Back in the days of only having one preschooler, or a preschooler and an infant, it was far easier to clean up the playroom by myself, rather than cajole a three year old into picking up. It was far easier to set clothing out for children each night, than have to send them back to their rooms in the morning to change into matching garb. It was easier, quicker, and more effective for me to clean up the dinner mess, rather than hear two tweens fight over who is doing more work…and still coming into the room an hour later to a whirlwind.
Let’s face it, we moms do a better job than our kids at cleaning up, and getting things done!
The problem is, as our homes fill up with little people, who only get bigger and get more stuff, and eat more food and create more laundry, things get pretty hard for a mom to handle on her own. One of two things will happen, the house will disintegrate into a rotting, stinking mess of dirty clothes and sticky dishes, or the house will remain moderately clean and Mom is frustrated, and in need of more Calgon that can be found under the bathroom sink.
There has got to be a balance. This balance is found in giving the children in your home some responsibilities! Now, if you are reading this, and your children are quite young, you will have an easier time of it than I am having, as my boys are 12, 9, 7 and 4.
If you, like me, have found that giving your kids responsibility has failed in the past, and are starting again, take heart…it really can be done!
Here are my tips for getting the whole family to pitch in:
1. Get Everyone on Board We have dinner as a family every night which is a good time for us to discuss family issues. Chose this time, or set up a family meeting, or, if your children are very young just make a joint decision between you and your spouse. However you do it, let the family know that you are going to begin tackling household chores as a family.
2. Assign Tasks Kids need to know what is expected of them, so lay out what their chores and responsibilities will be at the outset. Keep in mind your child’s personality and abilities, and start small. For a very young child, you may just ask him to put his toys in his toy box and his dirty clothes in a laundry basket. Somewhat older children may be responsible for their entire room, and school age children can usually take on at least one chore outside of caring for his own belongings.
3. Guide and Correct Your child will not do his assigned tasks perfectly the first time, or even the tenth time. As a matter of fact, when you first begin delegating responsibilities to your children it will take much longer than doing the work on your own. The first few times you will have to work directly along side your child, and pull away as time goes on. It is important though to keep checking on progress and pointing out where improvements can be made. Try not to make this sound like harping though, no one likes to be hen pecked. Keep things positive.
4. Reward and Encourage No one wants to work for free. Sure a clean house may be its own reward…for you. From my experience, children do not seem to notice the condition your house is in, house pride develops much later in life. Choose a reward system, and be consistent. We have allowances for our older children who can handle money well, and non tangible rewards, like outings and video game time for the younger set. Depending on your family philosophy of allowances and rewards, you will be able to come up with a good system. Some families like chore carts with stickers and set goals, some work on a cash basis, and others reward work well done with a family game or movie night. Find something that works for you, and motivates your kids, and stick with it.
5. Review and Revise It is important as a parent, to be constantly looking at the systems in your home and finding ways to make things work better. For instance, I found that there was way too much fighting in the kitchen when I had the two older boys handle dinner dishes, so I switched it to the two middle boys and gave the oldest some other duties. There is still arguing, but it is quiet and there is a better division of labor. Eventually, we may find that a better system would work.
6. Keep It Fun You can make household responsibilities fun if you set evening clean up to music, make it a contest for competitive types, or have a race with a special treat at the end for the victor.
Remember, not only are you doing yourself a favor by teaching your kids responsibility, you are giving them a life skill that will serve them for many years to come.