Our job as parents is to feed, cloth, love, nurture and protect them. On the other hand, more often than not, it seems their divine mission on earth is to destroy, deface, rip, smash and annihilate anything within their line of sight. But alas, we can’t love our little munchkins any less. We can however, find creative and progressive ways to change them from vase-smashing villains to wall-repainting heroes, thereby keeping them safe, teaching them important life lessons and calling the handy man less every month each time something’s broken because the kids were running around playing Narnia. So this way, everyone wins!
Houses need to be cleaned and we often include our children in our chores routines to help. Did you know that kids are learning so much while they help with the everyday maintenance of our homes? Housekeeping is all about skill development. Giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self reliance.
Kids who start doing chores early are more likely to have relationship, academic and career success. Here’s how to get them to pitch in without putting up a fight:
Banish the concept of cleaning as punishment
How many times as a child were you sent to clean the yard or scrub the kitchen floor as a form of punishment? Too many times to count. Our moms may have meant well (and it certainly got the job done at the time), but this method doesn’t bode well if you would like your child to actually want to clean. The better message to send to kids is that cleaning is not a punishment or a chore, it’s a ticket to other things being possible. If you are negative and talk about what kids ‘have to do’ in a grumpy manner, kids will be grumpy right back.
Give them options
Part of what can make chores feel punishing is when you have no say in what they are or how you’ll deal with them. So give young kids some choice in the process. You can let your child choose their preferred chore within the parameters you set: you can do blocks or clothes —“which would you like?’ Your child can also choose the thing they like to do: shredding mail, watering plants, setting the table — they will get a sense of ownership for their ‘domain’.
Reward their hard work appropriately
We’re not talking “allowance” or monetary rewards here – for the sake of simplicity, it’s fair to preach that chores are an expectation in a shared household, and if you live in the house, you should contribute.
That said, recognizing a child’s accomplishments is rewarding to them and boosts their self-esteem. Tell your child that they did a great job organizing their closet and explain what you like about it. Appreciate how the table is set for dinner, or how the toys are cleaned up from the living room rug. Acknowledge if they do chores without being asked.
Make it a Family Affair
Rather than sending your child off to the lonely world of cleaning up on their own, do it together. Establish ‘clean sweep’ times, where a family member sets 10 minutes on the clock and everyone does their magic and can all reap the benefits together. You might want to enhance this sense of community and purpose by letting your little ones know that if they help with cleaning, they’re creating more time that parents are free to play with them.
Another way to get it all covered is to assign related jobs to different children. This is the best way to train your kids in various jobs like: cleaning the toilet, washing a floor, dusting, washing a sink, etc. A child might be in charge of cleaning all the toilets each week. Another child might wash all the bathroom floors. And a third child might clean the sinks. They can rotate as they each learn those tasks, and when they get older, they will know all of the different “jobs” necessary to keep a bathroom clean, and they can be put in complete charge of one bathroom. This would go a long way in developing their sense of responsibility as they prepare for independence when they’re older.
Don’t overwhelm the poor things
Parents, you’ll be walking a tightrope in determining the right amount of balance. It depends on the child – on their attitudes, their small motor skills, to how they respond to positive reinforcement. Don’t assign so many tasks that you’re setting them up for failure, but slowly add more responsibility as they gain confidence and show interest in doing more around the house.
With these handful of tips, we hope next time you walk through the patio after a long day at the office, you’ll be welcomed by a sparkling living room proudly executed by your little bundles of joy and not tripping over a train set or drowning in a sea full of smelly socks. Good luck out there!