It is tempting for busy parents to do all the household chores themselves, thinking it is quicker, easier and that at least the task will get done “properly”. But when parents take this attitude, they deprive their kids of opportunities to learn cooperation, responsibility and other important life skills such keeping commitments, planning ahead, following through, organizing their time, and juggling several tasks at a time.
As well, kids need to know they are important and contributing members of their families. If they don’t find this “belonging” in positive ways, they may try to find it in not-so-positive ways. Helping around the house helps to make children feel useful and teaches appreciation for the work that needs to be done and for those who do it.
The following are some suggestions on how to get kids involved with household chores while helping to build their inner sense of capability and significance:
Involve children in a brainstorming session to create a list of jobs that need to be done to help the family. This helps to motivate children as they are generally more accountable and more willing to participate in something that they have helped create.
Make sure jobs are appropriate for your child’s age and developmental level. This will vary from child to child and there are no hard and fast rules. Naturally, young children will require much more supervision than older children. But even preschoolers as young as two or three can begin completing tasks such picking up and putting away their toys, setting the table for meals (perhaps not correctly at first), and clearing their own place after the meal. As children grow older and show readiness, they can help with or independently complete more complex household tasks such as vacuuming, laundry, meal preparation and yard work.
It is important to take time for training and to work with children until they learn how to do the job. When they feel ready to do the job alone, let them know you are available if they need help. Step back and don’t jump in unless asked. If there are problems, work them out without criticizing at the moment. Make a practice of noticing the contribution instead of the quality of work done.
Some families create a chore time when everyone works together. This helps to create the sense of a “team approach”. It’s fun to follow chore time with a family activity such as a game or special outing.
In “real life” there are times when all parents need some uninterrupted time when they can zip through household tasks. But do consider involving your children more in the business of running your household. The long term rewards will benefit you both.