November 8, 2010

Children and Chores

Do your children have chores? Is it easier to just do things yourself? In my work as a parenting coach I often hear parents describe how much time and patience it takes to allow children to do things for themselves. I remind parents that assigning children chores teaches them what's involved in running a household and that they're an important member of the family team.

Here are some guidelines for establishing chores with your children.

Choose age-appropriate chores

Choose chores based on your child's age and physical ability but don't underestimate your child's ability either.
Preschoolers can usually complete two simple jobs. As your child gets older they can be responsible for not only more chores but also ones that are more challenging.

Don't expect perfection

Your idea of how to properly make a bed is probably going to be very different from your four year old. Don't turn it into a struggle and don't resort to redoing what they've already done or they'll feel inadequate and resist helping out.

Be very specific

Instead of saying, "Clean your room," say "Put the books on the shelf, the stuffed animals on the bed and the dirty clothes in the hamper." Without step-by-step instructions young children often feel overwhelmed and don't know where to begin.

Put it in writing

Children often need a reminder to do their chores. A visual schedule with photos of your child doing each chore is an effective reminder. Hang it where everyone in the family will be able to see it.

Suggestions for age-appropriate chores for children

Ages 2-3: Put toys away, put clothes in hamper, fill pet's food dish

Ages 4-5: Make own bed, empty wastebaskets, fold laundry

Ages 6-7: Set and clear table, help make and pack lunch, sweep floor

Ages 8-9: Put away groceries, help make dinner, vacuum

Ages 10 and up: Cook simple meals with supervision, baby-sit younger siblings with adult present, change bathroom or change bed linens

If your child forgets or refuses to do their chores don't do them yourself. Remind them of what they need to do and if they're uncooperative then there should be a consequence. If children aren't expected to follow through they might start putting off chores hoping that you will do the chores for them.

Having children do chores might seem like more trouble than it's worth. Keep in mind that chores teach children responsibility, self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment. They learn that being a part of the family team includes contributing to the functioning of the home. This in turn will help them grow into responsible, independent adults.

Have you assigned your children chores but your children aren't completing them? Have you tried every approach possible and nothing is working?

Parent Coaching can help! Sessions can be conducted by phone or in person at a time that's convenient for you. I will work collaboratively with you to find solutions to your most challenging parenting problems. Email support between coaching sessions is included in the coaching fee.

Would you like me to speak at your next event? I'm a frequent speaker at parenting events, moms groups and educational programs. My topics include but are not limited to "Managing Challenging Behaviors in Young Children," "Positive Discipline" and "Helping Siblings Get Along." Contact me regarding availability.

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