Make the best use of live-in household labor: Your kids! Here, inside tips on what they can do and how to motivate them to do it.
With a little persistence and a lot of encouragement, you can go from being sole cook, cleaner and clothes washer to manager of a smooth-running domestic team. Post the following ad prominently and hire some assistance today!
CLEANING HELP WANTED
Ages 5 and up
No experience necessary. Will train.
Successful applicant will be a motivated self-starter with a positive attitude
Ice cream incentives
Smart parents know the home is the best training ground for self-sufficiency. For your kids, helping with household chores instills a work ethic, encourages self-reliance, and can be a gratifying experience. (Many kids enjoy the before-and-after results they get from applying a little elbow grease to dirty bathrooms and dusty dressers.) Children who contribute to the family feel important and helpful. “Having a sense of accomplishment is a key component of self-esteem,” says Richmond, Virginia-based psychologist Debbie Glasser, Ph.D.
Plus, “chores don’t have to be, well, a chore,” Glasser explains. “When they are age-appropriate and introduced in a positive manner, they’ll likely be well received and even viewed as fun — especially by school-age children who typically enjoy the role of mom’s or dad’s best helper.”
Getting the Job Done: A Step-by-Step Plan
1. Get everyone involved. Give kids a day or two to notice your ad, then hold a family meeting. Children will be more invested in the process of doing chores if you include them in conversations about what needs to be done. “Talk about what household responsibilities should be accomplished on a daily, weekly and monthly basis,” says Glasser: making the bed, setting the table, cleaning out lunch boxes, walking the dog, etc.
2. Make a list of basic, weekly chores. There is no right or wrong way to divvy them up. Some families make each family member responsible for keeping clean one room in the house (the bathroom, for instance). Others have their kids volunteer for various jobs rather than assigning them. Still others keep kids from getting bored by rotating chores regularly.
3. Interview job candidates and fill positions. With a little imagination, you can come up with funny job titles such as: sweeper upper or broom commander; dish washer; dog feeder; filler upper (this person restocks napkins, toilet paper, paper towels, the salt shaker, etc.); feather duster; rug rat (in charge of vacuuming); sink sergeant (makes porcelain shine); toilet tamer; mirror maven; garbage guru; greens keeper (watering household plants); and table setter/silverware sergeant.
4. Get to work! For best results:
- Be realistic about kids’ ability. Don’t give young children more than they can handle (too much frustration, after all could lead to an early retirement). “A kindergartner, for example, may be overwhelmed by the task of cleaning up a room cluttered with toys,” Glasser says. You’ll need to lend assistance at first by breaking down the task into smaller components. “Tell her to gather all the toys that make noise or all the red cars, for example. As children grow, so will their ability to do more chores independently.”
- Show how to get it done. Kids generally take clean laundry and neat family rooms for granted. Put to rest the notion that a hardworking, invisible elf lives at your house and returns it to order when the family sleeps. Kathy Peel, founder of Familymanager.com and author of Desperate Households, suggests a little on-the-job training. “Do the chore with your child and explain what you’re doing as you’re working. Be sure to point out any safety precautions he should take,” says Peel. Be clear about what you expect and show him any tricks and shortcuts. “And don’t forget to give him a deadline — Saturday at noon, for example.”
- Emphasize effort over outcome. Your goal is to promote responsibility and a cooperative attitude — not perfection. “If your child makes his bed every morning, don’t worry about how smooth the covers look or if the pillows are lined up. You may need to lower your standards,” Glasser says.
- Make it fun. Exchange jokes as you fold laundry together. Play music while your child sets the table. With a soup ladle as a makeshift microphone, they can play Karaoke Kitchen during KP duty. “Being playful, positive, and upbeat as you work as a family to take care of your home will get you better results,” Peel says.
5. Be sure to thank them. Let your kids know you appreciate their help. “Thanks for putting your soccer gear away, Billy,” can go a long way in nurturing cooperation. When kids feel appreciated, they’re more likely to pitch in without protest.
Something interesting for parents out there who are having trouble with their little helpers. Read on and apply with caution!