I love my kids, y’all. Each one. But one of my daughters and dishes? Well, it’s a struggle. Let me put it this way: The fall of man is prominent at The Sanders Home after dinner each evening. It all starts with, “Hey, have the dishes been cleaned?” In this post, we’ll look at one situation I continually face at home as an example. Then, we’ll look at 10 questions to ask when your child won’t accept responsibility. Hopefully, you’ll find the questions as enlightening as I have. Let’s do this.


The problem

Now, I shouldn’t even have to ask, right? She and I have talked about this over and over. Dishes—her responsibility. End of discussion. But when the question, “Have these dishes been cleaned?” comes up—I often get one of these three things: 


#1 The negative negotiator: She will ask to do them later in the night, wait until tomorrow, do some other task in the house—anything but the actual dishes. I could go on here. I’ll just move on.


#2 The passive procrastinator: Once she commits to standing at the kitchen sink, then it’s, “Wait, I HAVE to have music.” This turns in to, “Wait, I HAVE to find my headphones.” The mood and atmosphere have to be perfect in order to get clean dishes at my home! Then comes the hiding. She will hide in the bathroom or retreat to her room—somewhere—anywhere but the dreaded sink. She attempts to do anything she can to make today’s dirty dishes turn into tomorrow’s dirty dishes. 


#3 The crawling cleaner: Or how about this—she can look super busy in the act of “doing the dishes”. But she does what I call doing them “too well”. We have a dishwasher. The one job? Get the food off of the plate and toss the dish in the washer. Bam. Oh, but no! She all but gets the microscope out for pre-washing a single dish so much that a sink full of dishes is a half-day chore. 


How I’ve tried to fix the problem

Any of these three above examples is exhausting. Why can’t she just do the dishes, do them well and without me having to ask? I’ve tried negative reinforcement, positive reinforcement, discipline and punishment- I’ve tried it all. I’ve even tried having a conversation, “Hey, when would you propose the dishes be done?” You know, get buy-in from the person doing the chore—ownership—that whole thing. Hasn’t worked yet.


She’s been in the act of putting soap on a plate and I’ve walked over, patted her on the back and offered a “well done” on many evenings. I’ve even completed a cheer and a dance to her name. But to date, the dishes, although completely assigned to her, rarely get done in a reasonable time. 


This whole deal of responsibility acceptance bothered me enough to bring it up, in passing, to the biblical counselor at our church—because we’re cool like that. He didn’t say much in person. But, by the time I arrived home from church later that night, I had an email with the following questions. I found these questions remarkably convicting. 


So I give them to you. You’re welcome. Parent with these questions in mind and you’ll get closer to biblical fatherhood

10 questions to ask when your child won’t accept responsibility


#1 Is there anyone in her immediate family (Dad, Mom, Grandparents, Siblings, etc.) who exhibit some of the same conduct? It has been said that “what a child sees in moderation, they will do in excess.” Any seeds of such conduct in others?


#2 What type of discipline do you employ? She may deflect blame because she wants to avoid discipline, and the “blame game” has bled out into becoming a chronic habit.


#3 Has she herself been blamed for wrong conduct that was proven she didn’t do?


#4 Have you checked with any of her current or past teachers that also witnessed the conduct of your daughter? They may add valuable insights into solving the puzzle. If you can, I would suggest you get input and any insight from them.


#5 Can each set of grandparents provide any insight into this conduct?


#6 What is her personality like? Does she show signs of being a perfectionist or having a type “A” personality? Is she in “la la” land in the sense of taking nothing seriously and moves through life without a care in the world?


#7 In what areas of her life does she take and show responsibility?


#8 Does she appear to be fearful (fear of the dark, of being alone, of authority, etc.)?


#9 When she is disciplined, how does she respond?


#10 How much is the “need of praise” a part of your daughter’s life?


I find these questions, and ultimately, their answers, to be revealing—both about my child and myself. Yes, my daughter will need to learn responsibility on this task and many others. When she gets this down, it’ll apply to the rest of her life. I convinced, one day, she will not only do the dishes well and quick—she’ll do them without me asking. I’m also convinced this will take me doing a better job. I’ll answer these questions before I buy disposable plates.



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Ryan Sanders is the Director of Outreach at Manhood Journey. Ryan is married to Tonia and they have three children. He serves as Lay Pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. and is a diehard Redskins fan. Learn more about Ryan here and find him on Twitter @RyanSanders.