Children are born with the natural ability to appreciate a task that needs to be accomplished and to see the steps to complete it with a smile on their little faces.
Not so much, right? Chores for children can sometimes become a chore in itself for parents. It’s a basic character builder, though, and a pursuit worthy of pursuing. So, if you’re like me and sometimes need to hear the same old thing in a new and inspirational way, here are a few ideas and principles.
- Age appropriate chores and expectations. Obviously a two year old is going to have different abilities than a 12 year old, but knowing that fine line between challenging our kids without frustrating them can go a long way in getting the best cooperation from them. A job worth doing is worth doing well–but, in the beginning it’s more important to encourage effort and initiative. Remember, what’s old-hat for you is brand new to them. Make sure you take some time to demonstrate the chore, do it with them, and then let them do it.
- Think outside the trash. There are so many chores that need to be completed–some are more mundane than others. It all needs to get finished, so along with the usual suspects of trash, table, and toilets, think about other things that need attention and delegate away! There is nothing wrong with helping your kids to discover chores they might actually enjoy! Yes, it’s a chore, but one child might enjoy cleaning the fish bowl, while another child might enjoy matching socks.
- Variety works wonders Two successful discoveries I have made on the Chore Journey: 1) Chores happen on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and we all celebrate NO CHORE DAYS. 2) If you don’t like your chores this week, fear not, you can spin the wheel anew, next week. The reason we do MWF chores is because sometimes the bathroom trash really ISN’T full and this mom needs to know that MWF I can give 100% to the encouragement and, ahem, follow-up that’s required and know that there’s a bit of a break from it the next day. The “chore wheel” is nothing more than a system of six chores for three kids–two chores for each kid, each week. Next week, you get two different chores. This combination cuts the moaning and grumbling by half!
- Just add music! Toys Away, is a great soundtrack to play or sing during chore time for little ones. But any music will do, no matter what age! Make it a dance party, sing show tunes, make it fun and forget that it’s a chore. Be silly and smile–that’s what they’ll remember.
There’s a soapbox somewhere in here about delayed gratification and anti-entitlement attitudes, but I think as parents we know what we hope for in the end, and that it’s the means to the end where we need more encouragement. Chores open up so many opportunities to connect with our kids–if we look for those opportunities.
“I like the way that you did your chores without complaining! Thank you!”
“That was a big job, and you finished it all! How does that make you feel?”
“I have so many chores to do today, and you have some, too. Let’s work together and get them done faster!”
One more thing I’ve learned over time is that chore systems can be helpful, but it’s okay to make adjustments that fit your family’s schedule or season and it’s okay to change the system completely! Be consistent about building responsibility, but change the tool if a new tool is called for. Start somewhere, and keep trying.
This post brought to you by Jenny Leggett, who has been known to actively resist emptying the dishwasher during the day, in order to “save” it for the kiddo’s after school chore time.