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Your Family Strengths: Clear Responsibilities

You can strengthen your family by making sure family members have a clear idea about their day-to-day responsibilities in and to the family. At the same time, be flexible. It's okay for someone who usually cooks to take over fixing the car because of a need or even boredom!

Your family will function best when decision making is shared among family members. Children can participate in a variety of decisions. For example, a toddler can be involved in grocery shopping. Explain that you need a helper when you buy groceries. Decide which simple food items the helper can choose, such as cereal or fruit snacks. When you get to the right aisle, give the child a few moments to make a decision. You can teach an older child to use product-label information to make a decision. Provide plenty of encouragement for their efforts.

Making real decisions is good practice and can help children grow up to be responsible adults. Children need opportunities to make decisions, to participate in family decisions and to observe the parents' decision-making process and results.

Children are more apt to carry out their responsibilities if they have a voice in deciding those responsibilities and can see how those particular tasks help the family. Teenagers are more willing to go along on a family vacation if they help decide where to go and what to do. Youngsters are more likely to accept limitations regarding purchases if they have an awareness of the family's financial situation. Letting children take part in decision making says to them: "You are important and what you have to say counts."

Here are some ideas for fostering the "clear responsibilities" strength at home:

"Panic Pick-Up." To help family members share the responsibility for keeping the home tidy, announce a "Panic Pickup." Assign family members to their work stations or tasks. Set a timer for ten minutes and shout "go!" The goal is to get as much done as quickly and as efficiently as possible before the buzzer goes off.

Job Jar. Use a job jar to distribute household chores fairly among family members. Make a list of chores and mark a "W" next to weekly chores and a "D" next to daily chores. Cut construction paper into "chore strips." Write one chore per slip-daily chores on red strips and weekly chores on blue strips. Put the chores in a jar. Decide how long each chore duty should be: one week, two weeks, etc. Decide how many strips of each color each family member should draw for each chore period. Make sure that tasks reflect the varying ages and abilities of family members.

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