Getting your children to do what you want

Friday October 16 2020
By Min Atek

I can still see her seated on her bed and diligently oiling herself after bathing. She went through the same routine almost every day when I was growing up. Many years later, I catch myself doing exactly what my mother used to do when I was a child.  There is a random saying to the effect that monkey see, monkey do. How true!

Aren’t we all significantly the result of what we see or hear when growing up?  The environment and our upbringing form a foundation of who and what we are.

Recently, this profound lesson came to me.  You see, living without domestic assistance is quite an interesting experience and having been at it for years, it  has created a number of experiences for us.

The first consequence is that generally speaking, we learnt to live independently of most of the assistance rendered but most importantly, everyone in the house takes part in household chores right from cleaning to cooking and the general wellbeing and maintenance of everything.

Because mothers are generally significantly particular about the orderliness of things, she is more likely to be the one confronting everyone else about what has not been done well.

You can say that, generally speaking, some children don’t quite like cleaning up after eating, they would rather play than shower and there is a general preference to not make their beds.  What that simply means is that there was often need to remind, reprimand and chastise them on a regular basis and many times, these rebukes came in anger and frustration.


This continual speaking and reprimanding can get tiring. Eventually, I was weary and exasperated from repeatedly saying the same things over and over.  Many times I would do the work myself. Each morning I would clean the kitchen and bathroom spotless. I got down and did the nitty gritty things. And then something interesting began to happen.

The children started to do just as I was doing. They started to clean up and to be more intentional.  After a while, it became clear that the more effective method for me to get things done was for me to continually do those same things myself because behaviour change happens when the children observe what you do and the way you do it.

This route to growth and development is rather long and tedious but I am beginning to feel it is the one that yields sustainable results.

I started to remember that children raised in homes where the parents are hardworking tend to value work. Children raised around alcohol drinking parents are almost naturally drawn to alcohol.  Because they admire their parents, they easily copy and pick up their parents’ mannerisms.

Monkey see, monkey do!