Teaching Responsibility

Parents often wonder “How can I get my children to take care of their things and help around the house without arguing or complaining?” That’s a great question!

It’s important for children to be responsible for certain tasks in the home aka “chores” or “contributions to the family”. In fact, children who are expected to help around the house feel a strong a sense of belonging and being important to their family.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to get children to do chores contributions without a struggle. While there are no fool-proof methods to make children WANT to work, here are some tips that may help:

Have Realistic Expectations
Perfection is not a good goal when children help out around the house. Children can’t do as good a job as adults because their fine muscle skills, perception, judgement, attention to detail and attention span are all still developing. Don’t be surprised to find towels folded crookedly, a fork in the knife compartment, or streaks on the mirror. But when your goal is to teach responsibility and a sense of pride, you can look for attitude, cooperation and effort instead of perfection.

Motivate Intrinsically
Applaud a task well-done every chance you get! If the task isn’t well-done applaud the effort instead. Specific comments work better than a ho-hum “Good job” so try saying “Wow, you worked so hard to pick up all of your blocks; now we can walk through your room without hurting our feet!” If the task didn’t meet your expectations, give your child a chance to do better next time instead of berating him. For instance, instead of “You forgot to feed the dog. Again.” try “Poor Fido was hungry all morning; can you think of a way to help you remember to feed him?” By keeping the responsibility on your child’s shoulders you send a clear message that you know he;s capable of handling the job by himself.

Make Your Match
Make sure that each job matches your child’s abilities, and try to take individual interests into consideration. Learning responsibility and feeling pride in a job well done can’t occur if the task is too much for your child to handle. Asking a five year old to clean out the garage isn’t wise, but sweeping the garage floor or moving items around in the garage isn’t too hard. Ask your pet-lover to feed the cats and the organizer to put away clean laundry. For best results, make a list of household jobs appropriate to your child’s age and ability and let her pick which ones she would like to do. You may be surprised by her choices!

Put ‘Er There, Partner
Jobs are more fun when you’re working together, so help your child with his jobs and ask your child to help you with yours. While you’re mowing the lawn your child can rescue his toys before they’re munched up or weed a corner of the flower garden. When it’s your child’s turn to set the table you can hand him the dishes. Encouraging siblings to work together will foster friendship and cooperation in addition to making the house a nicer place to live.

Be Patient
Many adults need help, reminders, and supervision when learning a new task; so why would we expect children to be any different? Handling a job independently, motivating themselves to start a job and stick with it to the end, and remembering to do their chores on time are long-range goals that may take years for children to master.

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How do you get your children to help around the house?
Amy Sue

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