Have you ever had roommates that never clean up after themselves, forget to do their dishes, have a disgusting room and never offer to help with the bathrooms or the floors? I have! I have had a few. And the common denominator in all of their situations; their parents never made them do chores as kids. What about a husband or wife that was like that when you first started living together? My husbands mother has always done the laundry for the family, and none of them really clean up that often. And even when Z does help around the house; my expectation of clean is not quite the same as his. So when Z and I started sharing a roof; it was quite the uphill battle for a while – and sometimes it still is.
When my siblings and I were kids, we had certain jobs that belonged to each of us. From bathrooms and dishes to vacuuming and dusting. I began doing my own laundry as soon as I could reach the buttons. We HAD to have the kitchen cleaned up, and our lunchbags unpacked every day before my mom was home from work. And on Friday’s we had to have the place vacuumed and spotless. And if we didn’t, we spent Saturday cleaning as a whole family. I probably cursed her a lot at the time, but I am forever thankful for it now. I appreciate a clean space and most importantly I know how to clean and take care of myself.
Why You Should Encourage Chores:
Much like our human need/want for love & affection, safety and health; we also need to be needed. “Helping others not only promotes higher self-esteem, but increases academic and social skills while decreasing the risk for depression and anxiety disorders.” (1)
Chores are one of the best ways to build a feeling of competence and help a child understand what needs to be done to run a household. Chores also aid in establishing helpful habits and good attitudes about work, and teach real-world skills and valuable lessons about life, easing the transition into adulthood. (2).
Common Mistakes by Parents:
Lets learn from other parents mistakes! First and foremost is finding the right time to begin. Many parents wait too long and then spring it on them out of no where. You need to slowly begin before setting high expectations. Many parents tend to wait because they don’t think their kids are ready yet. My daughter is 14 months old and when we change her diaper or wipe her face with a napkin, she throws it in the garbage. And when we play with her basket of toys upstairs, I do most of the tidying up but always encourage her to help by paying attention, and by putting a few things away for me. Sometimes she will spill her milk, and walk to the diaper bag, grab a whipe and clean up her mess. Granted it isn’t done properly – but at least she gets it, and is trying. It’s amazing how much she learns just from watching me clean. My girlfriend got her a kids sized mop, broom and swiffer. R loves it! She cleans the floors, the couch, the table… it’s adorable! My point being; it is never too early to instill cleanliness into your kids.
Second major mistake is insisting on perfection. This will delay the chores being divided up, and completed. But unfortunately will also cause a struggle between you and your child. They won’t want to help if they never feel like their actually being helpful. Which brings me to the next one; re-doing your childs chores because they aren’t perfect. This will send the signal to your child that their not doing it correctly or good enough. It will mess with their self confidence levels and decreases their cooperation. If you feel like you really need to re-windex the mirror, or your child has forgotten the forks when setting the table; wait until their nowhere to be seen, and complete the chore. Chances are they did their best, and don’t want to disappoint you either.
Something else you should make sure of is that you are not waiting until their completely finished the chore to praise and appreciate. Like any human being, we need to know that we’re appreciated and doing a good job. Tell your child “you’re doing a great job” more than once during the chore, and at the end say “wow! It looks great, I am so thankful that you are helping mommy”.
Lastly is inconsistency. This is something that can be a struggle in many areas of parenting; not just chores. You have to be consistent. If you expect your child to tidy up the toys before leaving, or before moving on to the next toy, then it needs to be encouraged every time. If your child doesn’t put their clothes in the laundry basket or unpack their lunch bag after school, and you eventually do it for them, they may learn to put off chores in hopes that someone else will do it for them
Tips & Tricks:
In September I was watching an episode of the Mom Show, and they spoke about chores. Granted the Mom Show is hard to watch because their all so annoying, I did learn a few things from them… First of all, the most important skill for a child to learn is teamwork. This skill is enforced at day care and school, and is so important when kids are making friends. Teamwork; working towards a common goal, consists of helping one another, gaining and using interpersonal skills and of course getting along. This can easily be taught through sports and play groups. But can also be taught through household chores.
Siblings are great because you will see the team work and the collaborationin when the older child helps the younger one do crafts or playing games. Why not encourage the help to be with tying shoes and putting toys away? If you have an older child and a younger child (or several), it is better to get them to collaborate on a chore, rather than delegating one per child. The older of the kids will learn patience as they will have to tolerate the younger one a bit more. Although this is a great tactic, if you’re finding a bit of a struggle with this teamwork, don’t push it too hard, especially if the age gap is significantly big. Reason for this is you will find that you are now more likely to deal with a power struggle and you will either have to discuss what being bossy is, or your older child will resent having to help you with their younger sibling. You do NOT want this.
The authors of Raising a Self-Disciplined Child: Help Your Child Become More Responsible, Confident, and Resilient offer this advice: “We have found that when parents say, ‘We need your help,’ children are more likely to respond cooperatively, since they are less likely to interpret the parents’ request as an imposition.”
Start by creating a list. This can be divided into categories such as; every day (Daily) and Saturday (Weekly). Allow your children to choose a chore first, and then divide up the remaining ones fairly. If you have more than one child that wants the same chore, encourage them to do it together.
Some Important Tips:
Be specific!! If you say “clean your room” this can be a bunch of things. Do you want them to put their clothes or toys away? Does cleaning your room include vacuuming? What about making the bed?” You’re more likely to be satisfied with the results if you divide cleaning their room into more than one chore.
Start slow! Demonstrate certain chores step by step, and let them help you. Next you allow them to do it on their own, but you supervise in case they need help or have questions. Eventually your child will be capable of doing it properly on their own.
Have appropriate deadlines. You have to be careful of the child holding up the line. One child can’t empty the dishwasher if it hasn’t been filled and cleaned by the other. Make sure you’re conscious of this when assigning jobs.
Don’t nag! You need to go easy on the reminders. Don’t hold your family hostage by threatening to take things away unless jobs get done. Light reminders are sometimes necessary. But when they become excessive, you become frustrated and kids don’t respond to nagging. Ask your children (& spouse) how they’d like to be reminded.
Constant praise! You can never have too much! Like I already said, you shouldn’t wait until the job is done to be thankful and appreciative.
Age Appropriate chores: Be careful not to under or over-estimate what your child(s) capabilities are. For example; a pre-schooler can handle one and two step directions. As they get older, they can handle more.
Don’t let them off the hook! As children get older, parents tend to get frustrated when expectations aren’t fulfilled in good timing, and sometimes just do it themselves. Don’t let them off the hook. Tell them: “I hope you get so quick with your chores that they don’t interfere with everything else.”. Don’t threaten them that they cannot have dessert or go to their friends house if it isn’t done, but they do need to know that their responsibilities around the house come before playing with friends.
Here is a list of age-appropriate chores you can start with your children:
|- Put toys away- Fill pets food dishes- Place clothes in hamper- Wipe up their own spills
- Pile up books
|Previous list +- Make own bed.- Empty wastebaskets.- Bring in mail or newspaper.- Clear/Set table.- Pull weeds.- Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs.- Water flowers.
- Unload utensils from dishwasher.
- Wash plastic dishes at sink.
- Fix own bowl of cereal.
|Previous lists +- Sort laundry.- Sweep floors.- Set and clear table.- Help make and pack lunch.- Weed and rake leaves.- Keep bedroom tidy.- Pour own drinks.
|Previous lists +- Load dishwasher.- Put away groceries.- Vacuum.- Help make dinner.- Make own snacks.- Wash table after meals.- Put away own laundry.
- Sew buttons.
- Make own breakfast.
- Peel vegetables.
- Cook simple foods, such as toast.
- Mop floor.
- Walk pets
|Previous lists +- Unload dishwasher.- Fold laundry.- Clean bathroom.- Wash windows.- Wash car.- Cook simple meal with supervision.- Iron clothes.
- Do laundry.
- Baby-sit younger siblings
- Mow lawn.
- Clean kitchen.
- Clean oven.
- Change bed.
- Make cookies or cake from a mix.
- Sort clothing and operate washer/dryer
A comon question may be; when can my child use cleaning chemicals? One thing I reommend is getting the green ones. These are safer and not as harsh on the skin. If you don’t like spending the extra buck or feel it just doesn’t clean as well, then you need to make the decision. Is your child really messy when putting toothpaste on their toothbrush? Have you ever let them try to sunscreen themselves. If theses types of tasks are easy and relatively done in a clean way, then I’d say you’re safe. You have to make this call on your own because there is no right answer. Educate your kids on these household chemicals, and get some child sized rubber gloves to do their cleaning. I’d recommend 10 years of age but every child is different.
I think once your child is 13-18 they should be pretty well capable of taking care of themselves. They should be keeping their own room clean, cleaning up after themselves, doing their own dishes, and making sure their not leaving their belongings, dishes or garbage behind when they leave a room. They should definitely be doing their own laundry and helping with the weekly household chores such as cleaning out the fridge, taking out the garbage and mopping/vacuuming common rooms. You may even ask your child to pick up some groceries or make dinner one night a week.
A rule of thumb: the chef should never have to clean up too! Clearing the table, and doing the dishes are tasks that are done quicker when working as a team.
Do you have any more chores to recommend? What has your experience been like with your kids? Any tips or tricks to help other parents?