What have your children done to contribute to your family this week? We aren’t talking about making their own beds or cleaning up their own toys, but helping out with the work that all families need to do: setting the table, walking the dog, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom. True, as a parent, sometimes it is just quicker and easier to get the jobs done by yourself. But what is your child learning when you do all of the work? How will he learn the life skills and responsibility he needs to be independent? Your child may know that he is loved (because he is) but how will he know the sense of belonging that comes from having your contributions valued? How will he develop the sense of how capable he really is in life? If you don’t have a system for sharing family work, summer is a great time to start. Here are some tips:
- Take time for training and work with your children until they can do the task on their own.
- Provide child-sized equipment (broom, gardening tools, etc) to encourage involvement..
- Brainstorm a list of all the jobs that are required to make a household run. That will include things that your children might not be able to do and it will increase their perspective. The list might include things like: Paying bills, buying grocer, putting gas in the car, earning money, doing the laundry, vacuuming, cooking 7 days a week, washing dishes, walking the dog, watering plants, taking care of the garbage and recycling, setting the table, etc.
- Invite your children to choose 2-3 jobs each that are developmentally appropriate. Make a chart or use popsicle sticks in a jar to set up a routine about who does which jobs and when.
- Make family work fun (sometimes anyway). Have a ‘chore time’ so everyone is working at the same time – sing or play music.
- Rotate chores (if possible depending on children’s ages), to avoid boredom.
- Be willing to trade. Sometimes kids just get tired of their job and want a day off. It is fun to be able to trade. “Don’t want to clear the table? Will you do my job of (cleaning the kitty litter/folding laundry etc) instead? Great! I’ll trade for today.”
- Separate allowance from household work. Family work is something that everyone does because they are part of the family – not because they get paid. It is important to learn that we do things because we are part of a group and because it is the right thing to do. Not everything we do is tied to a “reward.” Allowance is also something you get for being part of the family – but the two are not linked. If you want to make arrangements for opportunities to earn “extra money” by doing special jobs that is different.