Expert post: Helping your children do chores
Helping around the house benefits all the family - but how can we persuade our children to pitch in?
Isn't it fascinating the variety of things children do around the house? Some can barely be bothered to turn over and scratch, whilst others have a long list of chores.
If you expect your child to help around the house, the earlier you start the better. If they're reluctant now, imagine how much harder it will be to get them moving when they're teenagers.
Sometimes I think the reason that parents don't ask their kids to do more is because they assume they won't do it right. It's often easier to just go ahead and do it yourself. But if your child is to learn how to take responsibility for their own environment then they have to start somewhere, even if their standards don't quite match up to yours.
Chores that should be doable by a six to nine year old include:
- Putting their dirty clothes in the laundry basket
- Feeding and taking care of pets
- Setting the table
- Putting dishes in the dishwasher
- Picking up their toys (remember they're already doing this at school)
- Helping to wash the car
- Older children might want to try supervised ironing. My daughter was doing this from around 8.
- This age appropriate chore chart has suggestions for all ages
Of course the fact that they can do it doesn't mean that they will. I am regularly greeted with lots of huffing and puffing and complaints that I'm treating my children like slaves. But as a study recently suggested, not doing chores may be bad for their development. So really, we owe it to them to get them to pitch in.
Bribery and other methods
In our house, pocket money is doled out on a Sunday morning to children with tidy bedrooms. In between, we do not nag or do it for them. In practice what this means is that my son has a messy bedroom and little cash - in contrast, his sister's room is neat as a pin, and her money box is overflowing. When my son wants something, then he is motivated to do some jobs
And I think working with what motivates your child is often the best way forward. My daughter likes dusting the TV, mainly because she likes watching it. My son likes vaccuming because he loves machines.
Then we mix that in with the less interesting, but necessary stuff like sorting laundry or setting the table. With new chores, younger children may need very specific instructions at first, so things like a basket in their room for them to put dirty clothes into will help.
Music can also help - many schools have a designated 'Tidy Up Time' complete with a soundtrack to jolly things along. So crank up your favourite song to make chore time more fun. Or threaten to sing at them if they don't do what they're asked.
Your children are now old enough to take on board the lesson that as a family we all have to pitch in, rather than everything falling to one person. And this is a life lesson that we parents have a duty to give to our children. We've all met adults who haven't a clue how to pick up after themselves - is that how you want your child to be?
So how do chores work in your house? Do your children pitch in without complaint, or do you nag them to help out? Is pocket money dependant on doing jobs? Or do you think that childhood is for playing rather than work?
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