Do you ever have the feeling that you are the unpaid help at your house? Like there’s too much that you’re responsible for? I mean, come on, between cleaning, laundry, dishes, cooking, organizing everything for school and/or work, and the myriad of other things life brings, it can really bring a girl down.
So short of hiring a cleaning service, a personal secretary, and a chauffeur service what are your options?
For us the answer has been modeling, teaching, and expecting our kids to help out around the house. Our 2 year old even pitches in. Everyone works together…we are a team.
How can they help?
When my kids were about a year and a half old, I started encouraging them to “help” around the house. If I was carrying a laundry basket, I’d have them put a finger on it to help me get it from Point A to Point B. (I needed their muscles after all.) Sometimes they’d carry a hanger to the sofa where I was hanging up shirts.
When I did dishes, they would help put a spoon or fork into the utensil holder of the dishwasher. As I unloaded the dishes they’d carry a lid or two and throw it into the Tupperware cabinet.
As they finished playing with toys, my husband and I would expect them to clean up. Sometimes this meant me putting my hand over theirs and ‘helping them’ pick up each thing and put it away.
As they’ve gotten older, they are capable of putting the laundry away in their drawers. Taking the dirty clothes to the laundry room. Cleaning up their toys as they finish playing. They empty the dishwasher and work as a team to put the cups away in the upper cabinets or sort the silverware into the drawer.
When we clean the bathrooms, they help scrub the toilets or wipe down the counters.
They make their beds- not in the way I would, but in their way. I don’t go back and fix it, because I don’t want to send the message that what they did was wrong. Instead, every now and again I ask if they want some help and if they do, then I add a tip or two to making the bed more neatly.
Do they think cleaning is fun?
Honestly, a lot of times they do. We turn the music up loud and dance. We have races to see who can get things done first. Sometimes we’ll work in teams- kids against the grown-ups to earn points for getting things done quickly, neatly, and correctly. The more fun we make it, the easier it is to get their buy in.
A lot of times we work together to get a job done. The saying “Many hands, make light work” is true. I’ll help them clean their rooms and they help me put things away.
What if they don’t help?
Yep, there are those days. But the general rule of thumb is that if you choose not to help out, then when you want someone to help you with something they probably won’t be available, because they’ll be finishing up the job you didn’t do. We stick to that and they know it. Often times that’s enough to get them in gear.
Other times, we’ll have to ‘miss out’ on a trip to the park, library, or swimming because the work wasn’t done. It’s amazing how much faster things get finished.
As long as we are consistent in our expectations and follow through on the ‘consequences’ for not helping, we don’t have many issues. 9 out of 10 times they help out, no problem.
How did I teach them to do chores?
I use something I learned during my days in the classroom. We follow the model, “I do, We do, You do.”
“I do”- I do the chore with them following me around or hanging out in the same space. Sometimes I’ll talk through the steps out loud as I’m working. (ex. “First I’ll put the utensils in the drawer. Then I’ll do the plastic bowls.” Etc.)
“We do.”- They help me with the chore and we go through step-by-step how to do it. This happens many, many times until I feel like they understand exactly what is expected.
“You do.”- Once they have a handle on what the chore is and the steps to complete it, then they are given the reins to try it by themselves. Since we’ve done the job together a number of times, they’re usually confident and can complete it easily.
So what chores do my kids do?
My 2 and 4 year old help out on a daily basis. We don’t have a chore chart or a schedule. As we go through the day and things need to be done, I ask them to help me. Here are just some of the things they do:
- make beds
- clean their rooms
- put clothes in weekly cubbies
- put toys away
- take dishes in the sink
- empty the dishwasher (not the glass dishes)- utensils, plastic cups, measuring cups, baking items, etc.
- put dirty clothes away
- fold laundry
- put laundry away
- vaccuum- we got a small cordless vacuum that they can use safely
- clean toliets (with some help)
- clean sliding glass doors
- water plants
- clean out cars
- feed the dogs
- set the table
- clear their dishes from the table
What are they learning?
Chores teach kids responsibility. My kids are learning that there is a balance to working and playing. As they do their jobs, they are sequencing the steps needed to complete the job. They are learning to be part of a team and that everyone has to do their part. They are building confidence as they tackle new jobs, learn how to execute them, and find satisfaction in their ability to complete them.
So, the bottom line…”Chores” isn’t a dirty word. If you make it fun, take the time to model and teach your kids what and how to do a job, and if you are consistent, they’ll step up. After all, the faster the work gets done, the more time for fun!
How do your kids help around the house?