“What Else Can I Do?”
This simple question is a parenting tool that helps grow kids into responsible adults who employers will be beating down doors to hire.
Last weekend, I heard Dr. Deborah Gilboa speak at a camp conference about “the 3 Rs”: Respect, Responsibility, and Resilience. I’m a fan and have already visited Dr. Gilboa’s website “Ask Doctor G” for some excellent parenting resources!
The most useful tip—one that I’m going to institute at my own home and at camp with our campers and counselors next summer—is teaching everyone to ask this question at the end of every activity and chore: “What else can I do to help?”
The ultimate goal, of course, is for our kids to develop their responsibility to the point that they see what needs to be done and take initiative to get it done, without being asked. To be honest, our biggest struggle with our millennial camp counselors is that many leave jobs unfinished. We jokingly refer to it as “waiting for Mom to clean up after them” and hypothesize that it’s the result of parents doing too much for kids. But as an employer, it’s no fun to have employees who leave tasks unfinished and don’t clean up after themselves. So we’re going to help.
Looking around, seeing what needs to be done, and doing it is called taking initiative. People who take initiative and get things done—without being reminded or supervised through every step—set themselves apart and are the best employees. We say they have a good “work ethic.” Don’t you want your kids in that group?
At Doctor G’s house, if her four sons don’t each ask the magic question, the one who doesn’t ask gets stuck with an even bigger chore and the others are released. Their training has taught them to ask, “What else can I do?”
I’ve already introduced it home this week, and I’m seeing great results. They’re still smirking a bit as they ask the question, and I’m sure it will take a little time for us to get it fully instituted, but it’s happening! They ask, then my husband or I (eventually their managers/supervisors at work) tell them what’s left, and, “TA DA!”:
No more single dishes left in the sink.
No more sticky counters.
No more full trash cans not taken out.
No more empty paper towel holder.
No more things left to unload from the car.
It’s a magic question that teaches kids an important life skill: the responsibility of taking initiative and finishing a job. And we’ll be less frustrated about “having to do everything ourselves” and “not getting any help.” I call that a win-win for sure.
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Ask Doctor G, Dr. Deborah Gilboa’s website