Chores

Limited time and increased duties make you feel like you can’t get it all done. Rather than placing a help-wanted ad, seek help from those who live with you, and you can start with toddlers, but kids of most ages are capable of helping.

With so many responsibilities of running a house, some parents feel that teaching children at a very young age is important. It shows that all family members can work together and each person can do their share. When assigning chores, make sure that they are developmentally appropriate. The child must have the tools and knowledge to complete the chore effectively.

Parents need realistic expectations and patience to help children as they develop the necessary skills. Think of it as three different phases of being able to help:

A child helps. A parent does the planning and motivation, and the child does part of the work, say folding washcloths. A parent picks out all washcloths from the laundry basket with very few steps for the child to do.

A child helps but needs reminding or supervision. Adult and child share in the planning, and the child completes the task with supervision, such as helping to make a bed. This is one of those skills that takes time to learn.

A child works independently. The child does the planning, motivation, and work, including cleaning up, such as packing his or her own lunch. More complex tasks will come easier to older children.

Introducing children to chores is a process, not a one-time task. How you present chores make a difference.

The chores should not be overwhelming. Break down the chore into small parts and let your child master one task before adding another.

Make the job clear and what expectations there are, including a deadline to have it finished.

Teach chores or tasks in the child’s learning style. Does your child need to see it demonstrated and try it — hands-on learning — or have the steps explained verbally?

Involve the child in choosing which chores they do. Children like to have input into decisions.

As a parent, you may need to let go of the control and live with the one that they choose. Do you want to empty the trash or set the table? Do you want to clean alone, or do you want me to help show you? Do you want to pick two chores, or do you want me to assign them?

When a child expresses interest in a particular chore, such as being willing to vacuum but not empty the dishwasher, take the opportunity to teach what’s involved.

Be specific with your directions. “Clean your room” may mean different things to the parent and child. Explain what you consider an acceptable job.

Another factor to consider when presenting chores would be the child’s temperament.

It might be best to give a child with high activity level the task of sweeping, raking the leaves or gathering the garbage from around the house. Highly distractible kids may need reminders to stay on task until the job is complete. Some children do better with a visual reminder — a picture checklist — to help them know what you expect to complete the task. Some chores take several tries to get right, and patience on the part of the parent is critical.

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