The importance of giving children chores
Today we have a guest blog from our very own Alexandrea Rocha, previously an antepartum and postpartum doula with Gold Coast Doulas. If you have kids at home and struggle with the day-to-day list of chores, she has some helpful tips to get the whole family involved!
As parents, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Especially for stay-at-home Moms and Dads. One area I hear a lot of people say they struggle in is keeping up with the housework. Some families can afford a housekeeper, but many cannot. What do you do if you have kids at home and just can’t seem to find enough time in the day to get all the household chores done? I’m going to give you some helpful suggestions on how to have your children start to pitch in.
I have a list of things I want to accomplish daily, but with three kids I’m lucky if I’ve maybe done half of the items on my to-do list. For a while I just did everything myself because I am faster and more efficient (you know how it is)! But then it dawned on me that it was my job to teach my children to be responsible, and they were most certainly at an age where they could start helping out.
Starting at age one, you can find small things to have them help with. They will absolutely need your guidance, but getting them in the habit early is important. When my son was a toddler I ran a childcare for other toddlers in my home. Their job was to clean up their toys at the end of the day. A helpful tip to get everyone excited is to sing! Find a clean up song, mine happened to be from the television show Barney, and sing it during clean up time. Something about that song worked magic. They all loved helping clean up to the special song and sang it along with me. Make sure to thank them for their hard work and tell them how helpful they were. Kids love to be encouraged and hear good things about themselves, just as adults do.
Another thing toddlers can do is help feed pets if you have any, and water plants (both with supervision, of course).
When children are preschool age, they are now capable of cleaning up their toys on their own. They may not put the toys back exactly where you’d like them, but you have to let them do it. Same with making their beds. Let them try it on their own and praise them for their efforts.
I have some pretty basic chores that are routine at my house. My children put their shoes by the front door when we get home, they clear their dishes from the table after meals and snacks, and we unload the dishwasher together. I make sure my kids know that we are a family and we work together. I shouldn’t have to do it all myself when they are fully capable of helping.
Do they always want to? No. Do they complain at times? Yes. But I’m pretty strict about helping with chores, and I expect them to do it. However, I don’t force them to do it immediately or punish them if they don’t do it right away. Giving them an expectation and a time frame is a great idea. For example, “I would like the dishwasher to be unloaded before dinner” or “I would like you to have the playroom clean within an hour”. I tell my kids often how much of a help they are to me and how much it means to me when we all work together.
As kids get older they can do more and more and eventually have a regular list of daily and weekly responsibilities. Make a list of the chores that need to be done weekly and figure out which ones your kids can help with. Can they put away their own clean laundry? Maybe they can help sort the dirty laundry and put it into the washing machine with you. Can they set their own place at the table? Can they dust, make their bed, and clean up their room?
It’s important to give them choices. Sometimes they’re more excited about doing chores if you allow them to choose which ones to do that week. I’ve noticed by giving my kids freedom and choices in the matter, chores go much smoother.
If this is something you want to implement in your family’s life and have struggled with, don’t fret. It can be done. Start slow, and let them choose something that sounds appealing to them. Make it a fun thing you do together at first. Then have them do it themselves.
Another idea is to set a designated chore time daily for everyone. Even if it’s only a half an hour, you all get your chores done at the same time and have a little more time together as a family for the fun stuff. If it’s a bigger chore, you can tackle it with them. I help my 7 year old clean her room sometimes. It can be such a mess I think the idea of cleaning it up alone is overwhelming, so we work together and I assign her jobs that are hers to do. It gets done much quicker that way and usually I hear no complaints.
Our children won’t learn it if we don’t teach them, and it will help them in the long run to learn about responsibility, teamwork, and hard work. But don’t forget each child is unique so you have to use your judgment and do what works best for your family.