We are all in this together, and as a family we have never spent more consecutive months together in recent recollection. And, when it comes to chores, kids can help, too! Like every other family on the block, we have made adjustments, come to respect one another’s space, and learned that everyone needs to pitch in since we are living under the same roof.
Sure, it is a huge help when they take out the trash or feed the pets or clear the table, but honestly, the participation is more for them than it is for me. Now it is my turn to pass on the responsibilities to them, move these life skills into their world beyond their childhood home, and make them feel good about it in the process.
Teaching Life Lessons to Our Young
What we are teaching our children by including them in household contributions (a.k.a. chores) is independence from us, responsibility for themselves, and pride in being part of a collaborative family. These attributes will lead to a confident person who can take care of herself in the end.
For example, from a young age I required my boys to clear their plates after dinner. As they got older, I started adding to this simple task: clear the entire table, then eventually rinse your plate…I am still working on making the plate to the dishwasher, but you get the idea. Not only do they automatically clear the table at home but I am fairly certain they do the same when a guest at someone else’s table. You always want a return invitation, right?
As tempting as it may be, do not follow your children or correct them as they complete their duties. Let them feel good about what they are accomplishing as they learn proficiency and time-management skills. They will be proud…and you will, too.
Make it Fun Where You Can
The word chore has a negative connotation. It is synonymous with work which automatically sounds difficult or strenuous. For certain, chores need to be done but it does not need to be laborious.
So how can we make chores fun, or at least present them with a softer approach?
Try to make it an amusing competition: who can make their bed (or strip the sheets on laundry day) the fastest? Who can make their bed the neatest? Who can clean up the most toys from the floor? If the chore includes some giggles and laughter, the job will be done before anyone realizes it was a chore!
Perhaps you have a child who enjoys being in the kitchen or outside in the yard. Pick a fun task for them to accomplish in the space where they are most comfortable. Your future chef may enjoy unpacking the groceries and putting them away, making sandwiches for his siblings, or sorting the silverware from the dishwasher. The gardener in your child may enjoy watering the flowers, engaging in light weeding, or giving the dog a bath, to extend time in her favorite space.
Where there is a will, there is a way to make their tasks more enjoyable. Perhaps complete the chore side-by-side with your child. The one-on-one time could be an opportunity to chat or enjoy the time in silence as you work. Additionally, your child will learn confidence with both the skill and your trust so he may complete this one alone next time.
Choose Age Appropriate Chores
Chances are a 4-year old will not be able to proficiently complete the same chores as an 8-year old. In order to eliminate everyone’s frustration, set them up to succeed by designating age appropriate jobs. Younger children can be taught to make their beds, clean up their rooms/toys, feed the pets, sort their laundry, water plants, and set the table, to name a few.
As they get older, your kids can walk the dogs and clean up after them, begin assisting in the laundry room, put away folded laundry, wipe down the bathroom sink, and become comfortable in the kitchen by making a simple meal or baking cookies (can be supervised).
Do not underestimate your children’s abilities but do build on the early tasks (sorting laundry to washing the laundry). Consider having older siblings demonstrate to the younger ones how a certain task should be completed. Everyone will thrive from this family alliance.
Rotate the Chores: Fun Versus Dull
Let’s be honest; some chores are more fun than others, and some chores occur more often than others. Still, they all need to be done, so how do we break up the tedium?
When I was growing up, my sister and I did the dishes side-by-side every night (after we cleared the table). For a while, we rotated who washed and who dried but eventually we determined she had an affinity for washing while I much preferred drying. Sure, the dirty dishes occurred every night but we figured out our own system for making the monotony go away and became more efficient at this regular chore. Perhaps your children can swap tasks or days or times for completing their own assignments thus making it more pleasant for all involved.
However, if they cannot agree on who will take out the trash or clean up after the dog, try a Chore Chart so each sibling has a turn at their least favorite job. By displaying the chart, each child will see the chores are dividing equally according to age and types of chores, fun vs. dull.
Start instilling these solid family values and life lessons with your children now, or maybe your existing system simply needs a reboot. It is never too late – or too early – to start your children sharing in the responsibilities around your home.