It would be great to have some help around the house, and getting little ones started early will pay off later. Although toddlers are too young to contribute effectively to the household, they love to help. Getting a toddler involved now instills a sense of belonging and helps your child feel needed. Even if it means more work for you, acknowledging your child’s enthusiasm and introducing the habit of helping is worth the extra effort.
Allowing your children to help with household tasks will aid their development and help them grow up to be healthy, independent adults for three important reasons:
- It gives children a sense of responsibility and belonging.
- It provides an opportunity for parents to encourage children by saying “Well done” when a job is completed.
- It provides a process for building self-esteem.
The term “chores” can have a negative connotation; instead, think of these tasks as “contributions.” When you involve your children in making contributions around the house, you are helping to prepare them for the real world. You don’t want them going off to college not knowing how to do their own laundry or cook an egg, do you? Kids who don’t have responsibilities in the home might grow up to be needy young adults who look to others to do things that they should be doing for themselves. In addition, when your children help with jobs around the house, they contribute to the household running smoothly and with less stress. Everyone benefits.
Here are three tips for encouraging your children and helping them follow through with their “contributions.”
1. Model a positive attitude about household contributions, both your own and your child’s.
Show enthusiasm. Make comments that are animated and excited, such as, “I’m so glad I cleaned my room. Doesn’t it look great?” Or say, “The bathroom was messy. Now that I’ve cleaned it up, it looks so neat. I enjoy a clean bathroom.” Show appreciation when your little one helps. You can say, “I sure appreciate your help with the laundry. It gets done sooner when you help out.” Keep it lively so your children will associate fun with chores when they get old enough to do them on their own. Put on music. Laugh. Have a great time!
Come up with a list of chores you can work on together, and then let your children choose the types of contributions they’d like to make around the house. By giving them a sense of control, they’ll more readily buy into doing chores Here are some jobs that are appropriate (and fun!) for little ones:
- dusting the TV or computer screen with socks on their hands
- wiping off the table or countertop
- sweeping the kitchen floor (with a child-sized broom)
- emptying the trash in your office
- taking laundry to the laundry room
- putting napkins on the dinner table
- picking up toys and books
Here’s a tip for helping your children decide on a job: Take pictures of them doing each step in the process the first time they help with various tasks. Later, when it comes time to do chores, have your children look over the pictures and select the job they’d like to do alone.
These pictures can also help your children become more independent in completing chores. Post the pictures in the correct order at the children’s eye level. Then they will have visual cues for the steps if they are unsure about what comes next. Soon, your little ones will be completing more of them on their own.
Making contributions around the house is not about punching a time clock. Children’s motivation is increased when they are allowed to choose when the job is completed. Instead of saying, “It’s time to clean up your toys right now,” say, “Please have your toys put away before grandma comes to visit. But if you get it done right away, we have extra time for a story!” You could also ask for something to be completed by lunchtime or before you leave for school, for example.
Giving your children as much power as you can to finish a job on their own shows respect. Saying “I want this done now!” is not respectful and makes a child defensive and less cooperative. You should also offer to help occasionally. This ups the odds that they will offer to help you when they’re teenagers.
Enjoy the benefits of having chores done and knowing at the same time that you have given your children an opportunity to feel needed and appreciated. Start now. You’ll be glad you did!
Janada Clark, M.A. teaches parent education using Love and Logic at Stanford, preschools, churches and schools in our community. She also teaches classes and workshops at Day One in Palo Alto. For more information, visit www.janadaclark.com, or email email@example.com. You can also visit her Facebook page.