One of the handy things about children is that they can do chores. This may not be why you had them, but ultimately teaching them responsibility coincides quite nicely with your lack of time or inclination. And let’s face it; chores are a good idea, whether you use them to allow your kids to ‘earn’ an allowance or simply to teach them that there are jobs they will need to do, like it or not. But how can you work out which chores will be too much for your child – and which won’t?
It’s very important to keep chores age-appropriate, because a chore that is too much for the child executing it will lead only to frustration and despondency. Chores that are equally distributed among the kids will actually help create a sense of togetherness as a family and help children take responsibility for their homes, their actions and their lives. These effects are undermined by chores which are impossible or too difficult for a child to accomplish, although they also suffer when a child’s chores are too easy. As such, constant review is required.
A good place to start, in terms of chores, is with tidying up. A child who can take toys out of boxes to play with them is almost always old enough to put them back where they belong. Just know that your expectations should be realistic; you’ll probably need to lead by example and you may have to participate in the tidying for some time before your little darling is completely comfortable with tidying alone. Make it into a positive experience, as children will rail against anything they perceive as negative, and don’t feel too down-hearted if you’re doing most, or even all of the tidying at first. Your child will gradually get there, and as he or she ages you’ll be able to expect them to take a more active role. This can gradually grow into tidying the living room and hoovering it at the end of the day, but even when your child is old enough to handle the hoover you’ll need lowered expectations as a child is simply not equipped to do as good of a job as an adult would. Other excellent chores include filling and emptying the dishwasher (with help for higher cupboards) and sweeping the yard or raking leaves in the garden – especially helpful during the autumn! Of course, tidying their room is a biggie, too.
Remember to lower your expectations across the board. The point is not to have a perfectly tidy house or a sparkling set of dishes, nor is it even to teach your child how to do these chores to perfection (although your expectations can rise as your child gets older, and when he or she is ready to flee the nest you’ll be able to expect a decent standard).
The point is for your child to understand the importance of doing his or her job in a community setting such as your household, and in a more solitary setting such as his or her room. You will be able to notice when your child has purposely done a poor job and when they simply aren’t able to attain the level you would expect from yourself.
Buying a large whiteboard is a good way to keep track of chores. With permanent marker, you can divide this board into sections, allowing you to keep track of which chores which child needs to do and whether or not he or she has done them. You can tie them to a reward and, conversely, withhold this reward if the chore is not done. Before you know it, your child or children will be better-behaved and well on the way to a responsible, fulfilling life as a contributing member of society.