Raising kids is by far the toughest and most exciting challenge you’ll undertake in your lifetime. There are moments where it’s all joy and satisfaction, as well as periods of time where you seem to be fighting a no-win battle.
One of the toughest challenges parents face is getting children to carry their weight around the home. Yet even though responsibility is key in creating humble, productive individuals who grow up to contribute to society in a meaningful way, many parents let their children slide by for too many years. By the time these children reach an age where they can carry some weight, they’ve grown so accustomed to being “leaches” that they refuse to do what they’re told.
If you want to raise grateful, responsible children who become well functioning adults, you need to get your kids to participate in household chores from an early age. And the more you know about what motivates them, the more likely you are to be successful in this pursuit.
Tips and Strategies for Getting Kids to Participate Around the House
Children aren’t as mystifying as we make them out to be. Each one is different, but they’re all innately inclined to respond to certain structures and triggers. Having said that, here are some tips and strategies for getting your children to participate around the house:
Model the Importance of Doing Chores
You shouldn’t expect your children to do anything that you don’t do yourself. So if you’re going to make household chores and activities a focus in your home, both parents need to participate.
Mom or dad can’t sit on the sofa and watch TV while the other one does all of the work. There needs to be some balance in responsibilities so that children see household chores as a normal part of life for all members of the family.
It’s also important to break through traditional gender roles and gives kids an opportunity to try new responsibilities. Mom shouldn’t just cook – she should also try her hand at mowing the grass. Dad shouldn’t just change the oil and fix the running toilet – he should also clean the bathrooms. If nothing else, this shows children that household responsibilities are for everyone.
Start Them Early
Back in the 1990’s, psychologist Suzanne Gaskins was living in a small village near Valladolid Yucatan when she started to notice a trend among the local youth. Children – often as young as five – not only conducted a large portion of their family’s chores, but they did so willingly and independently. Gaskins was so taken aback by this phenomenon that she started researching it.
Gaskins and her team of researchers discovered that toddlers are born to be assistants and automatically look for ways to help their parents. And, contrary to popular belief, they aren’t looking for something in return. In fact, extrinsic reward systems actually seemed to undermine their behaviors.
While it’s unclear exactly why toddlers and young children have an innate desire to be helpful, it could be tied to the fact that they want to be around their family.
“I think this point is really key,” says psychologist Rebeca Mejia-Arauz, who has conducted similar research on this topic. “Doing things with other people makes them happy and is important for their emotional development. They see what their mom or siblings are doing, and they want to do it.”
By starting your children early, you’re actually doing them a favor and appealing to their natural desires to help. And by not providing rewards, you show them that this is a normal aspect of life.
Give Commissions, Not Allowances
As children get older (perhaps around the age of 12 or 13) and begin to gain a new sense of independence and an understanding of the value of work, it’s at this point that you may choose to introduce a monetary reward system. But be wary of giving an allowance.
An allowance is a set amount of money that you provide your child every week or month. You provide it at a given time, no matter what the child has done. This gives them no incentive or appreciation of the money. It comes and goes – no strings attached.
Instead of an allowance, give them a commission that’s directly tied to their output around the house. This communicates the value of work and how it correlates to income in the real world.
Set Them Up for Success
Chores should be age appropriate in order to set your children up for success. In other words, you want them to be challenging, yet feasible, so as to help them experience little “wins” along the way.
Every child has different physical and mental capacities, but this handy resource provides some ideas on how to dish out responsibilities to children of different ages.
Don’t Make Chores a Punishment
You should be hesitant to use chores as punishment in your household. When you tie these two ideas together, it makes an impression on kids. Instead of seeing chores as something that they’re responsible for, it communicates the idea that chores are a negative thing.
Stop Making Excuses
When children push back and refuse to do chores, it causes friction and turmoil in the home. Eventually, you may get tired of the constant battle, which leads you to give up and leave the kids alone. And while this may be the easy thing in the moment, letting your kids consistently evade responsibility does nothing but hurt them in the long run. Stop making excuses and give them the chance to grow up.
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