Parents everywhere wish their kids would just do their chores at all, let alone ever expect that chores will be done without multiple reminders and threats of grounding. But it is completely possible to teach your kids to do their chores without you intervening.
Start Kids on Chores When They Are Young
An interesting study on early childhood development showed that young children learn well as adults use play as the vehicle for learning. When properly presented, the children consider the act of learning just as fun as playing and are far more responsive.
For parents looking to apply this outside of a scholastic setting, try your best to make chores fun for your young child. One of the things which my youngest children loved was turning on their “special clean up song” when it came time to tidy up.
If you don’t want to try your hand as a composer, my wife and I used the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy as our clean up music. There was nothing quite as adorable as watching our two youngest as they danced around the room and put away their Mega Bloks. Now that our youngest are both a little older, they don’t need the special cleanup song but proactively put away their toys once they are done playing.
Model Your Cleaning Expectations
Now, my wife and I didn’t just sit back as our children did their chores. Children learn many social cues through mimicry. It was important that we were there to lend a hand and show our children that we, too, were working alongside them.
Not to say that we didn’t make mistakes with our two oldest children. Since we were not as on the ball when working with our oldest children, they have struggled with proactivity when it comes to doing their chores. But, even with older children, if they see you actively engaging in chores, they are less likely to complain when it is their turn to pitch in and help.
Allow Things to Be Done Imperfectly
Let’s face it, it can be tough to watch your kid make mistakes and go more slowly than you would while doing chores. Especially if you know you are going to have to redo the work.
It is important for children to take ownership of their ability to do chores when they are young, as it will build their confidence as well as their skills. Allow them to make mistakes, rather than swooping in to stop them, then help them correct the mistake.
For instance, when my daughter was three, she loved to sweep out the front room. We bought her a child-sized broom and she would enthusiastically sweep, throwing dust everywhere. After her first attempt, we showed her how to properly sweep, helping her make the correct motions. While it took several more times to help her grasp how to not throw dust on the coffee table, she eventually improved. Now that she is seven, she is an excellent little sweeper and still considers sweeping one of her favorite chores.
Praise but Don’t Bribe Your Kids
Lastly, but importantly, children should be praised for doing chores but not bribed. I’ve mentioned that my wife and I don’t pay our children an allowance to do basic household chores but we do pay for work which goes above and beyond, like cleaning the bathroom grout. By setting the expectation that everyone in the family does chores, our children don’t need to be bribed to do their basic chores.
I hope that as you work on teaching your children about chores and family responsibility, what I have shared will help your family.