Teaching kids chores

Recently I overheard a conversation between two women who have very different ideas on whether children should do household chores.

The first mum said, “It gets them to be responsible and sets up good habits for later in life. They need to learn to do things around the house and to know I’m not there to be their slave.”

The second mum said, “I grew up feeling like I was my parents’ servant because I had so many household jobs to do. I would rather my kids spent their time enjoying their childhood and keeping on top of homework.”

People will always have varying opinions about whether children should do jobs around the house and if so, what they should tackle.

oost agree they need to have some responsibilities, even if it’s just tidying up after themselves.

Chores are important:

  • They’re a crucial part of contributing to family life.

  • It teaches children to be responsible and do things for themselves.

  • It helps them to feel competent and valued.

  • It lets them see that their actions can benefit others.

  • It teaches them skills they will need in life.

What should they do?

Their age and how capable they are of completing various tasks need to be considered. For example, you wouldn’t expect a toddler to do the laundry, but teenagers should be able to take on more than basic jobs such as setting the table and making their bed.

Thing to consider:

  • Are they physically able to do the task? Putting away the groceries isn’t a good idea for a four-year-old who can’t lift heavy packets or reach all of the kitchen cupboards.

  • Can they do the job safely? Unloading the cutlery from the dishwasher may not be the best job for a youngster who’s not adept at handling sharp knives.

  • Can the task be broken down into manageable jobs? Your five-year-old may not be able to load and programme the washing machine, but they can take dirty washing to the laundry, fold it and put it away when it’s clean.

  • Are your expectations reasonable? Asking your six-year-old to whip up a whole meal might be going too far, but they may be able to help with part of it, such as washing vegetables.

While little kids often enjoy the challenge of tackling a new task and trying new chores as it helps to make them feel grown-up and useful, the novelty can wear off after a while. In fact, motivating kids of all ages can require some major effort on your behalf.

Inspire them:

  • Have a star chart – this works best with younger kids. When they’ve earned a certain number of stars for doing tasks they can redeem them for a treat.

  • Pay them pocket money. Some parents don’t agree with this – they want their children to learn that some things in life, such as cleaning up after yourself, simply have to be done – adults don’t get paid to do it, so why should kids? But others don’t want to hand out spending money to their children without them doing something to earn it. on the other hand, some parents feel that giving kids pocket money from a young age helps them learn how to handle money.

  • Find fun ways of doing things. Put music on to liven things up and sing along to it while mopping floors. Get youngsters to dust furniture using an old sock over their hand like a puppet and encourage them to imagine it’s a dust monster sucking up the tiny particles.

  • When they’re old enough, explain that there are things in life that have to be done whether they like it or not and they have to learn to get these things done and out of the way so they can then do the things they want to do.

What you shouldn’t do:

  • Reward them for every single little thing they do. They’ll develop the mentality that it’s only worth doing tasks if they get something in return.

  • ooan constantly about having to do housework yourself. They’ll pick up that it’s something to be dreaded and, like you, make a big deal of it. Lead by example and show them it’s something you simply need to get on with.

  • Keep redoing tasks they’ve tackled if they’re not done to your liking. This undermines their efforts and can make them feel useless. If they haven’t done a job properly, by all means point it out and explain how they could do it better, but bear in mind their capabilities and don’t make them feel they’ve wasted their time altogether. Encourage them to do it again with your assistance and if you really can’t live with the work they’ve done, redo it subtly when they’re not around.

Fruits of labourGive your children jobs to do that will help others. They will get a lot of satisfaction out of doing chores that have very visible results, such as feeding and caring for the family pets or clearing up leaves on the footpath or driveway so people don’t slip on them.

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