Including your kids in household responsibilities is a simple way to make them feel like a responsible part of the family while helping them build self-esteem and develop skills, including planning ahead, following through on commitments, time management and multitasking.
Introducing your child to chores
It's never too early or too late to begin teaching your child to help out around the house. You might begin by doing some tasks together and making the experience fun. Be sure to match the job to your child's ability to create a recipe for success. With a little guidance from you, your school-age children can do the following:
- Help you grocery shop
- Set and clear the table
- Help with simple food preparation, including making their own snacks or pouring a drink by themselves
- Wash and put away dishes
- Sort laundry
- Water plants
- Feed and walk pets
- Wash the car
- Clean their rooms
- Make their beds
When you decide what your kids are capable of helping with, you may let them volunteer for chores they think they can do well or let them draw two or three chores out of a box each week. Choose chores that have meaning for your child and be patient during the learning process. Even if you could do the job much faster and better, give your child the opportunity to learn it. Remember that kids aren't born with the ability to do jobs quickly and correctly, but if you send them out to play while you do all the chores, they won't learn to work. Instead, they'll learn that their effort and help aren't needed.
After working with your kids long enough so that you feel they're ready to do a job alone, let them know that you're available if they need help. Then stand back and let them work. Praise their efforts more for the contribution rather than the quality of the work.
Encouraging helpful habits
Successfully completing a chore should be a reward in itself. Accepting the responsibility that comes with chores teaches your child that there are routine tasks that have to be done for the good of the family.
Your child may think chores are fun at first, but once the newness wears off, it's important to encourage your child to continue. You can explain that not all activities in life are fun but they're necessary in order to keep the family running smoothly. Sticking to a chore and finishing it, even if it isn't fun, will help your child develop self-esteem. To boost interest, try designating a chore time, when everyone in the family works together.
Refrain from doing your kids' chores for them when they forget or get busy with homework or extracurricular activities. Instead, help them organize their time so they can contribute to the family and get their own work finished. This is an important skill that your child will need as an adult. If time isn't an issue, but your child simply forgets about, try the following:
- Post a list in the kitchen as a reminder of what needs to be done — You might also consider including a chart for your child to check off chores as they are finished.
- Delay fun activities — Delay any fun activities until your child has completed the necessary chores.
- Show what happens when chores go undone — If your child forgets to set the table, then the family sits down to eat with no plates. If your kids fail to clean their room, they may not be able to find school supplies or a favorite toy.