Children and Chores

Children and Chores

School will let out soon, and Spring is here. It’s a time to think creatively … whether that’s planting or how our children will spend their summer vacation.

I met with a client recently to discuss their landscaping. Due to funds, they have decided to do the labor themselves. Their main concern was digging as this activity is one that is physically challenging for many of us. I suggested he enroll his son. He laughed, saying any chore he asks his son to perform becomes such a battle that it is easier to do it himself. Sound familiar? Well, if whining about it enough gets a child out of it, guess what… it worked and they’ll continue that pattern. Can you teach a young dog new tricks (or an old dog a new twist). Yes, you can!

Allow me first to begin by saying that paying your child an allowance to perform chores also establishes a pattern. I believe that’s an area that we (and I include myself here) have set the stage for instant gratification. CEOs have been queried regarding the new work force. One of their complaints is that our youth not only want premium starting wages, but a bonus for showing up for work. We can teach our children that their contribution is part of the whole—meaning, as a household member they need to help maintain the household. As a human on this planet, we need to help maintain it. It goes without saying that some adults could learn this lesson too, but I digress. Now, allowances may not apply to teens, as they need to learn money management. Parents (and schools) would do well to teach teens how to save, budget, spend, and invest. Help them learn lessons that we didn’t (thus why credit card debt is so high).

So, a few tips to make chores fun:

  • Place treasures under piles of clothes, stacks of papers, heaps of toys, or even simply under things to be dusted. Treasurers are in the eye of the beholder, in other words whatever a treasure would be for that child. How about a gift certificate for an afternoon with you to do whatever they want? Of course, be prepared for what may come, and you may be delighted at their creativity. Take this opportunity to teach them about SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely). Avoid using money or food, and try to accommodate their request within a few days. This method will fail if you never get around to honoring their request.
  • Some people are list people and some aren’t, still it is a good idea to show children the concepts of tracking and accomplishment. Create a list of chores for each child and as they complete a task, mark their list with a smiley face or star. If all tasks are complete by the end of the week, present them with a ribbon of some sort (example, one that says “I make a difference”), a certificate, or a movie of their choice (and make it a family night).
  • Have a race. Set a timer for 8 minutes. The child who places displaced items into their rightful place wins. Another idea can be for you to identify items that need to be gathered (trash, recycling, items to be donated, etc.) and whoever collects the most in that time wins.
  • This is one that I read on an article at MSN.com. Appoint someone to be Inspector D. Clutter. Armed with a laundry basket and plastic police badge from the dress-up box, this person roams the house and puts stray belongings into clutter “jail” (the basket). To set an item free, its owner (Mom and Dad included!) must do a chore.

It’s up to us to build our support team and our children can be an integral part of it. I find most people (adults and children) really do want to help but sometimes don’t know how. We need to keep in mind that children, as part of their learning process, experiment with commands, boundaries, and rules. Show them healthy ways to deal with all of them. Let me know how the tips work for you.

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