“Diligent hands will rule…” ~Prov 12:24
For months now I’ve been trying to figure out how to tackle better involving my children in household operations. At 4 1/2 and 2 3/4, they’re both capable of doing a fair amount to help out… But I’ve been unclear on how exactly I wanted to achieve this in our home. I got hung up on all the different “kids job” options and styles out there… Individual chore charts and sticker rewards? All helping out together, tomato-staking style? Tied to allowance or not? Too many choices, and I felt overwhelmed just figuring out the best tack – let alone getting started.
Our ultimate goals are basically these:
1) Kids understand that everyone in the house is expected to contribute to help things run smoothly. It’s not up to mom to do everything.
2) Kids are equipped and empowered, from an early age, to assist in household tasks. A ‘can do’ spirit reigns. This isn’t just good for me and the family unit but for the kids, their character, and their work ethic.
3) Kids take ownership of their tasks and undertake them with a (primarily!) willing, pleasant spirit.
4)Kids don’t expect to be rewarded (with either things, like stickers/treats, or money) for attending to basic, every-day tasks.
5) Family cultivates a “work together, go team!” spirit about daily life. Diligence and cooperation become standard; everyone’s trained to think – and ask – “how can I help?” when there’s stuff to get done.
Nothing especially unique or novel here. Who wouldn’t want to parent a bunch of kids who are diligent, helpful, independent, and cooperative? So… back to the how. For us, I wanted to take into account some of the specifics of our family to develop a beginning plan. For example:
- Our firstborn is a son whose natural inclinations are not (unlike his little sister) domestic tasks like unloading the washer or wiping placemats. Not only is he fairly disinterested, he can be downright resistant. All the more reason to have – and follow through with – a plan and high expectations for his involvement. Especially because he, as the oldest, sets the tone for his younger siblings – and because steering clearing of an entitlement mindset in him is a priority for us.
- Since our kids aren’t currently enrolled in (pre)school, and may not be in the future either, it’s worth it to develop and maintain whole-family diligence and cooperation in household-related work. Concerted effort on my part now will pay off later.
- Household diligence and management are not naturally my forte and I can – and sometimes do – tolerate a fair bit of disorder. For me to both prioritize smooth household functioning and also regularly involve my children in household tasks requires a decent amount of focus and commitment for me.
- Our children use their rooms as daily play space , both during a short morning room-time and during rest time. A full toy clean-up in bedrooms (ie, putting away all toys each day) may not make sense.
I decide to skip the individualized chore chart and just dig in by having both kids help out with some clearly specified jobs that take place throughout the day: dishwasher unloading, place clearing, table setting, toy clean-up, laundry (sorting, folding, putting back in their drawers). Some of these they were already doing sporadically; now they’re expected to help out regularly. I now make a point, for example, of saving clean laundry to do with them several times a week. The simple chart I made to post on the fridge is as much a reminder for me as it is for the children of what they’re expected to do (or help Mom do)… I’m training myself as well as training them.
Their initial resistance has given way – in just a couple short weeks – to accepting this is a normal and repeatable part of daily life. We even have some moments where we enjoy doing this stuff together… and hopefully more of these will occur as time goes on. In A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family, Mary Ostyn writes: “Suzanne Chandler says that when she is cleaning her kitchen with her son, she tries to remember that her first job is to build a relationship with him. Her second job is to train him in how to clean the kitchen. Her third job is to clean the kitchen. With an emphasis like that, job training is sure to be a success.” I love that.
Watch this space for updates, tweaks, adjustments…