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Simple Chores to Get Your Children Motivated and Helpful
Children Learn Responsibility with Chores
There is no need for you to be a martyr parent any longer. If your children are at least age 2, they can help out around the house, ease your load, and earn some self-confidence! Your children can learn responsibility with chores!
How many times have you tidied things up, while resenting your partner for not helping out? Perhaps it is time to ask your children to step up and flex their muscles! Oftentimes, I wonder why I whisk things up in a flurry of activity when I have four perfectly able children that should step up and take care of things themselves. Even more amazing is the fact that when you ask them to help (especially age 10 and under) they are more than happy to help! We have started implementing a few of the following chores, and I think you can, as well:
Laundry. Even the youngest children can work on colors, by helping their parents sort light and dark clothing in the laundry room. Have each child bring their dirty clothes into the wash room and sort them into 2-3 piles. Most will relish the chore. If you have a front-loading washer or dryer, see if they can help put the clothes in. My kids love to push the buttons to start the machine. Older children (ages 10 and up) can be taught to measure liquid detergent, and you can discuss which temperature is appropriate for colors and whites.
Chores for Children: Suggestions
Dishes. Most children can clear their own dishes to the counter and/or sink. After age 3 or 4, they may be able to load them directly into the dishwasher, if you have one. Between ages 5 and 6, children may be taught to unload a dishwasher or set dried dishes onto the counter in neat stacks. Our children, ages 8 and 10, simply unload the dishes onto the counter and we put the dishes away in the cupboards that are out of reach. They put away silverware and other items that go in cupboards below the countertops.
Pets. Children ages 4 or older can help feed and water pets. Even younger children can let pets outside in the morning or afternoon, if you have a fenced yard. School age children at least 12 years old may be responsible enough to take a dog for a walk in the neighborhood, if you review safety rules with him or her in advance. This would be a fun activity to do with a friend, or jointly with a parent.
Toys. Now, this is one area where I will not budge. If my children will not pick up their toys, they must not want to keep them. Toys left out for 2 consecutive days get put in a "Goodwill bin." All children over age 2 should be able to help clean up after they are done playing with them. Puzzles, games, and other items with small pieces should have separate bins for storage so that small parts are not lost. It may be helpful for boys and girls to store their toys in separate rooms or parts of a playroom. Videos and DVDS should be put back into their covers so that scratches do not occur.
More Suggestions for Simple Chores for Children
Bedrooms. If your child is old enough to sleep in a "big kid" bed, they are old enough to straighten the sheets and blankets in the morning. It does not have to meet military standards of neatness. Just make sure that they get in the habit of doing this every day. Night clothes should go into the hamper or laundry room each morning as well.
Personal care. It may sound funny, but believe me, my boys would tell you that showering is, in fact, a chore! Brushing and flossing twice a day also merits a gold star, in my opinion. Think about it - if you can get your child to be responsible for him or herself, without you having to constantly remind them to use personal hygiene, that is one less thing to clutter your overfilled parenting mind.
General Cleaning. You may be surprised! My children love to play with the duster, and plenty of surfaces get cleaned as a result. They also eagerly clean the glass doors, as well. Another super product with which I have incited them is the "Magic Eraser." Send them to work with one or two of them and hand-prints or other stains on your wall will magically disappear. And they find it fun! Bonus! Finally, my nearly 5-year old twins love to "freshen" the house with Febreze or related products.
The only caution is that they may go overboard. Be careful before you release a young child with a spray bottle in your house, unless you are supervising. We have ended up having to launder bedding that became quite saturated with the wonderful "fresh" smell of spring breeze....
Don't bring the outdoors in. My children have suffered from a terrible habit of shedding their coats as they enter the door like molting reptiles, leaving their skins on the floor. Shoes, likewise, are scattered around, threatening to result in twisted ankles or wrenched backs for those that step into the room with piles of folded towels or groceries shielding their view. We have worked on this situation by installing coat hooks and shoe racks near the door to the garage. Gentle reminders from time to time to USE them, helps too.
Incentive? So, what will it take to get your little one to help out? My husband is generally against the idea of allowance, but has reluctantly agreed that it does make sense for our school-age kids. I agree that for children under age 5, a simple rewards chart is probably incentive enough. After that, you probably need to decide on a weekly allowance, depending on the age of the child and his or her contribution to overall family support. You may wish to consult with friends and family to determine what they are paying their children, as well as what they are asking of them. In the northwest area of the country, a weekly allowance for 2nd and 4th graders is in the range of $1 to $5, depending on how much the child is doing.
Consistency, consistency, consistency! If you want to ingrain good habits in your child, you must be consistent in enforcing your rules about chores. Catch them doing a good job and praise them for their efforts. If you give out gold stars or allowance, be sure to consistently award your children for their performance. If your child does something extra, decide whether that merits an extra star, or perhaps just an extra hug, or a special afternoon with mom or dad.
With the implementation of some or all of these simple chores, you may just find yourself breathing a sigh of relief at the end of a busy day. The bonus is that your children will be engaged and happy (believe me) to contribute to the overall success of the household. So banish the negative associations of the word "chore" and embrace the idea of teamwork instead!
© 2008 Stephanie Hicks