Kids and Chores- "How Can I Help?"
This is an area in which I think many parents struggle. I myself have tried all sorts of different schedules and charts and have been frustrated with ideas that didn't work and programs we couldn't stick to. Everything just seemed like more work and stress for me, and the kids were only learning "mom isn't going to make us stick to this."
In general, my kids are pretty good about picking up after themselves. It has become fairly routine and it is easy enough for them to accomplish in a home that doesn't have a lot of stuff and everything has a place. But what about chores? Extra responsibilities around the home? The solution isn't always easy.
It is my belief that chores shouldn't be tied to rewards or monetary compensation. Chores should be completed because each child is a contributing member of the family. The day to day running of the household is something a family should share. Completing chores simply because they have to be done is an inescapable aspect of life! The sooner children understand that no one owes them anything because they helped out, the better. I think most importantly though, the understanding that not everything in life comes with instant gratification, other than the satisfaction of a job well done, is an important life lesson. I want my children to work hard for the sake of working hard. I want self motivated, hard working, thoughtful kids. I want the kind of kids who look around and see things that need to be done and they just do them. Without being asked!
How can this be accomplished?
Here are a few general tips to set a foundation for sharing the workload around the home.
Set a good example.
My children mostly think I am ridiculous for wanting things so neat, tidy, and organized all the time. But I know differently. I know they are learning by example and always, always, observing. How can children possibly be expected to put away their belongings when mom and dad aren't? Hypocrisy at its finest and children see that right away. My kids might not always willingly put these practices into effect now, but I know through their observations and comments over the years that they get it. And appreciate it. And yours will too. As they get older, they will understand the importance of organization for running a happy and efficient home.They will put what they have learned and observed into practice even when it's not the easiest thing to do.
Consistency is a big, important thing. Expecting children to only do things some of the time is confusing for them and makes life more difficult in the long run. It takes a tremendous amount of effort on your part at first to be consistent, but it is worth it.
Keep it simple.
What works for one family might not work for another, but I do know, as with organization itself, it has got to be simple to be effective and maintainable.
Keep the tasks age appropriate with age appropriate expectations.
My biggest struggle has always been- I want it done now. I want it done "right" and I want it done quickly! But this was just setting us all up for failure! Children must learn to complete the tasks and it will take many, many attempts for them to compete them efficiently and to your satisfaction. But however brutal it is, they must be given the time and space to learn. Short term, this may be more work for you. Long term- think "I can go to the gym for an hour and come home to a cleaner house!" You WILL get there, I promise.
There are many lists online you can find to help you come up with age appropriate tasks. Try to think beyond the basics...packing their own lunches, cleaning baseboards, dusting ceiling fans, weeding, and cleaning their own bathrooms. I always introduce a new task by giving a thorough demonstration of how each step should be completed and where the tools for the job are kept.
Finding a Plan that Works for You
So how to get started on those chores? After fumbling through years of daily chore charts, schedules, jobs on sticks, etc. the best solution actually came from my boyfriend. It's brilliant, and I give him full credit! If you knew him, you would probably find this funny as tidiness is not his forte...but he has really got a good, dare I say, perfect solution here. It's simple, effective and easy to be consistent with. It even works when the kids are at friends' houses! All it takes is teaching your kids to ask "how can I help?" Teach them WHEN to say it and teach them to say it often. When they say it, give them a chore that will help make the day go a little more smoothly. If they don't say it at a time you need them to, prompt them. You can have a list of chores to refer to if needed in the beginning- laundry, dishes, baseboards, bathrooms, vacuuming, anything that needs doing! And sometimes when they ask, you might not need anything done. But be sure to let them know that you truly appreciate their offer.
Why is this so effective? For me, I don't do chores on a schedule. I do them as needed. Every day our schedule is different so this works perfectly. It also eliminates the need for all the tracking and remembering and reminding. Which let's face it- that is more stress for you. It also allows children to feel important and that their contributions make a difference. Amazingly, it tends to have a domino effect as well- they learn that asking this question makes you happier which is better for everyone's happiness. And WOW, did it impress me when, of her own volition, my boyfriend's daughter asked me what she could do to help me one day. Her dad wasn't even around! It truly made my day and made me realize how wonderfully perfect those simple words were.
So in addition to general picking up after themselves, we now how an effective, easy way that gets all the kids contributing more around the house. And perhaps most importantly to me, puts them on the path to becoming hard working individuals who see things that need to be done, and do them. Because they need to be done. Simple as that.
This summer we will have more free time on our hands, so in an effort to work on fighting the ever present electronic device battle, I'm going to try something different this year. My children are 12, 10, and almost 8 and are pretty independent. So while I am sleeping in, exercising, or getting some work accomplished, my kids will each have a checklist to complete before they power up each day. I'm ready to be consistent which is a MUST for this to work.
It's going to look something like this-
Before you use any electronic device:
Eat Breakfast/put dishes in dishwasher
Write in journal (I'm thinking of having a writing prompt each day)
Learning activity (my two oldest are going to do an activity on Brilliant.org and my youngest is going to do a reading lesson with me)
Ask mom if there is anything you can do to help.
I'm also going to incorporate daily exercise into a group activity- hike, swim, playground, etc. each afternoon.
So I will let you know how that goes!
Before I close, I do want to mention that I believe in giving children an allowance, I just don't tie it directly to specific chores. I think they should be given an allowance as a contributing member of the family. Learning how to manage, donate, save, and invest is an important part of growing up.
I would love your feedback. What works in your home? Are you going to give the "how can I help?' method a try?
Welcome to summer!