Since the mid-twentieth century, society has recognized that kids have plenty to contribute besides dutiful obedience, and that there's a difference between disrespect for parents and open-minded questioning of "the way things are done." The ideal family arrangement allows everyone to contribute to the fullest, with the head(s) of household filling a coaching and supervisory role.
Here are some hints for building a collaborative household:
Beware dismissing a suggestion as "impractical" just because it never occurred to you. Young minds, unconditioned by decades of "this is normal" input, can often see options and problems that adults can't. When you get a suggestion, pause long enough to seriously consider it. If the idea proves a good one, remember to give congratulations and credit to the originator.
Of course, some suggestions really are impractical. When a child asks for something you aren't sure about-or something you're sure is a bad idea-ask her to explain the reasons behind her request: "What will this really accomplish? How would other people feel? What else might achieve this objective?" Whatever the eventual decision, your child will get useful practice in critical thinking.
There are three categories of household activity where someone too often gets shortchanged:
Besides listening to spontaneous ideas and the reasons behind them, give every family member some input (and a vote) on house rules and major plans.
Don't be one of those households where the most dust-averse family member (usually Mom) winds up doing everything by default. The question of "who cleans what up when" is best addressed in family meetings, where everyone can reach a fair understanding of acceptable cleanliness-vs.-clutter standards; who can do what; who wants to do what; and how favorite and least favorite options will be rotated.
This is where parents typically get the short end, overloaded with "have to do's" and never having time to play with the kids or even watch the kids play. If you're always "too busy," and delegating household chores doesn't help, it's time to consider quitting work on schedule more often-or settling for a less spotless house.
If you have multiple children, you want them to see each other as teammates rather than opponents. The best rivalry-preventative measures:
Avoid comparing children or showing favoritism (even if one is the natural scholar you always dreamed of raising).
Don't get too nit-picking about always giving everyone an identical share of everything (obsessing over milligrams of jelly beans is more likely to feed rivalry than defuse it).
Regularly encourage your kids to combine their individual talents toward solving problems and completing projects. There's no collaboration builder like a shared challenge!