Is encouraging your child to help around the house a battle or a breeze? Can you relate to what these parents had to say about family jobs?
My children love to help with jobs. -Cynthia, mother to three
My children will do anything to get out of chores, making excuses from belly aches, headaches, to just plain crying and back talking about it. -Simon, father to two boys
One of my children helps me a lot with chores, my other child hates chores! -Josephine mom to two girls
Why do some children love to help and others not so much? Is it important to get children on board with doing family jobs?
Chores and family jobs are a great way to invite children to feel capable, and teach many life skills. Chores can also become the center of many power struggles, which reduces motivation and cooperation.
The most common road blocks when it comes to chores or family jobs are:
- having out of sync expectations
- relaying on rewards, bribes and consequences
- hurrying the child
- forgetting to focus on your individual child’s interests and abilities
- focusing on outcome instead of effort
Let’s look at how we can overcome these common road blocks to getting children on board with chores:
The trouble with motivating children to help with chores tends to begin when expectations from parents and the abilities from the child are out of synch. Set your child up for success by
- thinking about when you are asking jobs to be completed and don’t wait until your child is out of steam
- breaking jobs into smaller, actionable steps
- allowing enough time for the job to get done (children tend to need longer than we think, my son calls this the adult time vs kid time clash)
Bribes, Rewards & Consequences
There are loads of chore systems out there that are reward based. Turning to bribes and consequences can also be tempting. In the short term, such motivators usually work. The problem is, in the long run, children are not doing the work because they are capable, part of the family and live in the house, but because of the reward, annoyance or fear. Relying on bribes also invites more power struggles and conflicts, such as “If I take the trash out, what do I get?” or “I’m only cleaning my room if I can get an ice cream after.”
Focus on Your Unique Child
Instead of bribes, and consequences discover what jobs really interest your child. Maybe they like water? Let them do the dishes. They like to make things orderly? Ask them to sort things. When chores or jobs are fun, interesting, and done together, children are much more likely to want to participate and help.
My four year old daughter loves to wipe the table, wash the kitchen floor and rinse dishes. Anything that involves water, a spray bottle and pretty clean up rags is her job for the taking. Ask her to set a few glasses on the table and suddenly she has pain from her finger tips to her toes. Our solution? Offer her more jobs that she loves and work with her, and accept she will dislike it (i.e. validate her complaints) when she has to do those jobs that she doesn’t like.
Effort over Outcome
Lastly, take the pressure off by focusing on effort more and accomplishment less. Maybe a few dishes will need a bit of re-washing or the dishwasher needs a bit of re-arranging. Let it be, or if truly needed, point this out with kindness, and with the intent to teach, not criticize.
Be mindful of too many “Hurry Ups.” If you notice you say hurry and move it often, you may want to consider allowing yourself and your child extra time to get started on chores or change the time you are asking them to be done.
Putting this into practice
Go Clean up your room becomes some actionable items: “It’s time to put all the blocks in the box. After that, please put your dolls on the bed. I’ll be back in a bit to see how it’s going.”
Why is this place such a mess? becomes helpful information: “I noticed books are on the floor, it’s time to put them on the shelf. Would you like me to help you get started? I’ll do these three books, you can do start with those three.”
How many times do I have to ask you to set the table becomes a request with an invitation to connect and cooperate: “Let’s find the place mats and silverware” “Now that we did that, let’s find the plates and then the glasses.”
What is your child’s favorite chore or family job?
Peace & Be Well,