Learning how to do basic chores and other life skills at a young age matters. Here are some things you can do…
The ability to behave in an adult manner and fulfill such grown-up responsibilities as: hold a 9-5 job, make monthly mortgage/rent, or car payments, or accomplish anything else in such a way as to make one think of grown-ups.
It’s an awful feeling to graduate from high school, leave home, get into your first apartment and realize there is a huge set of necessary “adulting” skills you never acquired. Don’t let this happen to your children! Teach them how to do chores and other basic life skills that will help them to be ready to manage their own homes and take care of themselves when they get older.
Tips for Teaching Chores to Children
All children are different in the development of their mental and physical abilities. Any age-appropriate chore list should be viewed as a general guideline to use when determining what chores your children are mentally and physically capable of doing. It’s much better to do a few things consistently than to do a lot of things in a hit-or-miss fashion. When teaching your children to do chores you should:
- Remember how old they are. Be reasonable and kind in your expectations. Don’t expect too much of them…but also, do not do them the incredible disservice of expecting too little.
- Remember it takes several times of having an action “modeled” for them before your children can do a task on their own.
- Explain what you want them to do.
- Explain why you want them to do it.
- Show them step-by-step how to do the job. Adjust the techniques to fit their abilities. Step back and have them repeat your behavior.
- Explain what they did just right and what things they can do to accomplish the task a little better next time.
- Emphasize that they are learning, which means they will make mistakes. Remind them that everyone makes mistakes when they are learning how to do something—even you—so there is no need for a high level of frustration or blame. Help them recognize how they are improving (or getting a little better) every day.
- Be positive and kind. You are learning as well (e.g., such as how to instill a sense of self-discipline in your children). Consistency in any arena of parenting is not always easy, but doing this work in your children’s early years will make your life (and your children’s lives) easier in the long term.
- Be sure to check on their completed tasks. Give them a chance to “show off” what they were able to do. For example, instead of saying, “Did you get your room done?” ask, “Are you ready to show off your room?” This puts the emphasis (and value) on their creativity and skill, rather than on doing the task to avoid experiencing a negative consequence such as “being in trouble.”
Again: Don’t be too critical.
- In other words, don’t fixate on identifying every little thing that is not exactly right. Do, however, hold them accountable for completing a task all the way through to the end according to their skill level.
- Ask them to critique their own work (e.g., “Is there anything else that seems out of place?” “Is there maybe one more thing you can think to do to make this a little nicer or a little bit more beautiful or work better?”)
- Most importantly, give them the chance to recognize their own success. Have them stand at their bedroom doorway and look at what they accomplished. Say: “Look at what you did. How does your room look to you? Do you like it? How does it make you feel?” Help them learn how to recognize and acknowledge how good it feels to do a good job.
You don’t want your children to be lazy or sloppy, but you also don’t want to be so strict in your expectations that they are overwhelmed, feel hopeless, and want to quite. As you:
- Pay attention to your children’s mental and physical development,
- Give them age-appropriate chores to do,
- Teach and model each chore, accept that making mistakes is a normal part of the learning process, and
- Focus on admiring their creativity and skill when doing chores…
…then your children’s self-confidence and self-esteem will grow. Not only will they be ready to manage their own homes and take care of themselves when they get older, but they will know they are ready. What better gift could you give? Competence breeds Confidence.