Involve 'em in chores - good for them and good for you!

Parentree-editors 2009-01-15 11:14:01

It is a great idea to involve your children in household chores right from the beginning.  Of course, they are children and the main “work” of young children is play. Also, sometimes the process of giving them chores and making them do chores and creating a mess in the process as they learn and needing guidance from you can be a chore by itself. But involving the children can be good for them and of course it will help you out as well. Making kids do chores is great for the whole family.

Why give chores to your children?

  • Chores boost their self-esteem, confidence and instill a sense of responsibility in them. Imagine, asking a willful 5 years old boy to serve dry snacks to guests or his friends in a tray - will surely soften him and make him feel good and important as he goes about his task.
  • Children will value work. Chores help them learn the value of pride in your work, dignity of labour and teamwork.
  • Instead of being bratty and thinking that they are the centre of the universe, they will feel a part of a team. It will help them think of family and teamwork.
  • Chores give them an opportunity to learn some useful practical skills as well.
  • Chores can also further their development. For example, pouring water from a jug can hone their fine motor skills. That is why many preschool educational systems like the Montessori system have basic chores like clean-up, pouring milk and water during snack time etc, a big and integral part of their curriculum.
  • And you will be surprised how fun chores can be for kids.
  • Last but not the least, your child helping you out, will ease your burden and give you more time.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind as you start delegating tasks and getting the young ones busy.

It is never too early

They can start some very simple chores, even when they are 2 or 3 years old.  In the early years, the idea of chores is more for setting a habit. For example, many parents sing the “clean up, clean up, everybody clean up” song and have young kids get in the habit of starting to tidy their rooms when their friends leave. It is not that important that they have to complete the task to perfection. That can happen with time and practice.

Keep the chores age appropriate

  • Initially, chores and chore instructions should be simple and specific. For example, instead of saying "Clean up the room" in general terms, you could say, “Keep the blocks away in the toy box”.
  • As kids get older, they can have a few regular chores and even have a weekly chore schedule to help guide and motivate them.
  • Also, especially for young children safety is very important. For example, while cooking, keep them away from the fire and knives etc. When they are young, they can start learning to pour water using kid-safe steel or plastic jugs/glasses and as they become more proficient, you can graduate to adult glass utensils if you use glassware.
  • One at a time. When you initially get them to do a chore, do not bombard with a list of chores, get them to focus on one chore at a time.

Keep chores relevant for both genders

Make sure that boys do some housework and girls get to do some outside work. Help them avoid unnecessary gender stereotypes.

Make it fun and keep it fun

  • Most kids find it a fun thing to help out and do a chore - like any play activity. But how to get the willful and reluctant ones to do any chores? Be patient and make chores fun. Try and see if you can get other families to do chores as well. If their friends do it, they might want to as well. Also, help them understand that helping out will help them - "Mom might have more time to make their favourite snack..."
  • Initially chores can be fun and after a while, boredom sets in. Some tips to keep chores fresh and fun. You can rotate chores and give different chores.
  • Give chores a fun personal touch - perhaps some special song to go with a chore. Example, the ever popular “clean up, clean up” song or a special funny name for the chore.

Enable and empower your children

  • Give proper guidance. Demonstrate how to do it patiently. Be patient. Let them learn by doing and making mistakes.
  • Try and set up the house so that you can enable your children to help themselves. For example, keep the water and jug in a way that your children can grab them whenever they feel thirsty. Show your children where the dustpan and rags are, for spills.
  • Once they do something, try and not redo it. Reinforce their sense of self-esteem and let their work be. It will not matter if the dining table is not set perfectly. They will learn with time observing you. But the sense of pride and joy they feel when all get to eat in the table they set is priceless!

Make sure that you involve other family members

In India we have good domestic help and support structure and giving kids chores might not be as compelling as other western countries. Make sure that other adults in the household, for example, diligent maids and indulgent grandparents also understand the importance and purpose of chores. For example, if your kids spill some snacks and try to clean up, many times, maids will rush to clean up thinking that it is their duty and the kids will be discouraged in their attempts. In this case, chat with the well-meaning adults and show your children where the dust pan and broom are and encourage them to clean up. Of course teach them to wash their hands after they are done.

Positive reinforcement

Praise a job well done and talk about how it makes a difference. For example, "Your helping in setting up the table, leaves me more time to read a story to you or read the Femina", "Your mom or dad is so much more relaxed, when you help around". Emphasize that the more they help, the better it is for them and the family.

Do you need to pay for chores when they are older?

Paying for chores in general is not a good idea. Let the other values like team-work, responsibility, pride and joy in work be the focal point and material rewards can dilute some of these values. Perhaps, once the child is older and understands the value of chores, you can make some exceptions for certain chores.

Do not become too fixated and didactic about chores

Chores are the means to an end of teaching your child certain good values and helping you and your family out. Its about making things easier and fun for your family. Doing the chores is not an end in itself. Do not lose this spirit and spontaneity. After all, your children are children and they will be children only once. Once they are adults they will have their deluge of  “stuff” to do in life.  Your children will also be influenced by seeing you working hard and by the value you place on teamwork and diligence in your family.

Some chore suggestions for Indian children

(Of course make sure that your children are “ripe” for them)

  • Laying the table
  • Taking care of a pet - feeding the pet etc.
  • Cleaning up after playing
  • Easy kitchen chores: peeling almonds, corn, oranges etc.
  • Serving snacks to guests
  • Receiving phone calls
  • Fetching objects for you as you cook etc.
  • Folding napkins and clothes
  • Pouring water and milk on the table
  • Throwing things into the trash
  • Putting the newspapers in the recycling pile
  • After school settling down:  putting their school bag in the right place, throwing their dirty uniform in the laundry, keeping dirty tiffin box in the sink, sharing homework details with you...What a concept! Instead of scampering to greet them and getting lunch or milk ready along with all these chores, you can be much more relaxed. Whew!

Any others? Any tricks and tips for chores and making them fun. Comment and share with all...


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