A few hundred years ago the British used to send boys as young as four up chimneys to clean them out. It wasn’t until the late 1700s that it was realised that, ampoule for many reasons, this wasn’t how a civilised society should treat its children.
Still, when you see today’s kids lounging on the sofa watching Fireman Sam, you realise that some chores are essential. In his book Father’s First Steps: 25 Things Every Dad Should Know James Sears says it’s all about basic life skills – your kids are learning that life requires work. And, let’s be honest, if they nail the task that’s one less thing for you to do.
Resistance is futile
The important first step is not to compromise. Make it clear that completing chores is essential if they want to return to playing, or getting more screen time. Initially the ensuing arguments and excuses will probably make you think it’s easier just to do it yourself, but remember, the end game is all about teaching them responsibility. Don’t cave in. Tell them “resistance is futile”. Then spend ten minutes explaining what the words ‘resistance’ and ‘futile’ mean.
The Center for Parenting Education in the US says kids will resist doing chores for three reasons. They are:
• lacking in judgment. Most young children have no idea how much work is involved with the running of a household.
• impulsive.They want what they want when they want it. Working at activities that are not immediately gratifying to them is not inherently on their agenda.
• self-absorbed and concerned mainly about themselves and their own needs. They do not naturally consider the needs and expectations of others.
The right chores will help them to be aware of others’ perspectives and help them to develop mature judgements.
That doesn’t mean they should be working all the time. They still need time to play, but a sense of balance is important.
The right task
The key is to ensure those tasks are age appropriate, especially if your kids get easily frustrated. like my six year old son. They can start as early as two by picking up toys and making their bed. Children learn by example, so show them how to pulls the sheets up one at a time and tuck in the edges – or however you want the job done.
Here are some ways to get them to help;
1. Put on their favourite music while they work. It seems to work, assuming they like music. It helps make everything fun and happy. It’s especially good if you have non-cooperative kids.
2. Make them responsible for cleaning their room and ensure they know where everything belongs with visual clues in their storage containers/shelves/toy boxes. It won’t take long for them to learn everything has home.
3. Get help with dinner by choosing an age appropriate activity like setting the table, helping with stirring and putting things into the sink or dishwasher after use. It also helps to show them what a healthy and balanced dinner looks like and develop good manners.
4. Work it into the weekly routine. I like Sunday afternoon just before dinner as a time when the whole family does chores, bringing a little happy family teamwork into the mix. Or you could timetable chores into a star chart: list all the chores that need to be done by day, allocate a child’s name to the activity (be sure to rotate the names so they don’t get bored doing the same thing) and place a star to the activity once it’s completed.
Having children help around the house is a learning process for everyone. Hopefully they’ll feel the satisfaction of a job well done, but don’t be surprised if that doesn’t happen straight away. Don’t use this as an excuse to give in – this is one example of an activity where the focus is not to make your child happy, but to help teach responsibility and develop internal motivation.