Are you doing too much for your children or teens? Do you feel like you are always picking up after them, delivering the “forgotten” items to school each week, wishing they helped out more around the house, wondering if it is too much to give them a few chores or responsibilities at home? If so, you’re not alone. These are common concerns for many parents today. We struggle with how to best balance our children’s busy lives with what they could/should be doing as a productive member of the family.
I am a proponent of children having chores and responsibilities in the home. Maybe I am old fashioned or maybe it’s because I grew up on a cattle ranch and we all had to do our fair share of work as animals and land don’t wait. We all lived and worked together for a common goal and for the common good of the family. I learned at a very young age that work always comes before play. And when the work was done we played hard and enjoyed the fruits of our labor. This has instilled in me a work ethic that is hard to come by in today where we hire gardeners, housekeepers, painters, handymen, etc. to do the work we either don’t want or can’t do ourselves.
Giving your children a few chores to do around the house on a regular basis, or delegating to them a particular task teaches a great deal. They learn social responsibility, life skills and work ethic. Children also acquire a sense of significance and belonging when they are part of something else. It goes without saying that children can certainly benefit from learning the skills necessary to take care of a home, after all they will one day. Completing a task successfully also provides the child with a sense of accomplishment and pride while strengthening the connections within the family.
Children at a very early age can help with small things around the house. Preschoolers can sort laundry, take their dishes to the counter, put the silverware on the table, place their dirty clothes in the hamper, and hang their towel on the rack. Older children can be in charge of entire tasks such as setting the table, sorting the laundry and starting the machine, putting their own clothes away, keeping their toys picked up…the possibilities are as endless as your to do list. These chores and responsibilities do not need to be contained to indoors only either. Yard work is an excellent source of task ideas. Who knows, you may start a life long love of gardening. And what about that car that so desperately needs to be washed?
I know many of you are saying, “Yea right! How am I going to get my angst driven teenager to start doing chores around here now?” Well, quite truthfully, if they have never had any before there will probably be some resistance. Anytime you implement change in behavior or expectations everyone will need some time to adjust. I believe that family meetings are an excellent and productive way to share new thoughts or ideas within a family. Guidelines about how to manage a family meeting can be found on line, or you can create your own. Family meetings can be as creative as the individual family. The ground rules are quite simple: everyone gets a change to speak and be heard and you come to some sort of agreement or compromise as the solution.
Children will be most successful with the completion of the task if they have buy-in, meaning that they actually got to make a choice about which chore they will do based on a list either created by you or as a family. It is also necessary to take adequate time to train your child to do the task. By taking time for training you ensure the standard and set them up for success. Keep in mind the abilities of your child and allow for some wiggle room with “standard” the first time around. Once your child has finished the task be gracious and share with them how nice it was for you that they shared in the workload around the house.
So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and take a look at your lengthy to do list and ask yourself which tasks your children can easily do and ask them to help you out. You may just find that they enjoy the responsibility and are proud that you asked for their help!