It’s important for kids to help out at home. It is the simplest way to help them grow to be caring, considerate and responsible adults.
We’ve all experienced our kids resisting us when asked to do their chores. However, parents should help kids overcome their resistance. Human nature is such that we all need to feel needed, that we make contributions that help others. Deep down kids like to know that they are an integral part of keeping their home running smoothly. Children who are appreciated and valued at home for their help are less likely to turn to their peers for validation and that sense of belonging.
Here are six tips on how to encourage your kids to help out.
1. Be Specific
If your children are having a hard time cooperating, you might want to try to give them jobs that are more concrete or have a finite time frame.
Instead of: “Clean the family room.”
Try: “Everyone needs to pick up 10 toys in the family room.”
Instead of: “Clean your closet”
Try: “It looks like you need to hang up about five shirts that are lying on the floor.”
Instead of: “Help me put the laundry away.”
Try: “I need your help for 10 minutes to take the laundry to everyone’s room. It is now 7:00 at 7:10 you will be free to play.”
2. Take time to train
Children really don't know how to sweep a floor or wash dishes. It is essential to give a quick and fun tutorial when your child is taking on a new job at home.
“Okay, Eli its time to learn to sweep. Are you ready? This is what you do. First you move all the chairs away from the table so you can get to all the tough spots. Then you take the broom like this and sweep. We can’t forget the corners. Now you try…”
“Ben, washing dishes can be fun. First, you got to roll up your sleeves. Then you have to remember that a little soap goes a long way. Just a small squeeze on the sponge will do it. Here is how you wash a glass and this is how you do a plate. Now you try…”
3. Be encouraging
This is probably the most important tip. When your child is learning how to crack eggs for a cake and half of it falls to the floor, bite your tongue and be encouraging and understanding while they are navigating the learning curve. The mess is part of the process.
Instead of criticizing, let them know that mistakes are normal:
“The funny thing is about cooking is that you usually have to make a lot of mistakes until you learn how to do it right. “
Instead of grumbling about the mess, teach them to clean it up:
“Let’s get some rags and get this cleaned up.”
Let them get right back on the horse:
“Here I’ll give you a quick review on how to crack an egg….Also, sometimes it helps when you are learning how to crack eggs to do it in the sink.”
I learned this trick in a developmental preschool when I was first starting out as a Speech Pathologist. Anytime our students needed to help cleaning up, the teacher would put on a tape of the clean up song and sing it with the kids. The music kept everyone’s mood upbeat and it made the clean up job more like a fun game then a chore.
So it was only natural that I would do this at home with my young kids and it worked most of the time. Even older kids will sing along as a joke.
FYI, having kids sing while they clean is a great way to encourage language, attention, turn taking and coping with transitions. Not only that, music improves mood, decreases muscle tension and increases feelings of relaxation.
5. Show Appreciation
Most of us will agree that it feels good to be appreciated for our hard work. Kids feel the same way. We can say:
“I really appreciate that your jobs were done. When everyone pitches is in by doing their responsibilities, this house run smoothly.”
Not only does this build our kid’s self-esteem, it also models how to express gratitude, gratefulness and appreciation.
6. Don't get sidetracked by complaints:
Children will often complain when asked to do their jobs. You might want to have some standard lines to help you stay focused on the goal of teaching your kids to help you out. When kids say:
Why do I always have to clean up? She never cleans up!
You can answer:
“In this family we help each other”
“Daddy and I try to give everyone in this family what they need.”
“Sometimes you do more, sometimes she does more. That is how it works”
“The jobs are divided as fairly as we can, according to your age and ability.”
Teaching your kids to help you will go a long way in helping them recognize their own value and their ability to contribute to something bigger then themselves, their family.