Michelle Hutchison, for Family Matters, shares how to get your toddler-aged children to start doing household chores.
Do you ask your preschool and toddler aged children to help you clean? Yep, I know it sounds crazy but I have good news—it can be done. Scratch that—MUST be done. We all know chores help develop traits like responsibility and accountability. But involving children in the family’s “daily business” also boosts their sense of belonging and ownership within the family unit (not to mention their confidence).
We started a chore routine with our five-year-old just a few weeks ago and for those of you who might be in a similar situation, I thought I’d share a few things that have helped us get started in the right direction.
1. Make it a Milestone
For our daughter’s birthday, she received an illustrated chore chart with three jars for her allowance (labeled Give, Save, Spend). We explained to her that turning five meant she was now ready for a few special jobs to help the family AND that she’d also have new opportunities for fun as well.
2. Age Appropriate Activities
To start, we selected 3 chores we knew our daughter could keep up with on a daily basis. She has to clean her room/make her bed, pick up her clothes/ toys around the house, and set the table for dinner. We also invented a daily “Ask Mom” chore-basically it’s any odd job that I need help with on a given day (i.e. putting away her clean laundry, dusting, wiping the counter).
3. Give ’Em Goals
When we explained the purpose of the three allowance jars, we discussed what she might like to do with the money earned in each. “Give” money would go towards purchasing meal cards for the needy, “Save” money would go towards a special toy, and “Spend” money was for trips to get ice cream. I know some people with older children like to have an “Invest” jar but we opted to incorporate that later.
4. Expect Excitement… AND the Lack Thereof
At first, we were all very excited about our new arrangement (I was probably the most excited just to have the extra set of dedicated hands). However, after a few weeks, the complaining began. What to do? We sat down and talked about what the Bible says about work in Colossians 3:23-24:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
While it does take reminding, she’s learning what’s in her heart is just as important as the work she does.
5. Teach & Encourage
Check their work—make sure it’s done (and done properly) each day. Realize early on that you’ll have to (re)instruct your kids dozens of times to help them gain proficiency- doing so patiently will help them gain confidence. Model a good attitude in your own work. And if all else fails, get all Mary Poppins on ‘em and teach them to make a game of it to help them get the job done!
6. Praise Progress
7. Get Over It
I’ve heard this old adage too many times to count- “But I’ll just have to redo it anyway.” Or “They won’t do it my way so I’ll just do it myself.” Don’t rob your kids of the chance to develop a strong personal character just because you prefer the books in your personal library to be alphabetized and sorted by genre. Don’t forget, God gives us the responsibility of raising kids knowing that we will probably not “get it just right.” You can handle a couple of missed smudges here and there.
8. Be Consistent
Pay. On. Time.
Written by Michelle Hutchison