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Children and Chores: Getting started

Posted , updated Dec 08, 2008.

Children and Chores: Getting started

Teaching Kids to Do Chores

Letting children help with chores takes lots of adult supervision and patience, but most parents believe that youngsters benefit from the responsibility. In fact, some parents expect their children to know what to do or how to do it without any instruction. They assume the child has seen chores being completed and must know how.

This isn’t always the case. Here are some ideas to help you:

How do I start?

When starting a new task, children need to watch you and help you. You can work side by side, simply explaining the task. Youngsters will want you right there for direction and moral support. Soon it will shift from them helping you, to you providing a little help to them.

Next children will have the knowledge they need to complete the task, but may forget something or need a reminder that it’s their turn.

You may reach a stage when the child not only does the job, but also does it with no reminding. It’s important to remember it takes years—not days or weeks for a child to move from helping you with a task to doing it alone without any reminding.

Tips to Help You

What are your expectations?

  • What does dust the furniture mean? Be clear and specific. If your child doesn’t do the job to suit you, don’t assume he was goofing off. It may help to make sure the steps are clear enough. Explain that dusting the table includes moving the items off the table, dusting the surface, and then dusting the items as you replace them. Sometimes it seems easier to do it for your child. Avoid the urge to do it yourself. Remember, children learn best by doing it themselves.

Make it easy.

  • If your child is to set the table, can he reach the dishes? Are the dishes breakable? Be sure the child can do the job with ease, according to size and developmental stage.

Give your child choices.

  • Children complain about jobs that are assigned. Involve your child in picking chores and setting the time when the job must be done. Today we must vacuum, do the laundry, clean out the refrigerator and wash windows. Where do you want to start? Allowing your child to make choices will encourage responsibility.

Make the job important.

  • Children feel rewarded by work that is seen as “needed.” Let your child know how much his effort has helped the family. Even little tasks help out.

Don’t do the job over.

  • Re-doing a job is the quickest way to lose help. Just keep in mind that you need to explain the job more clearly next time, or maybe he’s not ready yet. If you absolutely can’t stand it, use it as a teaching opportunity to show your child how you would like the job done or take care of it when you are certain the child won’t catch you.

Don’t hover – unless safety is an issue.

  • When the cat’s tail is getting caught in the vacuum—jump in. However, try to allow your child the chance to do it on his own.

Show appreciation.

  • No one likes to be taken for granted. No matter how rewarding the sense of accomplishment may be—it is good to hear “thank you.” Adding a specific comment like “you really folded the towels neatly” may mean more than just “good job.”

The “new” wears off.

  • Try switching tasks or coming up with ideas to keep the interest and enthusiasm. It’s hard to get excited about something you’ve done a thousand times!

Let them savor the moment!

    • Children need to enjoy the sense of accomplishment that goes along with completing a task. This sense of satisfaction and feeling that they are contributing to the family is going to keep them working with you as they get older. Research shows feelings of satisfaction and contribution are much greater motivators than pay, praise or punishment!
    • Describe What You See Or The Problem. “The trash needs emptying”.
    • Give Information. “Trash is easier to carry when it’s not overflowing” or “Trash will stink if not emptied”.
    • Say It With A Word. “Trash”.
    • Describe What You Feel. “I don’t like seeing the trash overflowing” or “I don’t like smelling the trash”. ?? Write A Note. “I am full. Please empty me.” The Trash
    • Offer A Choice. “You can take the trash out now or after you finish your homework.” Or “The dishwasher must be emptied and the trash has to be taken out! Which one do you choose to do? I’ll do the other one.”
    • Use Humor. “Trash what are you still doing here?” You must get home before dark. Billy, please help trash find his way home to the dumpster”.
    • Use Playful Voice/Accent. Robot: “All--trash--must--be--dumped--now”.
    • Play Music, Sing, Dance, and Tell Stories when working together.
    • Credit Accomplishments. “You are such a good helper. Thank you.” Give hugs and rewards. “Let’s have some ice cream”.
  • Gaining Cooperation With Chores

    To Nag or Not to Nag

    Getting children to complete chores can easily turn into a battle of ignoring and nagging. The message underlying nagging is, “I don’t trust you to remember”. It is ineffective for encouraging cooperation.

    Parents tend to get into the habit of nagging when children act as if they haven’t heard you, or when they feel a reasonable time has elapsed to complete the job that remains undone.Parents can find themselves spouting orders and feeling like a drill sergeant, or falling into other negative patterns such as blaming, threatening, lecturing, or name calling.

    Finding out if your child heard you can keep you from entering the nagging cycle. Ask, “Would you tell me what I just said?” This allows you to further clarify your expectations about how and when the task is to be completed.

    Cooperation Strategies:

    Faber and Mazlish* outline these skills:

    Additional Strategies:

    Essential Components

    Your tone or attitude can defeat your methods. Children are very sensitive to the attitude you communicate. Using various strategies can help you gain more self-control and speak to what is best in your children—their intelligence, sense of responsibility, helpfulness.

    Acknowledging emotions can help a child feel understood and more cooperative. Children can feel manipulated by a strategy when their feelings are disregarded or the relationship is reduced to a formula (I say this, now you respond).

    Building time to enjoy each other can keep a relationship strong. Research indicates that positive experiences with parents enable children to better handle stress and negative emotions.

    These components can help us nurture an emotional atmosphere where cooperation can grow and flourish.

    *Source: A. Faber, E. Mazlish. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, 1980.

    See also: Children and Chores: The Basics

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