By GALTime Parenting Expert Michele Borba, Ed.D.
Years ago I learned a parenting secret from my girlfriend that I'll never forget. Cindy and I were busy chatting away when she glanced at the clock and suddenly announced: "Chore time!" to her kids. Just as quickly, her two kids jumped up from what they were doing, scurried to the kitchen and proceeded to unload the dishwasher and put the clean dishes in the cupboard. And they did so without an ounce of help from their Mom nor did they utter one complaint or say those glorious words, "How much do we get?" When they finished their task, they turned for their mom's sanction (she nodded approvingly), grinned and ran their separate ways back to play. Oh, and by the way: her kids were three and five years old. Cross my heart!
So what was the mom's secret? How could she possibly get her two kids not only to willingly participate in a family task, but also to do so at such young ages? Believe me, those were the questions I asked. My girlfriend shared her chore secrets:
1. Be developmentally appropriate: She chose chores that fit her kids' developmental abilities (more on that one!) and geared the task to their level.
2. Plan for success and work out quirks. She planned for success so her kids would be capable of unloading that dishwasher. The mom bought plastic dishes so there were no breakable or pricey dishes in the task. She also cleared a bottom cupboard so her preschoolers could put dishes away without help or falling from a higher shelf. Cindy also made it clear that she would be the one to unload the cutlery (like those knives and forks).
3. Use: "Show. Do Together. Step Aside." Cindy first modeled exactly how to unload the dishwasher while her kids watched in a fun manner. Next, she unloaded the dishwasher with her kids so she could guide and remind them as to how to do the chore. Finally, when she knew her kids were capable of going solo, she stepped aside. Her kids could then do the task alone.
This mom's result? Not only success, but also her kids actually enjoyed pitching in and doing household chores. And Cindy got her kids into a "helping spirit" at a young age.
What Research Says About Kids and Chores
Research shows there is a window when our kids are more likely to be cooperative and actually want to help out. Those younger ages are key. Too often we wait to assign chores or expect our kids to lend a hand. Most parents admit that "waiting" was a big mistake.
A TIME/CNN poll found that 75 percent of people said kids today do fewer chores then children ten or fifteen years ago. Sound similar? For whatever reason-our hectic pace or their over-scheduled lives-we tend to excuse kids from helping. And oh how we rationalize: "His schedule is so tight: he needs time to relax." "It's easier to do it myself." Or "She works so hard in school and needs a break."
Let's face it, sometimes it's just easier to put chores low on the priority list. There's so much more to do, right? But there are compelling reasons why you should get your kids to roll up their sleeves and get involved. Research shows that just how important it is to involve our kids in those household chores. Household tasks such as making your bed, taking out the trash, setting the table, raking leaves actually help kids learn crucial skills they need to take care of themselves, develop responsibility, empathy, cooperation and self-reliance, as well as become better-adjusted young adults. What's more, studies show that children who do chores from a young age are more likely to avoid drug use, complete their education, begin a career path, and develop sound relationships with family and friends. In fact, one study found that the best predictor for young adults' success is whether their parents required them to pitch in around the house. So get those kids off the couch and let the chores begin!
OK. We all know it's easier said than done. Here are my: 3 Steps to Get Kids to Pitch In and Learn How to Do Household Chores
It's never too early for your child to help out with the household chores. (Okay, do wait until your child is at least out of diapers!) But the fact is the sooner you begin assigning chores, the easier it is to nurture your child's responsibility muscle. Just do remember to choose tasks that match your child's abilities, show your child exactly what you expect, and finally stand back. And one more thing: "Never do any task for your child that she can do alone."
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