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Keeping Score with Parenting is a Losing Game

Today’s child is more likely to grow up in a family where both parents work full time to make ends meet. Working parents report feeling overwhelmed and stressed, and complain about feeling unable to give their children, partners or friends enough time. The majority of these families have to do it all and that means a balancing act requiring long hours and little sleep.

In the majority of surveys women are found to take on most of the household chores and this leaves couples stressed, with one partner feeling as though the other doesn’t take on their fair share of the work. Keeping score or reminding your partner of how little they do compared to you is a last resort and is part of an all too common scenario. Although this may work once or twice, it is ineffective at building team work, family unity and intimacy with your partner.

Score keeping is harmful to children too because they see and mimic what their parents say. Kids will begin believing one parent is better than the other or that one parent has more power than the other. Teaching your child about respect is impossible if you disrespect your partner with words that shame them because they aren’t pulling their fair share.

Five reasons not to keep score and what to do instead:

  1. You miss out on the meaningful things because you’re too busy keeping score over the routine small tasks that need to be done. Kids are kids for a short while. Don’t get caught up in who does what. Maybe dad is a messy cook, and you always have to clean but what’s most important is that he does cook and your family eats well.

  2. When you keep score you miss opportunities for working together and teaching family teamwork. Dads and moms are their child’s first teacher. When parents include their children in the daily tasks it helps the family work like a team. Your children are not your guests; they are part of your family. Kids who feel like part of the team are emotionally healthier than children who feel unengaged with family.

  3. Parenting is a process, not a game for you to win. Finding balance is a matter of looking at the process of childrearing. Sometimes one parent has more responsibility in child care but that changes with time and a child’s age. Sports, after school activities, and driving lessons are opportunities for parents to balance time so no one parent feels overwhelmed.

  4. You can’t undo damaging words and behaviors from scorekeeping. Marriage conflict and contention are both predictors of divorce. Kids who grow up in households where there are frequent arguments and discord between their parents score higher on anxiety, depression and lower academic achievement. Kids can’t think if they’re anxious about mom and dad fighting. Talk to your middle school and older children about the tasks for which they are responsible. When kids know they are responsible for washing their laundry, packing their lunches, and preparing for their next day’s homework, parents aren’t as overwhelmed.

  5. Keeping score turns your relationship into one in which you feel like the other’s parent, which is not at all romantic. Your partner is the person with whom you chose to parent and share your life together. Keep your “date nights” firm. Your time to be a couple is much more important than having a clean kitchen, a completed work report, or clean laundry. Don’t get so focused on the score that you forget what matters most.

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