Can Kids Be Self-Sufficient These Days?!?

We justify doing a LOT for our kids during the school year.  After all, they have more homework than we ever had.  Kids also participate in a wide range of time-sucking activities.

But, we are in the dog days of summer now.  I find myself questioning whether my ‘tween and ‘teen could manage on their own for a couple of days.  I fear the house would be littered with half-eaten and rotting food.  I can’t imagine the milk being put back in the fridge.

To highlight my concerns, we recently asked our kids to clean their shared bathroom.  We keep the door closed because the view is too similar to a restroom in Grand Central Station.

To our surprise, there were no less than eight empty bottles of shampoo and conditioner in the bath tub.  At least ten depleted toilet paper rolls littered the floor.  Two empty tubes of toothpaste were stuck to the sink.

I’m continually asked for lunch options when the answer is in the fridge.  They can’t seem to be able to find anything in the kitchen or their rooms.  My kids also ask me what to wear in the morning.  They both have iPhones and have the same weather app I use.

The effort to look for anything themselves is too taxing.  These are the same kids that will spend furtive hours searching for game apps or popular YouTube videos.

to do list

I believe the answer to fostering some semblance of self-sufficiency with kids begins with refusal.  Refusal to help look for food, clothing, and misplaced items in ALL circumstances.  This means, at times, they will be late for camp or a playdate.  They will plead with tears of frustration in their eyes.

Life’s most valuable lessons are learned by making mistakes and facing the consequences.  The drama factor alone can propel any parent to just do it themselves.  It’s tempting to go with the path of least resistance in many situations when our children (feign) helplessness.

I have to continually remind myself of the quote, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.




Play-date? Anyone? Gotta get my kids out of the house… #parenting #mrmom #summer

The inevitable summer doldrums are setting in.  Kids look forward to summer with much anticipation, only to realize how boring life can be outside of the carefully structured school-year.

After all, kids get to see their friends, play at the park, and eat lunch together during school.  Now, friends are at summer camps, on vacation, or at their parent’s beach houses.  That is, the lucky ones…

How does a parent keep their children entertained, especially when they themselves are busy throughout the day?

Nowadays, it seems that kids will not spontaneously wander around the neighborhood looking for a pick-up game or for other equally bored kids to play with.  In fact, the entertainment default seems to be powering up the Xbox or going off to a remote corner of the house with an iPad or iPhone in hand.

We have some relief now that our kids’ summer camps are starting at the end of the month.  Whatever your situation, here are some ideas I’ve put into play during the limbo..

  • Make a schedule for each day: I like starting the day out with homework and some light chores.  If they knock that part out, then they’re free for the rest of the day.  This is particularly helpful when trying to keep kids on top of their summer homework.
  • Set a fixed routine for the start of the day and bedtime: Kids have a way of pushing the envelope at bedtime and sleeping in as late as possible.  They can do that in college…
  • Arrange play-dates days or weeks in advance: If you can put up with screaming kids running around your house, nothing beats the doldrums like have some pals over.
  • Sleep-overs: Same as above.  But, sleep-overs come a major downside – late nights for both adults and kids, and cranky kids the next day.  So, I keep these to a minimum – say, once or twice a week.  And, I usually make it an award for doing the bigger chores/projects.
  • Big chores/projects: Kids can never be too young to learn some hard work and responsibility.  The chores have to be age-appropriate, of course.  Since the concept of what is age appropriate varies and can be a subject of intense debate, I would recommend both mom & dad are on board with the projects (I had to learn this the hard way…).  Some examples – shredding stacks of bills/bank statements, basic landscaping, throwing out 25 unused items cluttering the basement or their bedrooms, grocery shopping, etc.
  • Ice Cream breaks: I try to do this pretty much as often as possible, particularly when the kids complete a respectable amount of chores and/or homework on a given day.
  • Day-trips: When the week is getting painfully monotonous, a day trip to the beach, hiking trail, movies, or the dreaded theme park can provide a welcome reprieve from incessant complaining.  If such trips are put on the schedule at the beginning of the week, you are providing an incentive to get kids cracking on the homework and chores earlier in the week.

This is all basic and obvious stuff.  But, somehow putting it all on paper as a schedule seems to have struck a positive chord with my kids.  Without some kind of structure, I think  kids morph into malcontent blobs.

bored kid



Try this…”If you don’t do your chores, than I don’t make your lunch for school, sweetie.”

thumbnail of children doing chores-thumb-200x200-72896Kid’s are wonderful, and we love them.  However, kids can be self-centered monsters.  This is actually normal.  It’s just where their minds are developmentally.

Keeping the attitude in check AND getting kids to do what they’re told are two entirely different matters, however.  As parents, it’s amazing how much we do for our kids on a daily basis.  And, most of our efforts go unnoticed or can be taken for granted.  That’s just how things work, and we’re o.k. with it because we love our children.

But, when the clutter in the bedroom gets to be knee-high, the dishes aren’t put away after meals, and you start finding dirty socks in every corner of the house, it’s time to get serious…

Try harmless retaliation through delgation of certain tasks.  For example, tell your kids they have to get up early and make their own lunch for school.  Remind your children why you are withholding this service:

You help me, and I’ll help you…

So, your kid wants or needs new sneakers?  But, they haven’t taken out the garbage or cleaned their room in over a week?  Make a list of neglected chores that require attention, and the sneaker shopping will happen when the list is completed.

I’m amazed at how much time I’ve spent asking my children to perform certain basic tasks (repeatedly).  The time and energy spent making sure these tasks get done inevitably drives me to complete them myself.

We have so many weapons in our arsenal; play dates, transportation, lunch preparation, etc.  Why not simply use this as leverage?

Does the word “sorry” have any meaning with kids?


I had asked my daughter to clean her room the other day.  The instructions were simple – put dirty clothes in the hamper (not on the floor), and put away the piles of clean, folded laundry that had been stacking up throughout the week.

About an half-hour later, I walk into her room and it’s still a mess.  I locate my daughter and ask, “what the what?”  “Sorry,” she says.  I lead her back to her room.

Again, an half-hour later, no daughter in her room and only a slightly smaller mess.  “Sorry,” she says again when I find her in the kitchen.  I tell her not to use the word sorry unless she means it.  “Sorry,” she says…this time with a hint of annoyance and sarcasm…

“Why do I have to empty the garbage?!” my son asks…

I’m stepping up the chore delegation, and this is the response I received.  When I explained that someone has to do it, I was told that I’m more than capable!

Well, so are you my children.  “But, I have homework, after-school activities and ‘stuff’…”

When I went through the litany of ‘stuff’ I do for them, I almost won them over.  Allowance did the rest, of course.

Feedback from a 15-year veteran stay-at-home dad…

When asked to comment on the site, this veteran at-home dad had some choice words:

I wonder who is your target audience. I suspect women would not be very interested in the site as they have tons of their own sites and probably are unimpressed by guys doing stuff they have done for ages.

probably not this guy...

probably not this guy…

Well said!  But, we’re all parents stumbling our own way through the child-raising process. Some parents are more accomplished, some parents try hard, and some parents can get very creative.

Which is why, here at, we’re very interested in hearing about different approaches and perspectives on parenting.  I know I could use all the help I can get.  And, wtih the merger of tradtional gender roles in the household, navigating through the multi-faceted responsibility of keeping the kids, routines and activities more challenging than ever.

I know ‘m not inventing anything new here. And, I am not claiming to be a guru on managing the household or raising kids. In fact, the whole experience has really opened my eyes and motivated me to help create awareness among the male population about how difficult and challenging it is to be the stay-at-home spouse.

Managing the household, paying bills, and keeping food on the table is really secondary and misses the point.

Our kids and their development is the really important part. How we interact with our children on a daily basis is the focus of this site. To be nurturing, but encourage self-reliance. To be a disciplinarian, but also provide key emotional support when needed.

not like this guy...

not like this guy…

I certainly do not have all the answers. In fact, I don’t have many. But, I think I’m good at making observations and relaying them in written format. It was this notion that inspired me to start writing a book called The Survivors Guide to Being Mr. Mom™.

Admittedly, I started writing to provide an outlet for my frustrations. The experience has taught me to laugh at myself and those around me doing the same thing. There is an entirely different set of rules in the world of the stay-at-home “caregiver.” The politics are fascinating, and reveal the flaws of human nature and personal character as they do throughout the workplace.

The real purpose of the site is two-fold: what everyone participating can learn from each other, and how we can make each other laugh.  No, the two are not mutually exclusive…

‘Chore Monster’ rocks!! You have to check this out…

This iPhone app came to my attention while listening to Bloomberg Radio, of all things!

CM logo

I had been mulling over today’s ‘Art of War’ inspired battle strategy with the kids, when I heard a segment about this app that helps you get your kids to help out around the house.

In the past, I had tried many of my own hastily concocted systems to get the kids to do basic chores and to help out around the house.  All of them were futile.  I had spent  hours putting together spreadsheets with title like “complete these items and get a star;  five stars equals one dollar.”  Out of desperation, I even tried a much different approach with, “You do [this] bad thing and you get a red ‘X.’  Five red X’s means you owe me five dollars…”

Pathetic, really.

But, someone with a lot of time and creativity has finely honed a more engaging and entertaining system of tracking chores and doling out rewards.   I think the concept works so well because of its simplicity, fun graphics, and its transparency.

cm 2


To begin, I prioritized the chores that were most important to us.  Picking up ‘stuff’ around the house was a top priority.  Books, clothes, toys and various electronic devices had taken over our floors and kitchen counters.

The key in assigning chores is to keep it short and simple, in my opinion.  We tried to keep the list from being overwhelming.  In a stroke of genius (if I can say that about myself), I assigned the largest allocation of points to a bedtime of 9pm.  Walking the dog once per day, 5 points.  Picking up clothes and dirty underwear off of the bathroom floor, 10 points.

You can set frequency, due dates, and make special notes for each chore.  If a given chores exceeds the due date, the icon becomes enveloped in bright flames.  When your child submits a chore as completed, you have control to verify and approve the taks’s completion.

Now the key part: REWARDS.  We wanted to be creative with the rewards to keep our children  enthusiastic.  It was also important to fairly allocates enough points to a given chore so that our kids could reap the benefits.  When you accept the chore as completed, your kids get a very satisfying “good job done” graphic on their end.  Then, the child is prompted to select from the available awards.

cm 3

We offered up 30 minutes of ‘screen time’ (Xbox -ughh, TV, computer games,etc) for 25 points.  The beauty here is that you can control how many ‘screen-time’ awards are available.


Other reward offerings include ice cream, sleep-overs, and choosing the family movie of the week.  If you give this app a test run, you will see that the goal-oriented enthusiasm is contagious.

To really make it a race to the top, we set a bonus of $20 for 500 points in a given week.  Not quite a bribe, this goal-oriented economic incentive has made all the difference in the world for us.

We now give fewer ultimatums, engage in less browbeating, and have more time to relax…with the kids!

cm 4

The only drawback: your entire family needs to be in possession of Apple-based devices.  Which, quite frankly, means your kids are already spoiled and in need of some serious chore-doing anyway.  An Android version is coming soon.  But, you will not get the immediate, real-time point accumulation and resultant reward endorphin rush unless your kids have iPhones or iTouches.


Happy New Year! Have a rebuttle from the kids…resolutions they’d like to see their dad make…

1. Stop telling us to do stuff

2. Get a job

3. Relax

4. Don’t make us do homework

5. Install flat screen TV’s in our bedrooms.

Best wishes to everyone for the New Year

New Years resolutions I’d like my kids to make

1. I won’t leave my clothes scattered on the floor throughout the house.

2. I will put my dirty clothes in the hamper and put my clean clothes where they belong (ie. I won’t leave them in the laundry basket until you do it).

3. I will clear my place after meals without being asked.

4. I will turn off any electronic device (TV, iPhone, I touch, computer, Xbox, Weii, etc) when YOU TELL ME THE FIRST TIME.

5. I will not wait until the last minute to start my homework.

OK, I know I’m dreaming.. But, there’s always next year.


“Chore Wars” I’m reposting this link as it’s directly related to my last post…

Who knew washing dishes and folding laundering could be so therapeutic??

Just kidding…I just tossed a heap of clothes (clean) in my kids’ bedroom, and I haven’t seen the bottom of our kitchen sink for 4 days now. I think there’s something swimming around with the dirty dishes.

Hey, all of you caregivers without the means to keep domestic help to do all this stuff: how do you keep your sanity???

I’ve heard answers ranging from pinot noir to a six-pack of pabst blue ribbon. I figure there’s got to be some other outlet besides imbibing.


The “DO IT NOW” Syndrome…

When you ask your child to do something (“clear your plate, brush your teeth, take out the garbage”), chance are these tasks will not get done unless you make them stop what they’re doing and get to it immediately.


This is probability one of the most frustrating aspects of parenting for me, and I think a lot of other parents would agree.

Although it seems like an obvious point, do not under-estimate your kid’s stubbornness and your own fatigue-factor. It’s taken me a while to figure out the simple notion –  “stop, drop, and do what I’m asking right now…

We’ve all been worn down over time, and it certainly seems easier to do things yourself and avoid the constant show-down. Heck, after doing it for 10 years like my wife did, I would probably be a doormat by now. Sometimes, getting your kids to do simple tasks like clearing their plate after dinner becomes an exercise in self-induced torture.

Even if your kid has good intentions, they will inevitably forget to do whatever it was that you told them to do 5 minutes ago.

Just remember one word…NOW.