Chores are important for children. In doing household chores they learn valuable life skills, they get to experience feeling responsible and capable, and they learn to appreciate the contributions of others.
However, getting children to do their chores can be quite a challenge. Often children can view these necessary tasks as a punishment, or as an unpleasant disruption in their day. In many families, it may require nagging, coaxing and some bribery to get the job done.
You can take some of the struggle out of daily chores by trying a different approach.
The earlier you can start, the better. Very young children love to help and imitate parents, so this is the perfect time to include your child in various household tasks. As she grows and learns new skills, she can take on more responsibility.
It is never too late to start, though, even for an older child who has already developed a dislike for the idea of doing chores, or may not have gotten into the habit of helping out regularly.
Be consistent. Be clear that there are certain things that need to be done. Just like we wash our hands before we eat, or brush our teeth before bed; we put our dishes in the sink or feed the family pet before we sit down for breakfast. Keep it matter of fact. Don’t let it become an argument or make a big deal about it – it simply has to be done.
Have realistic expectations. Expect to get the job done, even if it is not exactly to your standards. If something clearly needs to be done again, ask your child to come back to inspect. If it is just not as good as you could have done yourself, resist the urge to redo it, or at the very least wait until your child is not watching. It is discouraging to do the work if you know that mom or dad is going to do it over anyway.
Remember that one of the main goals of doing chores is to learn and practice life skills. Over time, the results will improve.
Make it fun. Put on music while you dust and vacuum. Have challenges – who can make their bed faster? Count toys as they go into the box or towels as they come out of the dryer. Take advantage of time spent together in a shared task like preparing a meal or cleaning up afterward. This is a great time to listen to your child talk about his day.
Allow some flexibility. It is important for your child to gradually learn how to do all necessary household chores. However, take personal preferences into consideration. She may choose several particular chores as her ongoing responsibility, or she may prefer to take turns doing different tasks.
Show your appreciation. Everyone likes to know that their contributions are recognized and valued. A simple thank you can go a long way. It is important for your child to understand that his efforts, and the efforts of others, make a difference.