Teaching kids to play an active role in household assignments
By Christi Blevin
The battle over chores is a tale as old as unmade beds, unwashed dishes, and dust. It is rumored there are cave paintings and Egyptian hieroglyphs depicting frustrated parents and crying children arguing over chores. Who knows how these rumors get started? The point is that trying to get your child to cheerfully help out around the house is not a modern invention. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to get your kids to play an active role in chores while limiting the amount of time they will later spend on a therapist’s couch discussing childhood trauma brought on by said chores.
What Are the Experts Saying?
The general consensus is that chores should be done because children want to contribute to the greater good of the family. That’s quite different from doing something for a reward other than praise. It’s also the polar opposite of doing chores as a punishment.
Never Too Young to Help
Anyone who has ever heard a toddler say, “Me do it,” understands that young children want to help. If you are currently parenting a very young child, don’t shun offers of help. Yes, it is usually faster to do it yourself, but allow your little ones to pitch in. Find age-appropriate tasks. If you’re cleaning the floors, you can have a toddler or preschooler dust the baseboards. Demonstrate teamwork.
Set Realistic Expectations
Show children how to do a chore properly, but have realistic expectations. If your five-year-old has made their own bed, don’t expect to be able to bounce a quarter off the sheets. Also, don’t go in and remake the bed “the right way” if your child has done their best.
Think about what is most important to you and assign chores accordingly. A young child might wash the car, but there will be streaks. If you are not okay with driving a streaky car, you should wash it yourself or have it professionally detailed. An older child might do some lawn work, but don’t expect your lawn to be on par with the lawn of your neighbor, who employs a gardener three days a week.
What About Chore Charts?
Some families may have great success with chore charts. For others, the same charts result in an attitude of doing the bare minimum. “Oh, you need help carrying in the groceries? Sorry, that’s not on my chore chart, but I am available to vacuum next Tuesday.”
Make It Fun and Lead by Example
Most adults do not enjoy all aspects of cleaning, organizing, and general home upkeep. A completely fabricated statistic indicates that 99.99% of children do not naturally love chores. Interestingly, that same made-up percentage does enjoy television, computer games, and breaking off the ends of plastic hangers to create their own pair of sloth hands. While life is not one giant sloth hand-making party, chores should not be made to feel like a slow walk through a torture chamber.
Set an example by making chore time more fun with the following ideas:
Allow a child to make some decisions by asking things like, “Would you rather help me by setting the table or by emptying the trash cans?”
Use a timer and see how many toys each person can pick up in five minutes.
Turn on some music and create an upbeat atmosphere while you fold laundry or clean bathrooms together.
When chore time is over, play a favorite board game or take a walk outside.
Be sure your child knows how much you appreciate their effort and contribution to the family.