The fact is most parents wish their kids would help more around the house. This would not only make their life a lot easier as a parent, but beside that it would be a good thing, right?
The answer is a simple yes!
Not just because it makes your lives as parents easier. A lot of you parents are probably thinking while reading this, it would probably be easier to do it yourselves!
Research shows that kids who have household responsibilities are more likely to step up and help others outside their home.
Our theory is that these kids are accustomed to helping, and they see their contributions as valuable. Responsibility at home really does make kids better citizens.
So why don’t kids help more, and what can you do about it in your own home? That’s the question that puzzles ever most experienced parents.
We are going to explain you their psychology in the most simple terms possible:
# Because all kids hate chores.
It’s a reasonable attitude, given that most of us adults find our housework boring as it does not require many special skills, if at all.
On the other hand your kids have so many other, more interesting, demands on their time so they really can’t see why it matters so much to you if the floor gets swept or they cleaned up after they lost interest half way through building that wonky looking abstract object with their Lego.
So what’s the solution?
Make it about fun and mastery: Remember that if you make the experience of contributing to the family feel like a boring housework / chore, chances are your children will avoid it at all cost.
You must be wondering why? The answer is very straightforward, because they don’t see anything interesting from their point of view that they are expected to disassemble or throw that master piece of Lego that they put a whole lot of though building one into a toy box just to please you, it just doesn’t appeal to them, period!
So, instead, think of this as a chance for your child to enjoy getting good at something.
For example say something like, ‘let’s see how can you fit that amazing thing that you made with Lego back into the toy box!’ OR ‘oh wow how’d you get so fast at pairing up socks?’
Trust us over time, they’ll come to enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done, and even to take pride in their capability of being the ‘Jack of all trades’ or I’d rather say ‘chores’ and be the ‘master of all’ at the same time!
Make it about connection and appreciation: You must understand that your children don’t see much value in doing household work, unless you’re doing it with them.
So instead of sending your kids off to work by themselves, see the work as an opportunity to bond with them. Put on a theme song of favourite character whether its Barney, Thomas the Tank, Ninja Turtles or Frozen and sing along while it’s playing.
Not only you got to make the whole job a fun thing to do but clearly show the joy in working together, and inspire your children with it.
Tell them how much you love them and explain how much you value their help.
They will love hearing you say things like ‘Thank you so much! We make a great team….Many hands make work quicker and then we have more time for fun together!’
Kids are creatures that love having multiple choices so they resist a lot less to almost none if they have choices to pick and choose between the housework / chores.
It doesn’t hurt to have a little practical motivation waiting after the family clean-up on Saturday mornings, like a trip to the park, if the weather is cold you can always take them to indoor fun places, lovindublin.ie has put together a list, check it out here for some ideas ‘The 10 Best Weekend Activities For Kids’
# Because it’s easier to do it ourselves.
When children are young enough to be interested in helping with housework, we shoo them away.
By the time they could be helpful, it takes so much time to teach them that it’s still easier to do it ourselves.
Besides, by then, they’re absorbed in other, more exciting pursuits, and the battle to get them to ‘help’ feels too frustrating.
So what’s the solution?
You must change your attitude about why children are doing housework / chores. It isn’t to save you time, at least not initially.
It’s to learn life skills, and to experience how good it feels to contribute. Expect to spend time teaching and supervising.
The younger kids are when they begin doing household tasks, the better. Toddlers usually love helping.
Consciously involve your child in what you’re doing from an early age, even though it takes much more time. Make it fun for them. Set your expectations like:
‘Everyone works together in our house’
‘We always clean up our own messes…come on, I’ll help you’
That will help your children begin to see themselves as contributing something of value. That’s a basic human need, and children enjoy that feeling as much as we adults do.
If your children are older, do you still need to work with them?
Oh Yes! If you want them to enjoy helping you with housework / chores and learn how to do them well! Rather than assigning chores, always keep this in mind that ‘you’re a team’ so you will always encourage them working as one.
Have each child participate in a project while you work with them.
Your job is solely to be the coordinator, troubleshoot any problems that come up, and keep things fun and on track. For instance, maybe your 12 year old makes eggs for breakfast while your ten year old makes the toast.
Yes, that is actually realistic, but you’ll need to be there as the assistant to help everything go smoothly.
There’s no reason your children can’t enjoy making meals for the family by the time they’re teens, so that everyone in the family cooks once a week but it’s very important that you remember this ‘it takes your involvement over time to get to that point, if you did not build up the foundation in the first pace then it’s not going to happen in a snap after you finish reading this article.’
# Children “need” us to help them.
Children do need babying from time to time. It reassures them that we’re there to protect and nurture them.
Besides, they have to work hard to keep it together at school all day, and they need plenty of opportunities at home to relax their executive selves and let their baby selves come out.
If they don’t get those opportunities, you can be sure the baby self will surface as soon as you ask your child to help out, or even to put on his own shoes you will be smacked with a tantrum.
So what’s the solution?
Please don’t be afraid to “baby” your children when they asks you for help, and make sure they get plenty of other opportunities to be ‘silly’ as well as ‘off duty’ to do their ‘own thing’ whatever that may be completely ‘independent’ on their own.
Once you’re sure that they are getting their need to feel “cared for” met, when they asks for help with a task you know they can do, stay with them offering encouragement but let them handle most of it.
If you keep your ‘sense of humor’ along with ‘your expectation’ that your children actually can make their own sambo, they’ll be astonished to find that they really can do it themselves, and their confidence to try new tasks will skyrocket and that’s exactly what your aim should be.
# Because kids don’t have time.
In Ireland, our culture’s way of training young people to participate in society is school. They spend hours in class, and then more hours doing their homework / chores.
If they participate in sports, music, or other activities, they’re required to spend a tremendous amount of time practicing.
By the time they’re in primary school, they often have no time to play. By the time they’re in secondary school, they often have no time to sleep!
So what’s the solution?
During their school years, give your children responsibilities that can be handled in an hour on the weekend.
Ideally, during the summer time, have a discussion about responsibility and work out a schedule that asks more of your child.
Take the opportunity while they are on summer holidays to teach life skills and have your children make a real contribution to your household.
# Kids rarely complete the whole task.
You can’t really expect your child to finish each and every job you give them up to the end and do it as well as you would. You probably weren’t so thorough at their age, either. ( try asking your mother if you don’t believe us!)
So what’s the solution?
Teach, teach and teach more! When you teach your children the task, be sure to break it down into smaller steps and help your children master one step at a time.
Everyone has access to a smart phone nowadays so take photos of them doing it, even once your children can read, and make a small chart poster with each step.
Cede control: Once your children takes responsibility for a task, try to minimize your control over that task. If they know you’re going to re-do it after they are done, why should they bother trying? beside that it shows them that no matter how hard they try they are just not good enough as you are going to re do it after all.
Focus on the positive: It’s vital to be encouraging and appreciative at the same time so your child ‘wants’ to do an even ‘better job’.
Think about how you respond if someone schools you over the way you do your tasks at work and compare it to when they find the positive in what you’ve done.
So if your son’s dresser drawers are a shambles, at least ‘appreciate that he’s putting away his own clothes first‘ before showing him ‘a proper way’ to correct it.
If your princess of a daughter takes forever to finish the dishes because she chats on the phone the whole time, consider that it’s really up to her how she makes the job palatable. And if there are streaks in the bathroom mirror, use them as a reminder that you didn’t have to clean the bathroom this week!
If you always appreciate your children’s efforts ‘before correction’ the chances are that your kids will listen to you and try their hardest to correct their mistakes, which in the end benefits you as just as much as it benefits them.
# Because kids “forget” and we give up.
Kids have a lot on their minds, from the upcoming soccer games to whether their sister got a bigger piece of pie. You can expect to have to remind kids of their responsibilities. And you can expect them to complain a bit.
So what’s the solution?
Don’t give up, and don’t get frustrated. Housework / chores will never be first on your child’s list, and that’s grand. Keep your sense of humor alive .
Then, when your child complains about helping around the house, or needs reminding, empathise and restate your expectation.
‘I know, wouldn’t it be great if the delf washed itself?…Come on, let’s go’ but keep your tone flat and super relaxed so it doesn’t sound like you being overly clever and critical of them, because you will be met with an instant resistance and it won’t help you achieve your end goal ‘delf being washed.’
Every now and then reminds then of a routine that includes the responsibilities that everyone has signed up for, and then be consistent and cheerful about your expectations.
We are a creature of habit and this is the only way to create a habit, and what you want is a habit so your child does it on auto pilot.
After all, they don’t have a lot of incentive to put their plates in the dishwasher, so the only reason to do it in the beginning is that you’ll be in their face (in a very nice way) reminding them gently until they do it.
After awhile, it will simply be a habit, oh ‘this is what we do after a meal’ and trust us most of the time you won’t have to remind them.
Remember that reminding doesn’t mean nagging or annoyance to say the least.
The category your reminders fall into will always depend on your tone of voice.
Experiment with being silly and even ridiculous when you have to remind your children about a task, until everyone is laughing or at least see the funny side of it.
The anxiety will disappear instantly, along with any potential resistance. In fact, your disappointment about having to remind your kids will also disappear.
Once there’s lightness and fun about it, you might even find that your children no longer needs prompting or reminders every often.
Like the rest of us adults, when children know that doing something will consistently get them a smile, hug, or warm thank you, they’re more likely to do it and sustain it too.
By contrast, if we think they should do it without reminders, we get irritable and the whole interaction is fraught with a stress.
Not surprisingly, they’re more likely to shy away from even thinking about that housework / chore, which is loaded with a layer of unpleasant associations and drama during it or afterwords.
Yes, it will take more effort to get your children to put their own clothes in a place where they belong and should be than to do it yourself.
But the repeated effort is worth it, because over time those tasks turn into more of a habit, like brushing their teeth every morning and before going to bed.
Kids really do rise to meet our expectations, as long as we stay connected so they want to please us.
One day your children ‘will’ indeed serve you your favorite meal they made, and you’ll realise you’ve raised kids that can take care of themselves and others, best that they are making a real contribution in our society.
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