You’ve heard great ideas on the value of chores and what’s appropriate for different ages. I’d like to take a life review look at the value of teaching kids responsibility at home. This quote stuck with me while I was raising my children. . “Don’t do for your children what they can do for themselves.” I’m sorry to say I can’t remember where I got this bit of wisdom, but it guided my parenting and will continue to guide my grandparenting.
You may know a 30 year old who still brings his laundry home to mom (in her 60’s) to do his laundry. Its’ not because he doesn’t have the money or the time. It’s because Mom doesn’t think he can do it right and will do it for him. . . forever. Or the college graduate who claims she doesn’t know how to fill out a dry cleaning form, saying “My mom will do it’. I remember a teenager who didn’t have her favorite jeans for a particular occasion. She had experience washing clothes. Laundry was on the ‘chore list’.
Teen (in a shrill tone of voice): MOOOOM, my jeans aren’t clean! I have to wear them today!
Mom (calmly in an even tone of voice): Do you remember how the washing machine works?
Teen: (with an eye roll and ever so slight affirmative head nod.)
Mom: “What are you going to do about not having your jeans?”
It was painful. For her. For me. But we survived and she’s particular about her own laundry now (20 something).
Doing chores builds skills and self esteem, creates confidence and problem solving skills. Doing chores helps a child develop a work ethic, persistence or ‘grit’, and a sense of accomplishment. Don’t deny your children that opportunity to build their character. When they are adults, their peers will be amazed, their employers impressed and their own children capable. When they are 6-8 years look at what children can do!
So when my granddaughter makes a mess, I’ll teach her how to clean it up. And be patient with imperfection. And think of how she will be when she’s 30.
As I started thinking about chores and my childhood I was struck by a memory. I remembered how my sister and I divided our chores as pre-teens. We would take mom’s list, write the chores on small slips of paper, put them in a stocking hat and shake shake shake the hat. We then took turns pulling out the slips of paper. Groaning or cheering soon commenced followed by contemplative silence.
It was in this silence that I believe our ‘true’ learning happened. Imagine us analyzing our list. Carefully calculating how long the tasks would take. Considering the impact the list was about to have on our play time. Silently we would also process each other’s list in our heads. Deciphering if it might be worth it to try to trade out tasks to fit our play time plans better. Tasks, total time and overall effort became part of the chore equation.
I would like to say that our tasks always got done… but we were just kids after all. Sometimes we spent too much time on the processing, negotiating and trading. Other times we called in the neighborhood friends to help us finish faster and it actually took much longer than expected. Its also possible that every once in awhile mom may have shown up before the stocking hat selection even got started.
Regardless, we learned. We learned how important we were to our family unit. We learned and were proud. Proud of our creative process, our innovative ideas and our ability to negotiate to meet our own individual desires and needs. Chores weren’t always fun, but they were always at least a bit interesting. (I wonder where that stocking hat is?)
“It’s not fair”; “I don’t have time”; “It’s not my job”; Words often expressed by children who are asked to complete some household task!
Taking responsibility for a household task can assist children learn essential life skills, including taking responsibility, and expressing generosity. Families who work together to make decisions, keep the house clean, and care for one another, can use that energy to tackle even tougher issues! Don’t give up parents! Teaching your children to accept responsibility through assignments at home will create strong children!
This week we welcome guest blogger Kristi Cooper. Human Sciences Specialist in Family Life and new grandma.
I had no idea I’d be taking my own advice years after I wrote about the overspending of grandmothers and aunts on new babies. I’m very excited to provide my 11 month old granddaughter with as many new experiences as she can handle. Her parents are practical and their home is small so the oodles of toys, clothes and other baubles that are bestowed upon her by well-meaning relatives create stress. Besides, my grandgirl is pretty happy with simple household surfaces to pound and pull up on, and a human or two to keep her entertained.
Marketers of baby stuff focus on female consumers – aunts and grandmothers in particular – because their hearts are as big as their wallets. By keeping our wallets closed and our hearts open we can avoid turning our grandchildren into beggars and entitled teens. Here are 5 ways to love those precious little ones without creating strained relationships, stress over stuff and maintain our financial wellbeing.
- Gift of Talent/Skills – We all have the need to contribute to our family and community. Share age-appropriate activities with your grandchild or grand baby. Play together – Teach a game from your childhood such as kick-the-can or hide-and-seek.
- Gift of Words – Talk Together – Encourage grandchildren, nieces, and nephews by highlighting the positive values you see in them. Ask about their goals in life. Talk about how they can reach those goals. Point out the characteristics that you admire in them.
- Gift of Time – Nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention – sharing conversation and activities. Work together Do household chores, homework, bicycle repair or volunteer in the community with your younger generation. Working together teaches skills, work ethic and the value of contributing to others.
- Gift of Objects – We all like to receive objects that have been thoughtfully selected just for us. Keep material gifts to a minimum and consider the life-span of the object. Create together – Choose toys and consumables like art materials that stimulate critical thinking, imagination and are age-appropriate. Ask yourself, who is doing the thinking – the child or the manufacturer?
- Gift of Touch/Self Care – Wrap these gifts in plenty of hugs and kisses, bedtime backrubs, tickles and laughter. Practice relaxation techniques so you can be fully present for your grandchild.
YOU are the best gift your grandchild can receive!
Ok, I confess. On more than one occasion I decided it was just easier to do a job myself than deal with a kid who didn’t want to run the vacuum or empty the dishwasher. She was busy or tired or just not interested. Never mind that I was also busy or tired or not interested. I think this is one of the biggest obstacles for including children in household chores. They resist and we end up doing the task ourselves because it’s easier. Then we end up feeling like everyone’s personal maid and being resentful.
So how can we get out of this trap? An important piece is to remember that we are teaching life skills. By having realistic expectations and providing guidance, we can get there. One really good rule of thumb is “don’t do things for children they can do for themselves.” Let me give you an example. When a child is young we dress him and tie his shoes. As soon as he is capable we teach him how to dress himself and applaud his efforts to tie his own shoes. The same thinking applies to household tasks. We make the bed for babies and toddlers. But once she can climb in and out of her own bed, she can begin to put the pillow in place and pull up the covers. If we teach children how to do something and continue to offer support, we are on the way to raising responsible kids who can take care of themselves.
Check out Inspire Children to Help with Chores for more practical tips.
GREAT QUESTION! How about right now?!
If you look up Children and Chores at www.extension.org you will find several different articles on children helping with household chores. And guess what? They can start right now helping with all kinds of things. Even toddlers LOVE helping to put socks in the basket or towels in the drawer.
Allowing children to help around the house gives them hands on experiences for learning as well as a feeling of independence and responsibility.
It is important to share with the child how you want the task done, let the child do it and then DON’T re-do when they are done. Did you catch that? It’s OK that there is a wrinkle in the blanket or the fork is upside down. Let them know how proud you are of the work they did and keep modeling the way you would like it done eventually. Remember, you probably had a wrinkle in your bed at that age as well.
What are some chores that you have your children helping with? Share with us!
Today my 2nd grandson moved into his college dorm. He is excited about starting this new chapter in his life. His parents are sad about him leaving home but hoping he will adjust and do well. And as for Grandma, I’m thinking, “Can he take care of himself? You might be wondering what’s that got to do with kids and chores.
Actually the connection is pretty clear. Kids who grow up doing chores around the house learn several important things.
- contribute to the family
- sense of empathy
- how to take care of themselves
Let’s think about this a little more. Kids learn that it takes the whole family to keep a household going. The laundry, cooking, cleaning, repairs, shopping, yardwork, etc. don’t happen by magic. Bud starts to appreciate how Mom feels when someone makes a mess in a room he just cleaned. Nicole understands how long it takes Dad to mow the yard each week. The kids learn the importance of completing assigned chores – correctly and on time. Being responsible carries over into school work and eventually the work world.
Now back to my grandson. If Mom and Dad did their job well (which they did) my grandson knows how to keep his room clean, handle his laundry, and fix his meals. By teaching your kids how to do basic home chores, you are preparing them for that day when they will be on their own.