Maybe one of your goals for 2024 was to have your kiddos help around the house a little bit more. Well, good news: our newsletter this month is written by one of our therapists at the RRC, Catherine Cook, MHC, and is all about integrating chores into the routine at home. I'll leave it to Catherine.
My kids have the worst Saturdays. They are so horrible that tales of their misery are discussed in school and friends tell their parents about it. What makes it so awful in our house? Saturday morning chores. But then, the parents of their friends find this idea wonderful. How can I get my kids to clean too?
Before we get to the how, I want to focus on the why. It is important for children to learn that they are members of a family. As members of a family, we all play an important role. We are all valuable and needed. Participation in household work teaches children that you are a responsible member of a family and your contribution is valuable. It also teaches children work ethic. Work is essential and learning at home is far easier than learning at their first job. Teaching children at home how to work hard and to do a job properly prepares them for the outside world. It teaches them to accept constructive feedback, complete a task, time management, and to take pride in their work.
The suggestions below are tips on how to make tasks more manageable. It is a starting point to teaching your child how to become more independent and capable with work. Power struggles may still arise. You may still see dramatic falls onto the bed, hear deep sighs or mumbles of complaint. But as children learn and internalize their value as a family member, the groans, sighs, and complaints ease.
Scaffolding starts with learning what your child can do. This is an observation stage. Once you know what your child can do, you meet him/her/them at that level. This may look like your child only putting away silverware when unloading a dishwasher for a couple weeks while you offer full support for the rest. Then as your child’s capability grows you provide less support because your child can now put away the silverware and the cups independently.
This is cooperative help. I like to refer to this as “you do, I do.” You pick up 10 toys and I’ll pick up 10 toys. You and your child work together until the task is complete. The work is evenly split. Eventually, as your child gains more confidence, you can give your child more responsibility and slowly decrease your part until your child is independent.
What happens to most people when we see a big mess? We become overwhelmed. We start thinking, where do I begin? Or we close the door on the messy closet and tell ourselves we’ll come back to it later. It’s the same for our kids. Facing a messy bedroom overwhelms them. The instruction to “go clean your room” is too much and can lead to meltdowns. To help your child learn to tackle the big jobs, break them down into smaller tasks. “This is a big job. It’s hard to know where to start. Let’s choose one type of toy to clean up first.” Then your child is only tasked with one item at a time. Once that item is all picked up, give praise and move to the next item.
For more information on teaching your child how to work within a family read Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff. Another great resource is How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims.