Oh boy, my kids could pass for the Queen of Lackadaisical Land and the Sultan of Lazytown. Have you been to these places? I visited briefly when the heavens opened and delivered us an ‘ayi’ [read: cook/maid] during our posting in Beijing. Since coming back to Real Life, however, in the magical land of Aus, it seems it’s only my children who’ve escaped the crushing reality of house keeping.
Often, I’m too busy or too much in a hurry to get things done to pester my kids to complete their chores, but this has to change. I think I’m doing them an enormous disservice by not encouraging them to help around the house. Not even the golden promise of pocket money seems to help.
Of course, it goes without saying that teaching our kids how to keep house provides them valuable life skills they can count on to become organised, self-sufficient adults. Seemingly trivial or boring rituals like making beds and unpacking the dishwasher are, in fact, essential building blocks to creating a capable adult fifteen or twenty years from now.
I really believe withholding these tasks from our children is a disadvantage and I’ve got to change my ways. Instead of scooping up household tasks and lumping them in the ‘I can do it quicker and easier’ basket, I need to relinquish a little perfectionism and speed in favour of allowing my kids to contribute – to give them a feeling of importance and usefulness. Kids like to feel needed and hey presto! double bonus: it also gives them that special and oftentimes rare feeling of ”responsibility’.
While we’re at it, how about we haul out and dust off that oldentime ‘work-ethic’ idea you may have heard of way-back-when – an attitude which allows us to strive for a better life and simultaneously achieve immense satisfaction and happiness from our efforts. A work ethic is something that needs to be built into children when they’re young. Showing kids that effort = reward is something horrendously lacking in modern times.
So, if your kids are also taking an extended vacation in Sloth City, let’s band together and get them off their proverbials. Here are some ideas (beyond the pocket money sweetener) that may tempt your child to help around the house. May they make this educational ‘chore’ easier for you. I’ll certainly be employing them in our household (‘scuse the unintentional play on words).
1. START YOUNG
Even toddlers can pull up the covers, put their toys in the toybox and put a cup in the sink. They also respond extremely well to small tasks like setting the table and putting clothes in the washing machine. It gives them a sense of purpose. And if it starts young, it stays stronger for longer.
2. KEEP A SCHEDULE
A fun way to encourage children is to create a written schedule, clearly marked with each child’s name, so they can tick off their weekly jobs and feel as though they’ve really accomplished something. Put it somewhere eye-catching so all the family can see their special achievements.
3. MAKE IT A GAME
Do you remember Mary Poppins? Spit spot! All manner of items flew lickety-split onto their shelves, and even beds kindly made themselves. We may not have such luxurious powers, but an attitude of fun can work absolute magic to get a job done. Complete chores while hopping on one leg, running on the spot or have one arm behind your back. Silly and challenging, but fun!
4. MONEY ALTERNATIVE
If you would prefer a cashless reward for your children, a sticker chart is a great way to keep track of their progress. Each completed job is awarded with a sticker, and once they reach their goal, they earn a treat. Treats could be a trip to the beach, playing scrabble with Dad or having a slumber party. Place the sticker chart in a prominent place so everyone can see it and admire your child’s progress.
5. MAKE MINE MUSIC
Sing songs, whistle or tidy up to music – the louder and more up-tempo, the better. Make sure it’s music they like and have sing-a-longs as you move. Music can really make people move, especially kids!
6. RACE TIME
If you have more than one child, set up a race… whoever gets it done first wins. If one child is involved, they will have to either race you (kids love this!) or get it done in a set amount of time (without being sloppy!). The winner gets winner status only; no prizes or it will defeat the feeling of accomplishment.
7. ALL GROWN UP
Make younger kids feel grown up as they work. Give them aprons or a special item to wear, and hand over life-size equipment, which they’ll get a real kick out of using (they love to vacuum!). For older kids, ask them to do things that involve a level of trust and make it clear that only children with responsibility and supreme agility could perform such a task. Make it known to others how well they then perform said task (even if they don’t do it so well!).
8. JUST ASK
Ask your children what chores they prefer. As adults, we have our least favourite jobs to do – children are the same. If your child prefers one job over another, they are far more likely to complete it with enthusiasm and regularity.
9. BE POSITIVE
While you can certainly guide, never try to criticise or redo a child’s cleaning attempt. It will make them despondent and reluctant to try again. And don’t forget to praise kids when they accomplish a task without your nagging them, however, don’t overdo it. Eventually, these tasks should become a given rather than a way to seek approval.