The Six D's of Delegation

Delegating chores to children often results in two extremes. One is that parents give out only simple chores that are easy, cause little complaining, and teach children little about real work (like asking a child to lick the brownie beaters spotless while you clean up the rest of the kitchen, living room, and bathroom).

The second turns your role as parents into Mr. and Mrs. Taskmaster, completing the easy and enjoyable tasks on your own, and giving the hard work to your kids “for their own good.”
Teaching your children to work is important for their development because work is good for your kids, but a happy medium is needed to make work do, well, just what you want it to do: help your children grow into more responsible kids, keep your house cleaner, and give you a little more time for yourself. Here are the six D’s of delegation to guide you when teaching your children how to work.
· Decide
· Divide
· Deliberate
· Demonstrate
· Discipline
· Determination

Decide: In deciding what you can divide out to your children, think about the ultimate goal, “What would delegation accomplish? What needs would be fulfilled by delegation? What jobs would they be able to do?” Brainstorm with your spouse (if you are married) and make this a jointly-operated program. When you are in agreement, prepare to present the plan at a family meeting.
Stumbling blocks to watch out for:

1. I can do it faster myself: You may need more time and patience to start this new plan, but the time and patience you do invest will give you a large payback in the end.

2. I you want it done right, do it yourself: If you expect your children to always get it wrong, they probably will.

3. I find it enjoyable: Don’t delegate only the trivial and mundane tasks. You might find out that you really like doing Z if you let someone else do X and Y.

Divide: Come to the family with a plan, but be flexible and let every member of the family voice their own opinion about what should be done. Also, be flexible after you divide up chores and be willing to switch around and re-divide uneven chores.
Stumbling blocks to watch out for:

1. I’m not organized enough: Think of this as a work in progress rather than one big organizational event. It won’t all happen at once. Plus, delegation will give you more time for things like organizing.

2. My children aren’t capable: Have faith in them and you’ll be surprised at what they can accomplish on their own.

Deliberate: Holding a family meeting is a perfect way to reach a decision about who does what. Within the meeting, everyone can take responsibility for his or her tasks. Consider inequalities and distribute (or redistribute) chores accordingly. Family meetings present an opportunity for giving more responsibility to growing children.
Stumbling blocks to watch out for:

1. My children are too busy: You are also a busy person and delegation makes family life a team effort. Everyone gives a little more on those busy days and weeks.

2. Some children work better than others: Give specific jobs so that every child is accountable for his or her portion of the work. Don’t specify “boy” and “girl” jobs, each child should and can learn each type of job. Also, beware of giving jobs to just the oldest child or best worker; distribute equally and give everyone an opportunity to work.

Demonstrate: These tasks are better undertaken if you explain the what, why, and how for each task. Although tedious and time consuming, you’ll save a lot of heartache (for you and your children) if you adequately train them. Once they have learned, give them their space and don’t spend time watching and critiquing.
Stumbling blocks to watch out for:

1. I’m a creature of habit: Force yourself into thinking of new ways to do things; you’ll often get better results.

2. They don’t do it my way: Be open to doing things a new way. Your children might just have a better way of completing a task than you do.

Make it clear at your first family meeting that your children are accountable for the chore that they’ve agreed to do and that every action (positive or negative) has a fitting consequence. Most importantly, be consistent (especially between parents).
Stumbling blocks to watch out for:

1. I feel sorry for them: Always be fair and don’t feel guilty if you hear remarks like, “I always do all the work,” or “I did it last time.”

2. My children expect to get paid: Always give positive reinforcement and occasionally give rewards. Positive reinforcement will strengthen self-esteem and work ethic rather than just bank accounts.

3. My children refuse to work: Turn off distractions until after their work is done.

4. My teenagers are intolerable: Communicate openly with your children and be sure to respect their time and opinions, but be firm if they don’t hold up their side of the bargain.


You can do it! Of course this won’t be easy; you are committing you and your children to a new way of life, but be determined not to give up. On those days when you want to quit (because they’ll come), just take a break. This life is all about relationships—not house cleaning. Go ahead and take a few minutes until you feel ready to go back to work.

Once you’ve decided what to do, and then divided and deliberated the chores, remember to be consistent with the demonstrations, discipline, and your own determination.

Remember, after the six D’s have been implemented, you no longer have just the old fashioned options (nag, do it your self, or yell)—you have a plan and a team. There is more value to teaching your children to work than just getting a clean house.

Working together as a family breeds love (even on the bad days), and starting good habits when their young will help them live those habits when their adults.

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