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Family Strengths: Clear Roles and Responsibilities
The Family: A Proclamation to the World
teaches that fathers are to
preside over, provide for, and protect the family; the mother's primary
responsibility is to nurture the children. Parents are obligated to help one
another in these responsibilities as equal partners and rear their children in
love and righteousness.
You can strengthen your family by making sure family members have a clear idea
about their day-to-day responsibilities in and to the family. At the same time,
be flexible. It's okay for someone who usually cooks to take over fixing the
car because of a need or even boredom!
The parents are in charge, and the children need to know that. But the best
parenting approach is not a dictatorship-it's what experts call
"authoritative parenting," where parents seek input from the
children. Authoritative parenting is characterized by love, warmth, teaching,
clear and consistent expectations, and avoidance of severe or harsh discipline.
Numerous studies show that this kind of parenting has the most positive
benefits for children. To improve in this area, consider taking a parenting
class from a church, school, or university that focuses on authoritative
Your family will function best when decision making is shared among family
members. Children can participate in a variety of decisions. For example, a
toddler can be involved in grocery shopping. Explain that you need a helper
when you buy groceries. Decide which simple food items the helper can choose,
such as cereal or fruit snacks. When you get to the right aisle, give the child
a few moments to make a decision. You can teach an older child to use
product-label information to make a decision. Provide plenty of encouragement
for their efforts.
Making real decisions is good practice and can help children grow up to be
responsible adults. Children need opportunities to make decisions, to
participate in family decisions and to observe the parents' decision-making
process and results.
Children are more apt to carry out their responsibilities if they have a voice
in deciding those responsibilities and can see how those particular tasks help
the family. Teenagers are more willing to go along on a family vacation if they
help decide where to go and what to do. Youngsters are more likely to accept
limitations regarding purchases if they have an awareness of the family's
financial situation. Letting children take part in decision making says to
them: "You are important and what you have to say counts."
Here are some ideas for fostering the family strength of "clear roles and
responsibilities" at home:
"Hear Ye, Hear Ye." Long recommended by religious leaders and family
experts alike, family councils provide a choice opportunity for clarifying
family responsibilities and expectations. Family councils can be used to set
goals, distribute household work, resolve family problems, and celebrate one
another's successes. When councils are conducted properly, they allow each
person to voice opinions and feelings and be involved in solving problems and
Schedule a regular time for family councils, say each Sunday. Along with
serious discussions, talk about fun things and plan family activities. Set and
follow an agenda. Rotate conducting responsibilities between parents and older
children. Prior to the council, encourage family members to suggest agenda
items. Good ground rules might include allowing everyone to express an opinion
without fear of criticism and not allowing interruptions. Limit the council to
an hour, and end on a cheerful note-with a joke or refreshments.
"Panic Pick-Up." To help family members share the responsibility for
keeping the home tidy, announce a "Panic Pickup." Assign family
members to their work stations or tasks. Set a timer for ten minutes and shout
"go!" The goal is to get as much done as quickly and as efficiently
as possible before the buzzer goes off.
Job Jar. Use a job jar to distribute household chores fairly among family
members. Make a list of chores and mark a "W" next to weekly chores
and a "D" next to daily chores. Cut construction paper into
"chore strips." Write one chore per slip--daily chores on red strips
and weekly chores on blue strips. Put the chores in a jar. Decide how long each
chore duty should be: one week, two weeks, etc. Decide how many strips of each
color each family member should draw for each chore period. Make sure that
tasks reflect the varying ages and abilities of family members.
"This Is A Test." Family members are more likely to comply with rules
about household spending if they understand why the rules are necessary. First, quiz
family members on how much it costs to purchase a variety of household goods,
such as groceries for the week, rent or mortgage payments, and the like. Items
for the quiz should come from your monthly family budget. After the quiz,
review the correct answers to the questions and ask family members where they
would like to focus their cost-cutting efforts.
The Most Bang for the Buck. Teach children how to get the best value for their
money. Choose an amount of money to deal with and ask all members to think
about how to spend the money. To decide, family members can read newspaper ads
or mail-order catalogs or go window shopping. Have family members keep a list
of items and prices. Then discuss what they wanted to buy with their money, how
they set priorities, how to make sensible decisions about spending, and how to
comparison shop and get the best value.
Family "Fun Raising." One role that can be rotated among family
members is the responsibility for "fun raising." This person brings
the family together to make definite plans for spending time together. Make a
list of "free fun" activities (such as going for a hike or playing
games) and "$ fun" activities (such as a ball game or movies). Choose
the activities that appeal most to everyone and list them on the "fun
raising" chart, with four columns: What we want to do, how much will it
cost, special needs or preparation, and when we will do it.
Written by Stephen F. Duncan, Professor, and Kristi McLane, Research Assistant,
School of Family Life, Brigham Young University.
Duncan, S. F. (1999). Building family strengths
(MT 9405). Bozeman, MT: Montana State University
Duncan, S. F. (1994). The activity book: Activities for building
family strengths (EB 128). Bozeman,
MT: Montana State University
F. (2000). Practices for building marriage and family strengths. In D. C.
Dollahite (Ed.), Strengthening our
families: An in-depth look at the proclamation on the family (pp. 295-303).
Salt Lake City: Deseret