Many parents struggle with deciding when their children are old enough to help with chores. And when that time comes, they may have difficulties getting their children to lend a hand around the house. Instead of making chores seem like a punishing task, try to be creative and have fun. By getting your children involved with housework, you can teach them about responsibility, enhance their self-esteem and give them the sense of accomplishment that accompanies a job well done.
Strategies to get your child helping out around the house:
• Simplicity is key – You want to make sure that the task is manageable. In the beginning, don’t assign chores with multiple steps. Keep in mind that your child will not be able to complete chores perfectly, and that it will probably take several attempts until he/she can do them according to your standards. Be sure to praise your child’s attempts, and whatever you do, do not fix his/her work. This will only discourage the child and make future attempts less likely.
• Be consistent – When introducing new chores, make sure to pick just a few manageable tasks. Starting with one or two chores is a wise idea. After the child is able to accurately complete these chores, introduce additional tasks. You do not want the child to feel overwhelmed with several tasks, because he/she will begin to ignore or ditch new chores. Additionally, be sure to let him/her know when the chore needs to completed. If the chore is not completed in the specified time frame, there should be reasonable consequences in place that your child is aware of.
• Size doesn’t matter – There are plenty of tasks, large and small, that need to be done around the house. It is a great idea to have children start helping when they are young because it will make it easier to introduce bigger and more complex tasks as they get older. Some tasks that young children can do are: put away toys, put dirty laundry in the hamper, put clean laundry away, feed the family pet, or help carry in and put away groceries.
• Make it fun – Be creative with how you introduce chores to your child. Instead of calling it a chore, you can say that you have a special job you would like him/her to work on. You can make up silly songs, do funny dances and have races while cleaning. It’s also a great idea to have child-size cleaning tools (e.g. brooms, gloves, and gardening equipment) to make the job more exciting. Sometimes tasks can be frustrating when the tools needed are too big for young children to use them properly.
• Give praise – Provide verbal praise while the child is completing the chore and immediately after he/she finishes. Try to stay away from pairing up chores with money. If you start out by doing this, you are then forced to continue using money for other chores. Money rewards can be used for bigger chores like cleaning the basement, but should not be used with all chores. You can use other things like sticker charts, allowing more play time on the Wii, or giving a special privilege like picking out what movie the family should watch together. However, you don’t always want to give your child something for completing a chore because you want them to learn that everyone in the family is responsible for keeping the house clean.
Age-appropriate chores for children:
2- to 3-year-olds
Put toys away
Put dirty clothes in the hamper
Carry in the mail or newspaper
4- to 5-year-olds
Make his/her bed
Help carry in and put away groceries
6- to 9-year-olds
Cleanup his/her bedroom
Help make lunch and get snacks for his/her lunch
Help set and clear the table before and after meals
Help load and unload the dishwasher