Frustrated Trying to Manage Everyone and Do the Chores

Question: I am married and have 3 children. One oldest is 19, was born with Spina Bifida and has been a challenge most of his life. Gratefully he is “normal” from the waist up and paralyzed from the waist down. I have a daughter that is 10 and a son that is 9. My 9 year old was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 5.

My greatest issue is trying to manage everyone’s everything and do the chores, clean the house, do the laundry and all of those other things that no one else seems to notice are in disarray. I have tried charts, chores, positive reinforcements, negative consequences and usually find that the amount of time and energy it takes to keep track of who is where and making sure they are doing what they are suppose to, it is just easier to do things myself. So I need advice on how I can keep them on track and responsible when I am on my last nerve and patience is gone!


Anonymous in N.Y.

Answer: Dear Mom,

You are a very busy mom! It’s no wonder you are lacking in patience! I do not know what your current financial situation is but I am wondering if you could hire a house cleaner for once a month or bi-monthly to help keep the house “clean” so that all you need to take care of is the clutter. If a house cleaner is not in the budget I offer some other strategies to help alleviate some of your burden(which you can also implement even if you do get a cleaner):

• Start by having a family meeting and communicate how you are feeling (overwhelmed, worn out, lacking in patience). Tell them you need help and that things have to change around the house. Ask for input in designing and creating some new rules for how everyone is going to pitch in to help out and keep this family functioning.

• Try restricting certain rooms from children’s play – perhaps the dining room or living room will become off limits for toys, school books, sneakers etc. Have designated spots for such things and be diligent in getting the kids to respect this new rule.”No games in the living room! Johnny come and take this down stairs please where the games belong.”

• Don’t “own” every child’s “everything”- start fostering some responsibility and independence which means having to follow through on natural consequences such as: having your children make their own lunches for school. If they don’t make one or forget their lunch, don’t go running out after them and bring it to the school. Once or twice of not eating a lunch should be enough of a reminder to make their own lunch every morning- and no, they will not starve by missing a lunch or two. Have laundry baskets in their rooms, if it doesn’t get into the laundry, it doesn’t get done! Of course there will be situations where you will need to be flexible, like if your child has a big soccer tournament on Saturday and forgot to put her uniform in the wash – but she could owe you back that time later with taking something you have to do (dust, change the cat litter etc.).

• Start prioritizing the things that are most important to you and let go of lesser things. If you can’t live with beds being left unmade then that would be something you insist on being done. If you can live with shoes and boots and coats just dropped at the back door – then ignore it and concentrate on something on your priority list. You have to let go of your need to control everything – I would hazard to guess that this need comes from raising two children with special needs. It’s a typical response; but you will be no good to any of your children if you ware yourself out and become ill yourself!

• You need to sit down and have a conversation with your spouse and ask him to take something off your plate “I am feeling overwhelmed and need you to help alleviate some of my stress. It would be very helpful if you could do the grocery shopping (vacuuming, laundry, whatever) from now on.

• If your spouse is not in a position to help you (works out of town), see if you can elicit support from family members, or neighbors where they could take the kids out for a few hours each week where you can get some stuff done.

• Do something for yourself at least once a week (daily if you can) that promotes relaxation – a bubble bath for a half hour, read a good book to escape at night, go for a walk, take a yoga or fitness class, go the movies with a friend etc.

A while back I wrote an article on Raising Small Souls on Kids and Chores; I pulled out a couple of excerpts here:

I would recommend picking a “cleaning day” where you start the morning with a family meeting and put all the chores needed to be done that day into a hat. Everyone randomly picks what they will be responsible for. It will be a family team effort this way. Regular chores throughout the week could be assigned and a chart could be designed listing chores and ticked off as they are completed so as to keep track of what they have left to do. If chores are not done within a specific time period, clearly stipulated on the chart, consequences should be imposed.

Now I know you said you tried using charts but ask yourself how consistent you were in following through with consequences if their chores were not complete. Children need to rely on parent’s to “keep their word” if they are going to learn that not doing something has negative consequences. Otherwise, there is no reason for children to do what they are asked because they know mom will only do it for them in the long run and it makes no difference to the their life!

The “when/then rule” comes in handy in these situations. “When you have picked up the toys in your room, then you may go out side to play.” “When you have taken your plate over to the sink, then you may watch a half hour of TV.” Saying it this way sounds very different and less threatening than saying “if you don’t pick up your room you won’t be watching TV tonight.” Threats only invite conflict. Just practice saying these “when, then” rules over and over until they become a mantra for how you speak to your children about doing chores. They will come to appreciate and respect that they don’t move on to anything else until they have finished what they were asked to do. And be consistent in following through with consequences if they don’t.

You said your son with spina bifida has full use of his arms – I can see no reason then why he cannot help sort or fold laundry, peel vegetables, or dry dishes. Does he have or is he eligible for an in home assistant that can begin teaching him life skills so he can become more independent, despite his challenges?

Your 9 and 10 year old should be able to help with a wide variety of chores around the house and should be required to do so. Unfortunately your children have come to know that you will manage everything for them. You have to step back and re-evaluate how much you can continue to do and how much they can do for themselves and work to design some new family rules from there.

Out of the Mouths of Babes-Parenting from a Child's PerspectiveAnswer by Dyan Eybergen, author of Out of the Mouths of Babes: Parenting from a Child’s Perspective. Dyan, a pediatric psychiatric nurse, has more than ten years experience working as a therapist and parent educator.

Dyan and her family were guests on the cable television show “For Kids Sake”, along with parenting expert Barbara Coloroso. Eybergen resides in St. Albert, Alberta, with her husband and three sons.



  1. This is an everlasting topic of discussion in my home, thank you for addressing it!

    There is something you seem to have left out here, although much of what you wrote is quite valuable: Where is Mom’s husband in all this? Why can’t Dad help out with the chores? Why does all housework fall onto women and children? If Dad eats, wears muddy shoes, generates dirty laundry, etc, then HE OUGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN CLEANING UP!


    Mom of 4 beautiful small souls in AL

    • My wife is in school so this “dad” does the laundry, gets kids off to school (fed, dressed, make beds), cleans the house, irons clothes, washes dishes, cooks occasionally, works 60-80 hours a week at job, pays all the bills, fixes and repairs everything in the house. Shovels, cuts grass and rakes leaves. Did I leave anything out? I understand your frustration but please don’t generalize and polarize. It’s not considered fair when it’s done in reverse.

      Thank for considering this perspective.

      Husband and father of 2.

      • Chris, thank you for reminding us of this. My boy’s Dad can’t even find time for his once an evening a week with them this year, and has hired a babysitter to take his 5hrs, and the boys are extremely disappointed, but more important, very hurt.

        My sister’s husband is very much like you it would seem and I envy her and respect her husband for himself as well as all that he does for his family. Typically though, it would seem that you and those like you, are a rarity indeed. I went back to school full time for a second degree a year and a half ago, and am back to work for the last year and a bit. I am absolutely certain (or at least hope and assume) that your wife and children will not only appreciate this now, but for forever. You did not say how old your kids were, but I hope that you get some / insist on some help from the child(ren) as age permits.
        For all of us Moms out there single or not, keep in mind that one day (if not already) your kids will be grateful for the loving firmness that youraised them with. The thank you’s that I get from my boys – the sincere and heartelt “You are the best Mom in the world – I appreciate what you do for us!, are so much better than any present that money could buy! Can’t say that I hear it every day, or many times, not even every week (and by no means is it always said beause of a special “treat”)but that just means that when they say it, that they have really thought about it and mean it to their core.

  2. Dyan Eybergen says:

    Dear Anonymous,
    My apologies, I was being most insensitive when I used the example of fostering independence byhaving your children make their own lunches and that if they didn’t, not to run to the school to bring it to them. Of course, this is not something I would advocate you do with your child who has diabetes. I was remiss in taking that into consideration when I used that example. Please forgive my ignorance!
    Dyan Eybergen.

  3. Terri O'Connor says:

    I can attest to the value of house cleaners. According to my husband they are the cheapest marriage counseling there is. Because they are on a schedule, everyone in our house knows that their stuff has to be picked up the night before they come. They do it with out my having to nag. My children think that the cleaners will “vaccuum up their toys”. It works great. Also consider for laundry multiple large, tall baskets for types of clothes: pants, shirts, whites. Locate these in the laundry room and then they are ready to go straight into the wash. My young children can sort their own laundry this way. It is also faster to fold or hang all of one type of item from the dryer.

  4. Words this mom needed to hear today. I woke feeling the same way. I have three children. 2 with asbergers and 1 with Gaucher’s (blood disease). Everbodys needs seem to overlap and it is exhausting. I will work on some of your suggestions. Thanks

  5. I find that the “if, then” rule works well. And if they argue about the task or chore they not only lose a privilege but they have to write the Behavior Rules that I have posted on the frig. at least 10 times. The rules are: I will do what I am told the first time without argument. I will accept no as an answer without argument. I will not raise my voice or misbehave physically. I also set a timer (1 minute per rule) so they don’t fool around. They hate having to write rules so much that all I have to do is ask “Would you rather (a) write rules and then do as you are told or (b) do as your told?” 9 times out of 10 they choose option (b).

    • Wow. sounds like a fun household to grow up in.

      • It is probably much more fun for Rita, and since Moms inevitably wind up doing more housework than anyone, that is a good thing. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this idea (writing rules) and plan to try it at my house!

  6. I also suggest creating what i call the ‘laundry party’ with all your kids at once. It’s special bonding time where we all fold clean laundry and decide where each item belongs. The whole process becomes a great fun and special experience. Add some music and dancing. You’ll be amazed how excited your kids will be about folding laundry and helping in the house.

    Mother of 4 beautiful souls, ages: 8.5, 7, 5, 22months in NY.

  7. Oh Rita, your idea is brilliant! I have a son with Aspergers and ODD, and boy does he love to argue. I use 1-2-3 Magic with some success on stopping arguments, but I will be trying your plan next!

  8. Although I don’t totally disagree with the writing of rules, please use with caution (depending on your child of course). I have 2 boys aged 9 and 11. One has dyslexia and the other has ADHD. I found out, many years ago, that the more I used the writing lines technique, the more opposition I got with homework. Now, I use writing as a reflection activity where they have to think about others feelings etc, but very seldom, and am more likely to pull a priviledge. I have also used running up and down the stairs 5 (or more) times depending on their age – this serves 2 purposes beyond the discipline…it helps work off energy as well as getting their much needed excercise in general.

  9. I hope all the suggestions from all these folks work. I have tried the all on my 12-year old grandaughter and absolutely NOTHING works. She is putting me in the poorhouse. She left a steady drizzle of water running a couple of days ago after she showered ( She is very,very careless) I discovered it 4 hours later when I went in to retrieve her wet towels, after asking her to hang them up and she had not done it,but I did not know this because I had to go out to buy groceries and I did not think I had to go behind her to check if she listened to me! My utilities have doubled and she just shrugs it off. I wish I could move out ( that is how desparate I feel ) but this is MY house,I am a widow and pay all the bills…I work full time and aM CURRENTLY LOOKING FOR A SECOND JOB SO I CAN MANAGE THIS INCREASE IN EXPENSES.but no one is hiring and this is really frustrating. I am trying to help my daughter through her pre-med courses and I have almost used up my retirement money.It is really tiring to beg your youngster to help out ,but everything you say falls on deaf ears.I wish I knew what would work.When my daughter is home from college,it is no better..water and electricity are wasted.If you are lucky enough to have a husband..I hope he is not disabled too and can help you. Your,friend Jackie

    • My children (ages 13, 11, 8, 5) have understood for a long time that the house they live in is mine as well as everything in it. They understand and know on a deep level that what I give them is because I love them and not because I have to. If this 12 year old were my daughter, she would lose the privilege to use and or have any water – drinking, bathing. I would not be buying her any clothes, get taken to friends. My rule is “you don’t listen to me and I won’t listen to you.” Life is a two way street. They also know as a mantra that “life is not fair so get used to it” and better to get used to it from me than from the world. I don’t bother making things fair. I can’t.
      I make one supper and that is it. No options for anything else. I don’t run a restaurant or hotel. Frequently my refrain is “the maid is off today” when they don’t clean-up after themselves.
      One of our friends charges her kids for electricity IF they leave the lights or other things on. Or better yet take away the bulbs, they are yours, correct? Tell your daughter and grand-daughter to buy there own.
      I don’t mind being tough on my kids and they know (from a young age) Daddy means what he says and will carry through on any threat I make (I don’t make ones I can’t follow through on). I won’t be disrespected by my children.
      Aside from toughness, my kids know that I love them and that I am there for them no matter what. I take time to talk to them and to listen to them. I explain things to them and spend time with them. I am silly with them and tickle them. I take them to the park and teach them how to hit and throw.
      My wife and I also pray with much emotion for them and for our relationship with them.
      I believe that our success with our children is due greatly to Hashem and his positive responses to our prayers.
      I hope this helps.

    • Dear Jackie;
      It must be very hard to have to go through that “abuse” from a child – even more a grandchild! I truly hope it gets better soon. It’s hard to do, but Simmy’s idea ia really effective: if you abuse your water privileges, you don’t get water. Really! I don’t think she’s going to force your hand, she’s just used to getting great service no matter how she behaves. And if your daughter gets defensive about her daughter’s behavior, I think you should stand your ground. Although you want your daughter to get her degree, it won’t be your fault – as many want us to believe – if she doesn’t. My guess is the only reason this is going on is because you think it’s your responsibility to do whatever your daughter says she needs. Your child and grandchild must respect you and your home. They are fortunate to have such a caring mother.
      I once read that there’s a “Traveler’s Prayer” and every mother should carry a copy of it – because we’re lways on a guilt trip! But this is a trip you don’t have to take. Every person is resonsible for themselves and the sooner a child learns this, the healthier he/she will be when they are on their own.
      I know what I am saying. I’m in it now…. I wish I’d known all these ideas long ago. Children today can choose really bad role models or really good ones wherever they go. But remember it’s their choice – we simply cannot control them or their outcome.
      Maybe Ellen can advise us all what to do with guilt feelings that ensnare us. It’s a bad emotion, but one that can be shaken!

  10. I would like to make a suggestion…I know the trappings of busy life all too well. I am single Mom for 4 years (feels more like about 7 though) and a full-time teacher with my two special needs kids…did I mention that my son who has ADHD is gifted, and the older boy who has dyslexia has generalized anxiety disorder?

    Anyway, I have had a book passed on to me by a friend that I am almost finished reading – it is FANTASTIC!! I know, I know…where do you get time to read? Well, like Dyan says about time for myself, I read a bit every night before bed. I am seeing through this book how I might have contributed to the anxiety a bit (although he did have a very serious fall when he was 3 where behaviour did begin to change after that), and ideas on how to deal with the “seeming” lack of time. I too, know that I have contributed to my kids behaviour by falling prey to the “It’s just easier to do it myself”, but felt somewhat helpless because of time. This book is so good, with so many every day life situations. As both a parent and a teacher, I am finding it very useful and poignant examples abound.

    by Robert Shaw, M.D
    THE EPIDEMIC – The Rot of American Culture, Absentee and Permissive Parenting, and the Resultant Plague of Joyless, Selfish Children

    Although it does start at the “beginning” (baby) it is so great, as stated in a quote on the back cover from Chicago Tribune…”[Shaw] offers suggestions on how to reverse these trends and delivers them reasonably and persuasively, with the passion of a man who has seen it all and can’t take it any more.”

    There is HOPE for me and my kids yet!!!!!

  11. I am a mother of 3 young boys ages 7, 6, & 3, one with Aspergers. My biggest pet pieve is the entitlement that my boys sometimes display. I honestly believe that they think the house magically cleans itself and that they are owed fun outings and new toys. So a few weeks ago…in a moment of complete frustration…I had them watch me clean. Literally, they had to stand there and watch me wash the bathroom sinks, counter, mirrors, floor, toilet etc. All the while stressing how much time it takes me to clean their mess (toothpaste especially). I was sure not to have them help…because for them, that would be too much like fun. Since then we have had many conversations about being responsible members of the family. In order to do fun things, we have to do the not so fun things…kind of like the when/then approach. We do what we have to do, so we can do what we want to do. It seems to be helping. Now, when they are showing some entitlement behavior, I say “I must be doing too much for you, because your actions show me that you don’t appreciate what you have.” They usually straigten out pretty quick! Give it a try!

  12. Casie, I LOVE IT…Never in a million years would I have thought of that! Thank you! I have said for years that necessity is the Mother of Invention, and sometimes, some of my best ideas for home and work, come out of last minute frustration as you mention – I think I just might try that! Thank you for sharing that!

  13. As the mother of 5 boys and with a husband who, while being a good breadwinner and father, was clueless as to the chaos of our life, I know that while I have tried every method ever suggested and published regarding kids helping in the house, my biggest downfall was poor consequence followup and then a husband who thought anything I asked of them was too much. Since I was the mom, I should do it all. So first, is the husband backing up the mom? That’s huge. Second…all the suggestions by Dyan were realistic and great. But I will say this…while taking time for yourself once per week is very important, if you come home to utter chaos, clutter and dismissive attitudes, whatever nice thing you did for yourself is undone in a heartbeat. Once the home is fairly under control (because fairly is usually the best you’ll get), then the nice thing is great. Good luck,……and get some support in this endeavor!!

  14. I have 3 children who are currently 19, 18 and 12. Until about 4 years ago, I stayed home with them and they were homeschooled. We lived that lifestyle for 15 years. During that time, I tried many different approaches to getting them to help with household chores. One of the things we did was to sit down together and make a list of all the things that have to get done to keep our household running. Then I put a big M next to all the ones that I did. ( at that time it was almost everything!) Then we talked about which jobs they could do to help out. From that I made chore lists. I had A, B, C and D chore lists. On each list were chores that needed to be done each day of the week. Then the lists were rotated through all 3 kids, plus one for Mom. By rotating the duties, they all learned to do many different things. Since I was homeschooling them at the time, their chore list became part of their daily assignment sheet. We no longer homeschool and I am now working full time. I have changed this system a bit to fit our current lifestyle. I now go through our family calendar that hangs in the kitchen. On each weekend, I put A,B,C all the way through the calendar. Then down below the calendar I have a small chart posted. It looks something like this:


    Michael- Vacuum Michael – Bathrooms Michael – Mop & Dust
    Sarah – Mop & Dust Sarah – Vacuum Sarah – Bathrooms
    Patrick – Bathrooms Patrick – Mop & Dust Patrick – Vacuum

    Of course, you could design this to suit your needs! Along with this, there is a chart with all 3 names on it and a paper clip is moved beside the name of the person that will clean the kitchen after dinner. That changes nightly. I will admit that in order for this to work, you might have to lower your standards a bit. They probably won’t do the chores as thoroughly as you would. However, the learning for them is invaluable. All of my kids can clean, cook and do laundry and know that as a member of our family, they are expected to help out. My husband also pitches in when he can, cooking at least once a week and helping with this or that. It works fairly well for us. Maybe some of these ideas would help some of you.

  15. My God where do I begin!!! Well, let me start by saying that even us parent educators need help. Through what we have all written and everything that we have been through with our kids, I’m sure that we all can agree that parenting is and will always be that hardest job, yet the most rewarding(Yes I know that’s hard to believe sometimes). There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that each and every one of you is a woderful, caring and above all, loving parent. I congratulate all of you for all your hard work and effort as parents. With so many things to say, let me just say this…Even though our children don’t do things the way that we would like them to be done, lets not forget to praise them for their efforts, whether they do it right or wrong. When we focus on doing this, then they will start doing things a lot better. We all like to be praised for our efforts every once in a while, especially our kids. As parents, we often expect our kids to do things the way that we do them, and that’s just not going to happen. We all do things in a different way and that’s what makes each of us so special. Always remember that it’s the little things that count. Our kids may never turn out the way that we want them to, but keep trying. Don’t ever give up. The time will come when our kids will honor us, that’s if they don’t already. Thanks for all the wonderful ideas and best of wishes to all of you.

  16. Dear NY,

    My daughter was border line diabetic at the age of 3 years old. She suffered from this from the day she was born along with many other issues.
    Then our lives changed, we found a doctor that was like no other doctor we had ever been to. We had been to many doctors.
    He found a virus in my daughter pancreas called the coxsachie virus also know as the hand foot and mouth virus I believe. I took one year to get
    rid of the virus and then another year for the pancreas to function normally on its own. He created all her medications according to her own bodies
    needs. We we checked by him every 3 weeks to see if there were changes in the virus and if so he created new medicines. He also gave her pancreas support
    medicines and immune boosters and liver supports. When there is stress on the pancreas is causes stress on the liver. Then you have things like reflux because the liver
    is not working well.

    I am sure you have asked this same question. Why is a child border line diabetic or diabetic in your case? No one can tell you can they. We had never even had processed sugar of any kind. She had pain in her hands legs, she had very low blood sugar as well as high at times. The bottom line was her pancreas was not working well at all.

    Here is the doctor: Dr Robert Prather of the Prather Wellness Center. There are only 3 doctors like him in the US. The other two are in their 80’s and don’t practice much any more. However, there are similar doctors and depending on where you live he can recommend someone. HOWEVER, there is no one as good as him. This is the bottom line! People fly to him from all over the country and the world. go to his website and listen to his talk show on the radio each Saturday at 9:00 am EST. You can listen to past show on his website by clicking on the topic of your choice. I Co hosted with Dr Prather about how to keep your children healthy this school year. I talk about my daughters and this virus. Please listen to the show that I did with Dr Prather and listen to his show on Sat.. You can call in with questions during the show on Sat. Or call his office:
    317-848-8048 website
    Freedom 95.9 FM WFDM. radio station for radio show on Sat. 9:00am EST

    Call if not for you then your son. You have to do this for him.
    Be open to the possibility that there is another way and a better way.
    I did and it changed my daughters life.


  17. Hello,

    I have seven adopted special needs children. We have ADHD, Bipolar, ODD, OCD, RAD, and more. Counselors pull thier hair out with our children thats how much we have. Keeping up with children is no easy task nor is it ever going to end. We often talk about discipline for the children but I think we need to remember it all starts with us. If we are not disciplined then we cannot keep our children lives in check.

    I use a datebook and write down every appointment. I plan appointments around school, gym, and the work I do from home. Most of the time I can manage things but their are days that come up where even the best planner couldn’t forsee. When this happens I simply do the best I can and realize im one person and life is not perfect.

    Other things I do to make my life easier, I set the breakfast table the night before, we set the dinner table in the morning. I plan a great deal of our meals, I premake sandwhiches for the week, I divide up the number of snacks each child needs for school for the week and put then in a bag with thier name on it. The kids have chores even the youngest and the children with the worst behavior can do simple chores like wipping counters, folding towels, reminding others not to forget their lunches. The list goes on and on.

    In the end remember not to beat your self up. You are only one person with a great deal of responsibility and you are doing a great job. Journaling helps to look back at the mess of yesterday and laugh and it also helps us to see what we can improve or where we have made a positive change.

    Good Luck

  18. I find the more organized I can be, the better I am able to handle the day-to-day without feeling like I’m pulling out my hair. On the other hand, I find it leaves me inflexible at times because the schedule has to be so regimented. Where’s the balance?

    And I only have 1 child, so those with special needs and multiple children, any tips you can give us on keeping order and schedules without being to inflexible would be great.