Raising Kids Who Help at Home
Training in Diligence and Thoroughness
Each August, our family would try to get a fresh homeschooling start with new notebooks, shiny pens, freshly decorated pencils boxes, and a tidy house (okay, I said we’d try!). Even if we started organized and tidy, it was an everyday struggle to keep on top of the house and homeschool my kids.
From a recent survey, I learned that many of you, too, would welcome hints on getting the kids to help keep the house acceptably clean. So I dusted off this newsletter from the archives in hopes that it will encourage and inspire you as you kick off your new year!
In a few HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens newsletters, I shared with you four basic child training principles to help you lay a solid, loving foundation for successful home management training (teaching your kids to help at home). Some of you may be thinking, “My children are all too young to be of any help—I’ll have to do it all!” Well, if you don’t include them in training, you are still doing it all, and they aren’t learning to help you, so you might as well start mentoring them now!
Set some goals and decide what tasks are critical on a daily and a weekly basis, then assign them on a periodic rotation to the participating children. I know that it is usually easier to do something yourself than to train someone else to do it, but this training is important. (I had to learn to do laundry at age 17 by trying to decipher the Italian instructions in a laundromat in Rome because my sweet mom was kind enough to do my laundry till I left home.) Even older toddlers can be assigned small chores, or can team up with an older sibling, or accompany mom to apprentice in their assigned tasks. A life skills checklist (see resource list, below) can help you determine reasonable expectations by age level.
Be sure everyone knows what is expected. A hanging chart can be the silent reminder of daily and weekly duties. Our chart had the duties on clips, with daily on one side and weekly on the other, and the clips rotated up one side and down the other, one job at a time, at the beginning of each month. For toddlers or other non-readers, a photo flip album with photos of the task in progress (or the expected result) can be effective.
Teach Them How to Do the Job
How many times have you given a child a task, only to discover that his idea of sweeping the floor and your idea of sweeping the floor are apparently not even close to the same? You’ll want to demonstrate the job done thoroughly before expecting a child to do it; how long this initial training process takes will depend on the maturity and physical ability of the child (of course, you’ll want to consider safety if cleansers are involved). The child can gradually take over the task and will eventually only need an occasional check-up. To make this process more consistent, we used the How-to-Do-It Cards from The Everyday Family Chore System (see resources, below); an alternative is to make your own process lists for each household task.
It is reasonable to expect the job to be done with a pleasant attitude, thoroughly, and reasonably well, according to the ability level of the child. It is important to note that acceptable is not the same as perfect; as parents, we must not make the standard unachievable and thus discouraging to our children. And remember: Kids do what you in-spect, not always what you ex-pect!
Reward Your Child’s Success
The goal is to train our children to be responsible, skilled, and diligent. You may not be a big fan of rewards, but if that is what it takes for kids to initially see the benefit of helping out, don’t rule it out! In our home, we used a star system with small rewards (a 10-star and 25-star box in Dad’s closet) for jobs done and schoolwork finished with good attitudes. After a few years, the girls weaned themselves off the external rewards, motivated enough by the intrinsic reward of a job well done (or done in time to do whatever else they wanted to do).
Organize for Success
Once you have:
- set some goals and decided what tasks need to be accomplished on a daily and a weekly basis, then
- delegated and assigned responsibilities with your chore chart, and
- started to teach them how to work,
organizing your household will make it easier for your children to succeed—from a daily routine, to color coding, to dots on the laundry, and more.
A Final Word
Remember: The main purposes of implementing a family chore system are (1) to train your children to be responsible members of a family and to diligently serve one another and (2) to disciple or apprentice them in living skills.
You are investing in your children. This is not designed to be a crash course in responsibility and competence (or a punishment). You have years to develop character. Don’t overwhelm your children with unrealistic expectations. A sign near my front door reminds me (and guests!) during this season of training:
A Few Resources
(A few of the product links are affiliate links; while you pay no more for the products, your purchase helps us keep posting this awesome content on the blog.)
- “Age-Appropriate Chores” (article)
- “Twelve Chore Chart Tips for Success” by Sarah Aguirre (article)
- “Seven Ways to Teach Family Responsibility through Chores” (Teaching Home)
- The Everyday Family Chore System by Vicki Bentley; includes How-to-Do-It card system
- Free downloadable How-to-Do-It cards for use with EFCS (above), adapted specifically for use with microfiber cleaning products
- “These Things Should be Done before School” chart
- Accountable Kids chore chart
- Service Opportunities Chart from Doorposts
- Your MinderTM 6-alarm clock (You can record personal messages for each alarm.) (Read Vicki’s tips on using this timer.)
- Time TimerTM activity timer Available in 3-inch, 8-inch, 12-inch, software, or phone/iPad app format
- Smart Cube Timer—available in five different combinations
- HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens website’s “Organization” section (articles, links, samples)
(Some content adapted from The Everyday Family Chore System; reprinted from HSLDA’s Toddlers to Tweens e-newsletter, August 2013; www.hslda.org/toddlerstotweens)