By Jennifer Chung
Even though doing things yourself around the house may be faster, giving kids chores can teach them valuable life lessons. Helping out with everyday chores can help your child grow developmentally and give them a sense of belonging in your family. Here are a few ways to get started.
Emphasize how keeping items organized makes it easier to find things
When kids are as young as 18 months old, their toys can take over your living space. At this age kids want to be your helper, so take advantage of their desire to please you. A couple of times a day, perhaps before naptime and bath time, get on the floor with them and ask them to help you tidy up. Model putting books back on shelves and putting toys back in the toy box. Make a big deal about how proud you are of them helping. Clap your hands, say "YAY!! Good job!" You may even reward them with a sticker!
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When kids start school, teaching them more sophisticated tasks like making their bed, sweeping the floor and using a vacuum can be helpful. Allowing kids to do tasks with you like sorting laundry, folding and putting away can make the chore more fun. Age appropriate tasks are important for helping them develop and feel grown up. At this age, you can point out how much easier it is to find things they want to use if they are put away after each use.
Once kids are 9 or 10 they should be able to complete tasks on their own, like taking out the trash, unloading the dishwasher or setting and clearing the dinner table. Helping out with everyday tasks can help enforce their sense of belonging in the family.
Make up weekly chore charts for the family listing who is responsible for each task. Kids like to have a set routine so they know what to expect each day. Be consistent about getting things done at home before everyone gets to enjoy playtime after dinner. If you do not consistently enforce the routine, kids will balk at the idea of completing chores on a regular basis.
Kids develop a sense of belonging when they have assigned chores. Keeping their room clean instills a sense of pride in self. Preventing clutter from building up in their personal space also helps them keep clutter from their mind when it comes to doing homework. If their personal space is organized, they will do much better when it comes to completing their homework. Learning new skills via chores also helps kids feel like they are growing up and making a positive contribution.
Doing chores teaches the importance of completing a task
As kids hit elementary school; an allowance may provide proper incentive to get them more involved in helping out with chores around the house. Create a chores chart for each week and assign small tasks to everyone in the family. Put a check mark in each slot where chores were satisfactorily completed without reminders. Don't allow them to check off work that isn't completed well.
Chores teach kids responsibility and pride in their work
Chores shouldn't be used as a punishment for kids when they misbehave. Chores should be viewed as a contribution everyone in the family makes to help the household run smoothly. Incorporating a reward system to get kids involved may help boost their enthusiasm to complete their least favorite chores without complaining. For instance, if they complete all of their chores for the entire week, they get to participate in one of their favorite activities like going shopping with mom or playing a game of basketball with dad.
Kids learn to have pride in their work when they take part in doing family chores. It also gives them a chance to feel like they contribute to a common goal of keeping the house clean and functioning. They learn how to be responsible for completing assignments which will be helpful when they go to school.
Doing chores provides natural teachable moments about rewards and consequences
Television, video games and social media can rule teen's lives; they don't want to miss out on a thing. Help them manage their time by limiting access to these activities and provide a window of when to get their chores completed. When chores aren't done without a fight, deduct time from their "free time" until they comply with helping out around the house.
When chores aren't completed on time or at all, there needs to be pre-determined consequences. Each child is different so finding their "pain point" may vary from child to child. Taking away privileges, having an early bed time or losing dessert may be viable options in your home.
Assigning chores creates lifelong habits
Set a routine for when chores need to get done in your home. For instance, making beds before school each morning may be your standard. Be consistent by making your bed, then helping your child. Praise him for his effort. Keep in mind a 3-year-old's skill level will not match that of a 7 year old. Give pointers for getting wrinkles out of the blankets or putting decorative pillows and stuffed toys in their proper place.
When kids are young, it is necessary to go around and check to make sure their work is completed in a satisfactory manner. As they get older and are used to the cleaning routine, they can simply check each item off of their list. Using stickers on a chore list may help encourage kids to get the job done right the first time.
Create a fun teamwork atmosphere
Cleaning doesn't have to be drudgery. Put on music with a great dance beat. Dance with the kids while you're dusting and picking up toys. Playing music makes it seem like a party and it will become a routine they look forward to doing.Make a contest out of who can get their chores done first. If everyone is working together, some light hearted competition can make chores less boring. Have a fun activity planned for everyone once chores are completed.
Set a timer for 15 minutes. Using a timer lets everyone know they don't have to clean forever. Select tasks you know can be done in 15 minutes. If the chores aren't done in that amount of time, take a short break and work for another 15 minutes. Cleaning in short bursts make the task seem less daunting.
Set up a treasure hunt. Hide a $5 bill someplace. Whoever finds it gets to keep it. You can do this for each child. Put the money in unsuspecting places like under their bed, on the bottom of the furniture polish or taped to the vacuum handle. This also helps you set standards for keeping their room clean.
Rotate tasks between the kids. This not only keeps them from getting bored it also teaches younger children new skills. Kids will feel more grown up when they get promoted to a new set of responsibilities.
As parents, we want to raise active, healthy kids. One way we can do that is by encouraging them to play a vital role in our households. Teaching them to do chores then holding them accountable for doing a good job will help prepare them for other endeavors they will face once they start school. Make doing chores fun by modeling a positive attitude.
ABOUT JENNIFER CHUNGJennifer Chung is a parenting expert and co-founder of Kinsights: part parenting community, part online health record. Kinsights provides parents with a safe place to seek answers to their questions while also helping them track their child's health information. Organize your child's growth and developmental milestones, immunizations, medications, allergies, and more. Connect with Kinsights at Kinsights.com to learn more and sign up. You also can follow them on Facebook/kinsights and Twitter (@kinsights).
Distributed by MCT Information Services