Monday, May 13, 2013

Getting Children Actively Engaged in Household Responsibilities

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If you lived on a Western farm in the early 1900s, your child would be in charge of gathering the eggs at 18 months old. Can you imagine trusting your 18 month old to that task! In order to survive, literally, the family all had to pitch in to help out.

If a child in the early 1900s could help around the farm, surely our children today can help around the house. Why would we want our children to help around the house? For one, it helps teach them how to do these tasks so when they move out, they will be able to do these things, too. Another reason is that it is good for people to work--no matter how old they are. Work teaches you a lot and keeps you grounded to real life. 

And another reason is to help ease the burden on one person (or just the parents). Children can and should help keep the function of the house moving smoothly. As your children get older, life gets busier. It gets harder to stay on top of all of those chores. You need help. 

So how do you get your child involved in chores around the house? How do you get them actively engaged in the household responsibilities? There is no shortage of advice out there on this topic. Many, many books have been written on this. My favorite book that I have read that addresses this at all is The Parenting Breakthrough by Merilee Boyack. See Book Review: The Parenting Breakthrough: http://www.babywisemom.com/2010/04/book-review-parenting-breakthrough.html.

Because of the books that abound on this topic, my guess is people find it hard to establish this in their home. One day at the store last summer, Brayden told me we needed more bathroom cleaner. We sat looking at the cleaners, deciding what to get, when a woman who had teenage boys approached me. "Does he really clean?!?" she asked me. I was a bit startled by the question and replied, "yes." She was amazed that he knew the state of our cleaning supplies. She told me she wished she could get her sons to help clean at home.

Let me assure you, if doing chores is a normal part of life at your house, your child will participate.  That doesn't mean every child is easy to keep going--just like some are resistant to naps or independent play, some will be resistant to cleaning time. Kaitlyn (6) has been a hard one to get motivated in the cleaning department, but lots of encouragement and perseverance has brought her to a place where she is usually quite happy to help out. She used to hide with a book when it came time for cleaning time (even at preschool!), and now she is a great helper, including at school.

There are a lot of ways to get kids helping. Here is how it looks at our house. 

STAY CONSISTENT
Just like sleep and independent play, a key to success with chores is to stay consistent. Make it part of daily life. It is as normal as eating, sleeping, and breathing. we definitely have our times when we "fall off the wagon" so to speak. Things get busy, our routine changes, etc. These times will likely come, and when they do, just get back up and work toward consistency again.

START WHEN YOUNG 
If an 18 month old can gather eggs for food, an 18 month old can certainly help clean up the mess she just made. Have your child help as she is able. See Creating a "Good Helper".

HAVE ROUTINE
This goes along with your consistency  You need to have a routine. Have a time of day that chores happen--a point when your child will know "time for chores." See Working Chores Into Your Day

HELP WITH MY DAILY CHORE
It is easy to think, yes, I will have my kids help with chores. It is often pretty easy to have them help clean up after themselves. The next step is to have them help you with your chores. You will find your child is very interested in doing this if she has seen you do chores. Children want to emulate their parents, so if they see  you cleaning, they will want to join you from a young age. 

You have to expect that the chore they help with will not be as efficient as when you do it. Remember your goals here; it is okay if that end table isn't perfectly dusted after your 3 year old is done with it. The point is not perfection, the point is teaching skills and habits.

A tricky thing for me with this has been as Brayden went to all day school, how do I have him contribute without me having to wait for him to be home from school to do the chore. The best for us is to figure out some portion he can do on his own before school starts. So on laundry day, he and I sort laundry in the morning, Kaitlyn folds socks when she gets home from school, and McKennna helps me throughout the day.

See these posts for more on your goals of cleaning:

EVERYONE CLEANS
In the context of having more than one child, it is easy for you to have the children clean up their own mess and what they got out. I think this gets messy very quickly. What if both children played with something? What if one child got the toys out and another then played with it? What if they both played, but it was 70 percent by one and 30 percent by the other?

We have always done "everyone cleans" at our house. Even if the person didn't ever touch the toy, he might end up being the only one to clean it up. We all help clean. This is a reality of life. Parents don't get to say "I didn't play with that! I am not cleaning it up!" 

Each evening, we pick up the floor where the kids primarily play. We just all pitch in and help and it goes by quickly.

HAVE A CHORE WHEEL
I love my chore wheel. I put things on there that typically need to be done around dinner time. After we eat, we each do our chore and get things put back together on the main floor. It is fun to all be working together. 

MIX THINGS UP
On the chore wheel, I need to change up the exact chores on there after a couple of rotations. This keeps things fresh and interesting.

You might also need to mix up how you present chores. You can draw from a jar (Chore Jar), do Chore Cards, do chore charts (see Pinteresting Fridays: Chore Charts)... You want to keep work fun (see Making Work Fun).

OFFER EXTRA CHORES FOR BONUS
Once your children are old enough to want "things," you can offer extra chores for money. My kids have been about 5 when this interest in money happened so far. I pull from my deep cleaning list and they can do chores for money. We decide how much a chore is worth before they start. I have a rule that regular chores need to be done before they can do money chores, otherwise I think there is a good chance regular chores would be skipped and money chores would be focused on. 

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6 comments:

Jessie said...

This post is so timely! My daughter is 18 months and I'm trying to decide what she is actually capable of as far as chores go. I know I wouldn't be inclined to have her help with eggs! Do you have any resources you can recommend so I know when something is above her understanding, or she's trying to just get out of it? :) She's really good about picking up and helping with laundry (except folding!)but that's about it for now.

Valerie Plowman said...

Yes, see this list: http://www.babywisemom.com/2010/04/our-family-plan.html

And I know about the eggs! I don't think I could either.

Julie Meyers said...

Great ideas. Our first/only daughter is only 7 months old, but we've already been thinking about how we'd like to get our kiddos involved in household responsibilities. I think it's great to have expectations - especially a time of day designated for chore time. Thanks for that suggestion. Growing up, I don't recall having clear expectations regarding chores. I would sometimes get in trouble for failure to do things that were expected of me, but these expectations were not communicated well. Now I understand that I really craved those boundaries and rewards. I have wonderful parents and they did a great job! I'm sure I'll make all kinds of mistakes they didn't make :) But this is one thing I'll do differently with my kids.

Janelle said...

This came at a great time for me! My son just turned 5 and is expressing an interest in money. We already have regular chores so I've been trying to figure out what to pay him for. Looks like I'll have to bust out my deep cleaning list for him! Thanks for the suggestions!

Valerie Plowman said...

Julie, I think that is a great perspective--a friend commented in church on Sunday that she wants to be a better mom than hers was and hopes her girls will be better moms than she is.

Valerie Plowman said...

You are welcome Janelle! It is nice because deep cleaning is harder for me to do these days, and the kids want to earn money, so it is a win/win.

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