Inside: Val is a master at teaching her kids to do chores then watching them own it. I’m so happy to have here to share her system with us!
“If you were an 18-month-old living on the farm in 1914, one of your daily jobs would be to collect the eggs each morning” our guide explained.
I’m sorry–what? You are living on the western frontier in the early 1900’s, which means most of what you eat is what you produce yourself, and you trust an 18-month-old with a critical food source?
And not just a food source, but a breakable food source?…
I have always been an advocate for chores and have worked hard to teach my children responsibility.
But it was at that moment I realized that even with my very intentional work to do chores, I had clearly been underestimating the abilities of a child.
“I had not been trusting the children with as much as a child could handle.”
Maybe that is not a bad thing. Life is different than it was 100 years ago and there is no reason we need to do things the exact same now. I think what it does mean, however, is that children are capable of participating in helping the family home run smoothly.
If a family could trust a young toddler with life, we can trust one with dust. Here are some tips to get your young children participating in chores.
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Start With a Helper
You have probably figured this out, but doing chores with your child is infinitely more difficult than just doing it yourself. The bad news with teaching chores, however, is that you must allow your child to “help” you before you can really expect the child to do the chore.
Let me assure you, it is so worth the effort it will take you to teach chores. My children are now 11, 9, 7, and 3. Each person brings along laundry, dishes, and personal messes they leave behind them. If you try to take on the cleaning for your entire family forever, you will probably have a breakdown at some point.
“You need the whole family to contribute to the solution, not just the problem.”
My older two children currently do all dishes in our home. Just the two of them. Just try to imagine your life without dishes each day. I promise, teaching chores is worth your efforts. So let them help you.
Children love to copy their parents. If you give your toddler a rag and have her come along with you while you dust, she will be thrilled. She will want to do chores. Have this be your first step on your journey toward having chores at your house.
Move on to Teaching
- You need to explain the process of the chore to your child.
- Have your child watch you.
- Verbally explain your process as you do the chore.
- Then have your child try it out.
Be encouraging of those early tries. Praise what is done correctly. Gently correct what was not done correctly. Start corrections with a positive, then move on to the thing to fix. “I love how you made sure to dust that whole table. Now make sure you wipe a little harder to get those finger prints off.“
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Accept Less Than Perfection
The cleaning quality won’t be anywhere near as good as it is when you do it. It just won’t. Accept that. With your young children, you can go back and fix it later and the child won’t notice. Wait until bedtime or something, though, so the child doesn’t see you fixing it.If you don’t have to fix it, don’t. Sometimes you do need to fix it. Take vacuuming.
If you let your child vacuum week after week with no correction, you will soon find you have dust mites building up in your carpet. So you might let the child vacuum one week, then the next week say it is your turn to vacuum that area and your child can vacuum this other area. Even with my seven year old, I do her vacuuming for her once a month so I can be sure the room is vacuumed really thoroughly from time to time.
Again, don’t be afraid to continue to teach and correct. Doing chores is a learning process. “I love how shiny this counter got. I noticed you missed the part behind the faucet; you want to make sure you wipe that whole counter each time.”
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“People don’t like to be micromanaged, not even little people.”
I still inspect after a job is done, however. I inspect even with my oldest child still. I slowly raise my standards as they get older. I let them know that now that they are older, we are going to work on xyz about that cleaning job. Keep the correcting positive and focus on teaching.
Require the Work
Your child will start out enthusiastic. Yay for being just like mom! At some point, however, your child will realize that it is work, and work just isn’t fun for a lot of people. Mark Twain pointed this out in his book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
“Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”
Once the chores become a chore, the child will start to fall out of love for the activity. Require it anyway. You can help make the work less cumbersome. Chores don’t have to be dull and boring to be chores. Crank up the music. Work all at the same time; there is something pleasing to the soul to work as a family unit.
Point out how nice it feels to have things cleaned up once done. Commiserate with your child, “I know chores aren’t always fun, but it is so nice to have things cleaned up when we are done.” (See my post on Making Work Fun for more on the topic.)
Incorporate Chores Into Routine
A great way to have chores be done is to have routine attached to them. Have a time of day chores are done. Require chores be finished before certain privileges.
Make chore completion just a part of each day, just like brushing teeth or getting dressed. It becomes a natural part of life and your child will inquire, “What do I need to do?” rather than “Do I need to do something?”
You might not be ready to trust your young toddler with eggs, but you can certainly trust that cutie with something.
Follow this process to teach your child to do chores and, with time, you will have some great helpers around the house!
Valerie has four children and blogs at www.BabyWiseMom.com.
- Involving kids in household tasks has a positive impact later in life
- Chores are associated with self-competence, self-efficacy, and prosocial behavior
- Longitudinal Harvard study shows chores are bigger predictor of good mental health as an adult (moreso than social class, family problems, and other factors)