I love the idea of teaching my children to do household chores. I have an image of us all happily working. The house is gleaming, we’re singing like the Von Trap family. The birds are chirping. The reality is a little different. When I suggest that the kids do chores, I’m normally met with groans and moans.
I’m getting dinner ready and I ask Galen to lay the table.
“Why me?” he complains.
It’s like a smack in the face.
When did my children get so lazy, so spoilt, so slovenly that they can’t lift a finger to help.
Am I busy raising a family of slobs?
But then I pause to think. I don’t make my children do enough chores around the house. I love the idea. We make a start but it’s just so difficult to maintain.
We let it slide until they are doing pretty much nothing.
When I hear him griping I realise that he has it too easy. I know right now that it’s more difficult for me to teach him to do jobs than it is to do them myself but I also know that I want my children to be happy to contribute.
I want my children to pull their weight. And that starts at home.
Benefits of Doing Chores
In fact, children doing chores can help your kids feel responsible. It builds up their self reliance. Contributing to chores can also teach kids to be empathic and responsive to other’s needs.
I know that if my children are used to doing chores they are more likely to cooperate when I ask them.
(See article from the Wall Street Journal.)
How do you get Kids to do Chores around the House?
- Build it into the routine. Small things like making your bed are easy to build into the routine. Make a system that works for you. At lunch time, Galen lays the table and Dante helps to clear it. Or Monday is Galen’s day to help and Tuesday is Dante’s.
- Make it fun. My kids love getting out soapy water to clean up the dirty toys or the easel.
- Make it age appropriate. Even toddlers can help if you give them an appropriate job.
- Build it up. I love this idea. Gradually they get to do more and more. To begin with, you have a toddler who helps to sort the laundry. The next level is being able to do it by yourself. When you have mastered that, you’ll be allowed the treat of loading the washing machine.
- Get involved. We love to do some house work on Saturday morning. It’s a team effort. They have tasks to do, but I’m there to help and join in.
- Let them choose. On our Saturday morning cleaning sessions, I pick a few jobs that need doing, write them on some cards. They pick a few cards and then can choose out of the cards that they have in their hands.
- Focus on household tasks. To get all those pro social benefits, the tasks should be about taking care of the everyone, rather than self care jobs like tidying your room. (They need to learn to do that too!)
- Play afterwards. After you’ve all been working hard, treat yourself to some relaxation time. Some running around in the garden. Or our favourite game of sardines.
- No tangible rewards. Research shows that giving money can actually lower children’s motivation. It turns an altruistic act into a business transaction. And we all know not to reward behaviour with food as it can lead to emotional eating later on in life.
- Don’t expect perfection. They are learning. They’ll get better.
- Be consistent. This where I fall down. I let things slip and slide. But it’s better to get back up and keep going that to forget about it altogether.
- In it together. Talk about “our” chores rather than “your’ chores.
- Thank them. A study found that if you thank your children for “being a helper” rather than just “helping”, it made them want to join in more. They wanted to be known as someone who helps.
- Be positive. Don’t tie chores to punishment and remember to be positive about doing your own chores.
Last weekend we got back into our routine of Saturday morning house work. Dante and I did 15 minutes of sweeping up leaves whilst Galen tidied up the tupperware draw.
Doing household chores can even be a great way to spend some one on one time together.
Dante enjoyed doing household chores so much that he asked if we could do it all again the next day.
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