Wes, “For every step of bedtime that you do cooperatively, you earn a minute of You-n-Me time. If you get enough, we might be able to read a whole extra book!” “Game on” for little Wes. He might as well wear a sign that says, “Will Cooperate For You-N-Me Time.”

Here’s how the scoring works
Brush teeth: earn a minute.
Go potty: earn a minute.
Wash hands: earn a minute.
Get undressed: earn a minute.
Get in the bath: earn a minute.
Cooperate with being washed: earn a minute.
Get out of the bath first time you’re told: earn a minute.
Hold still while being dried: earn a minute.
Put on PJs: earn a minute.
Climb into bed: earn a minute.

Wes has mastered this “game” and he savors his ten minutes of special Daddy-time before going to sleep. Dad is happy because the extra story time takes less time than all the hassling did, and father and son both get happy snuggle time instead of exasperation and negative attention.

Every now and then, Daddy mixes things up and says, “We’re not playing tonight, so you might as well be a rascal.” Well now, when Daddy invites Wes to misbehave, it’s not as much fun for Wes and the power struggle is over.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Didn’t I Tell You What I Don’t Want?


Imagine this: you’re sitting in a restaurant and when the waitress asks for your friend’s order, your friend goes through the whole menu of what she DOESN’T want…

“I don’t want the burrito and I don’t want the tacos and I don’t want the chimichanga.” How likely is she to end up getting what she was hoping to have for dinner? Not very.

But don’t we do that to our kids on a regular basis when they are squabbling?

Do you ever get frustrated, dare I say, even yell at your kids, over sibling bickering? It’s no fun to admit, but many of us get annoyed at their bickering and say (or yell), “Stop arguing!” Or, “Don’t do that to your brother!” I wish it was effective parenting, because it sure does flow out of my mouth easily and frequently.

Perhaps…. instead of telling our kids what we DON’T want, maybe we can be more effective by telling them what we DO want…

with something more along the lines of, “I’d like you to keep your hands to yourself and use kind words.” It’s like saying to the waitress, “I’d like the enchiladas, please.”

On long summer days with all the kids around more than usual, some parents have found it helpful to be proactive instead of reactive with sibling bickering. They set a timer and tell the kids that if they can play together nicely until the timer rings, they get a _______ (fill in the blank here…. a check mark on a chart, a star, a quarter in the jar). After several rounds of success, the parents will then offer a fun activity as a treat for playing well together …. a trip for ice cream, game night, a special treat.

What’s cool about this strategy is that parents are creating more of what they do want (kids getting along with each other) instead of punishing kids for doing what the parents don’t want (fighting).

Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Connor Forgets His Snack

We had been struggling to keep second grade Connor focused on his “morning school routine” list as he is a major dawdler, as most are. So one morning I realized both my husband and I were reminding him of checking his list, “Do you have your snack? Have you made your lunch?  Where’s your water bottle, etc”. Annoying for us and him I’m sure. I told my husband that we needed to let him fail and so we decided to stop reminding and let him focus on his tasks.

Last week was a perfect Love and Logic teaching moment. We had the “set him up for success” conversation the day before, discussing what tasks needed to be done in the morning and then put our plan into action.

The next morning I modeled out loud,  “Ok, what do I need to do this morning?” Connor was wandering around. I made breakfast, we ate. I said “I’m done, so I put my dishes in the dishwasher. Now I am going to brush my teeth.”

Connor was still eating. I got ready and sat in the chair where he still was and announced “Bus is leaving it 10 minutes”. He finally got up and went to his room and then went to the bathroom. I announced, “5 minutes”. Then the doorbell rang and it was the two neighbors that we walk to school with. I told them to go ahead without Connor since he was running late.( I am now laughing inside because this is going to go just as planned.)

He came out of the bathroom, wandering around, and said “Who was at the door?” “The neighbor’s,” I said. He said “WHAT! WHERE ARE THEY?” So I calmly told him that since you weren’t ready, they should go on ahead since I didn’t want them to be late for school.  He said “MOM! WHY DID YOU DO THAT?”  “Well you weren’t ready, so I’m waiting on you”.

You have never seen a 7 yr old move so fast! As we head out the door he starts to get in the car and I say “We’re walking.” “WHAT, we’re going to be late!” he says. I say “probably so” and calmly start walking up the street. He is now running and wants me to run too but I don’t.

We get to school with five minutes to spare, but here’s the best part. He is unpacking his backpack and realizes he forgot his snack and water bottle.  He says “Mom, we forgot my snack and water bottle!”. His voice tapers off a bit as he says water bottle. And then just looks at me, hangs his head, and knows it was he that forgot it. I said, “Yeah, what a bummer, love you, have a great day” and walked away, smiling. I just wish I had a camera to capture the look on his face.  As I walked out of school I was laughing and patting myself on the back for allowing him the experience of this logical consequence.

Then next morning and since every morning since he is proudly telling me or his dad that he’s got everything ready.

Shelly Moorman
©2009 Shelly Moorman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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