“So, today I’m giving you a new responsibility. You are now in charge of making sure our bathrooms ALWAYS have toilet paper. Every couple days you need to check all the bathrooms and restock, I will help you remember.” Her big six-year-old eyes grew bigger as she beamed with pride that I was trusting her with this new job. I knew when her daddy walked through the door that evening, the first thing she would say is, “Daddy, guess WHAT?! I have a new job!” She was so proud and happy to be trusted with something as important as TP.
This response from my kids (who are all under 6 years) is pretty typical. It’s very rare that we ask them to do something and they respond with attitude or complaint. This is because of their ages. It comes natural to kids around the age of 2 to start wanting to “help” or “do it, myself.” So, why not take advantage of the opportunity to teach our kids to be involved in household chores at a young age? Simple: It adds work to our day.
Often kids don’t do it “right” and we then spend time teaching them how to do it, watching them do it wrong and then just doing it ourselves. Who has time for that?! Well, the problem is we run the risk of raising people who don’t know how to take care of themselves; and they have the potential to be a bit entitled and selfish. Worse yet, they end up with exhausted parents who do everything for them.
Early on, my husband and I decided to work hard not to raise our children this way. In my search for wisdom on this matter, I came across many resources that said the best predictor of young adults’ success in their 20’s was whether or not they participated in household chores around the age of three or four. It’s been found that if people did not begin contributing to their household until their teens, those individuals were less “successful.”
Fast forward to now… I rip off the bandaid daily and cringe as I watch my 6 and 3 year old “make” their beds. I calm myself down as I watch them mix the pancake batter, I mop the floors after my 6 year old leaves puddles of water everywhere in an attempt to help clean and I cheer on my one year old as she brings her own diaper to the garbage. I do all of this knowing that one day I will have raised well-adjusted adults, who value responsibility.
When I started to notice my oldest daughter was showing interest in helping me with simple chores such as folding laundry, making the bed or wiping off the table, I started looking for a “chore chart” and age-appropriate tasks she could be responsible for. We printed one off and I got my stickers ready! Knowing that a prize would motivate her to complete the tasks, I offered one after a certain number stickers. However, “paying” her to complete the task did not sit well with me. I wanted to approach chores as things we do to take care of each other and make life better. It was important to me that I create opportunities for my children to learn to appreciate, be grateful and have a sense of responsibility for the family they are a part of. For this reason, I teach them that the reward for finishing or completing a chore or task is the sense of accomplishment and knowing that they contributed to our household.
My kids are young and I know that the way we approach chores and contribution to the household will change from time to time. There will come a day when complaining will be common and we will cross that bridge when we get there! There may come a day when offering some sort of prize for a big task makes sense and we will talk through that. At this point, it’s important to just start somewhere.
Every family dynamic is different, so it is important to take a good look at the culture you are building within your home and make the necessary adjustments. The tasks we give our kids don’t have to be huge and overwhelming – things as simple as putting away toys and tidying up teach kids to live in a peaceful, organized environment and it’s proven to reduce anxiety! Having your little ones help you load the washer can become a teachable moment in that you can chat about cleanliness and how it promotes health.
It’s about being consistent and intentional in our common daily tasks. Children are no different than adults in their desire to feel that they matter. Giving them little “jobs” makes them feel important and responsible for the well-being of those they love, they feel capable and develop skills like caring for others and self-reliance.
I look forward to the days when “clear the table” does not result in my brand new silverware in the garbage, or when “fold the towels” doesn’t result in a lopsided stack of formerly clean towels that have been dragged across my entire living room. Until then, I will continue to keep my eyes on the prize as I cringe through the “helping with the dishes” process.
What chores do you encourage your kids to help with? Be sure to comment below!