There's nothing more aggravating than hearing a child say "no!" when you ask them to pick up their toys after a play date. Sometimes it's hard to hide the fact that you're fuming at the embarrassment of your child talking back, especially in front of your friends.
Teaching your children how to complete chores, or perform tasks that you demand can be extremely stressful depending on the personality of your child.
There are several ways to tame the Chore Chart and help your child want to be on your clean-up team!
I always hear parents say, "If he had been my first child, he would have been my only one." I was one of the lucky ones who started out with a strong-willed child.
From the age of two, my son asserted his independence daily by demonstrating that he wanted to be in charge. It has been a roller coaster at times trying to teach him that there can't be several chiefs in the family. These next few tips are pieces of advice that I use as tools to help tame chore time in our house.
1. Start early.
There are many things I regret not starting earlier: making my son eat more vegetables, not allowing him to sleep in our bed, and the list goes on. However, we tried to help our son see early on that our family was a team, and that each team member has responsibilities.
Chores are simply teaching your child to be responsible for themselves and their belongings. However, they must also be developmentally appropriate. If you're going to start very young, this may be as simple as picking up toys after a play date. Because most children have a short attention span, this may mean that mom and dad pick up two toys for every one toy picked up by the child.
As the child grow older, these responsibilities can grow with them. Once our son was old enough to take a bath independently, we taught him to put his dirty clothes in the laundry basket. Once he was tall enough to reach the drawers, he began helping set the table. We also have three dogs, so he learned fairly early how to feed them and let them in and out of the house. Again, teaching them to be responsible at an early age will help them build confidence and self-esteem as they get older.
2. Consistent, consistent, consistent.
Whether I'm teaching in my classroom or at home, my grandmother's words will live with me as long as I live (She has certainly said them enough
). Children thrive with routine and consistency. They need to know your expectations, and try to remember that they can't read your mind. You might be thinking you want your child to put a knife, fork, and spoon at the table when you tell them "Please set the table." However, most children don't use a knife, so you may need to train them on your expectations for place settings.
Try to keep the expectations the same each week for their responsibilities, and don't change the expectations without explaining that to them first. My students come in my room each day and expect the lesson to go "as usual." However, there are times where time constraints, technology, or illness can make that almost impossible. They really struggle when I don't stick to the normal routine (I've even had very confused looks with this before!
). If this is a child who is only with me for 30 minutes a day (I'm a remedial teacher
), I can only imagine how much our children struggle at home when we change the expectations on them without telling them first. Remember, it helps to be consistent!
3. Financial Advantage.
We are really training our children for the workforce when we teach them how to complete chores. Most people don't like to work for free, unless their position is a calling such as ministry, missionary work, etc. Working is also how we provide things like clothes, food and transportation for our families. An allowance should always be tied to chores because it's our child's form of a paycheck. Children learn that with hard work and responsibility comes a reward.
Our son uses his chore allowance for the extra things he would like when we're out shopping. His new fascination with a particular eraser that comes with little game cards run about $3.99 at a local department store. There have been a few weeks where he's had to make tough decisions about whether to buy the pack, or save his money for a LEGO set that he wants. I feel that a chore allowance will help us teach our son how to manage his finances as he grows older.
4. The Chore Chart.
Many families opt for an actual chore chart to keep track of their child's responsibilities. The number of chores should be realistic for your child's age and developmental growth. Some children can handle 3-4 chores a day at six years old. However, not all children are that mature. You will have to set reasonable goals for how many chores your child can complete on a daily basis. As far as the actual chart, I have seen everything from elaborate, wooden charts, to a free printable chart from the internet. It's not really about the chart, it's about being consistent with your expectations and making sure your child sees your family as a team, and that it's their team.
Stephanie Brandt is a teacher by day, and a blogger by night at debtfreespending.com. She writes about family, fun, and all things frugal!