Get Your Child to Help Around the House
One of the best ways to build self-esteem and confidence in your child is to delegate specific household jobs for them to do, according to Elizabeth Pantley, author of several parenting books including Perfect Parenting (McGraw-Hill, 1998) and Kid Cooperation (New Harbinger Publications, 1996).
"Regular chores establish helpful habits and good attitudes about work," Pantley says. "It also teaches kids valuable lessons about life and creates an understanding that there are jobs that must be done to run a household."
Remember to be flexible – kids these days seem to have more commitments than ever. With homework responsibilities and extra-curricular activities keeping them busy, it might be best to plan on setting a goal day for completing their chores. The idea is to build self-esteem and encourage achievement; therefore, it is important to be realistic in your expectations to avoid failure.
Donna Chavez of Naperville, Ill., and her family take a healthy approach to what they call "Ownership Opportunities."
"Our house belongs to all of us; we all must take responsibility for it so we all may continue to enjoy it," she says. "The kids take care of the house so they may be proud of their home. They like knowing what is expected of them and then be allowed the freedom to schedule time for it on their own."
When Chavez was growing up, her mom used to tell her what to do and expected it to be done immediately. Now that she's a mom, she does things differently. "We told our kids we wanted such-and-such done by X time/day and let them schedule their own time."
The important thing to remember is that by giving your kids these responsibilities it is instilling in them a sense that you trust in their ability. Don't nit-pick at the completed job. Communicate with them what you expect from the beginning.
"Take time for training," Pantley says. "Don't assume that since your child has seen you do the task that she can do it herself. Be very specific in your instruction and demonstrate step-by-step as your child watches."
In Pantley's book, Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips (McGraw-Hill, 1998), she lists the following chores as appropriate for kids ages 10 and older:
- Unload dishwasher
- Fold laundry
- Clean kitchen and bath
- Wash windows
- Wash car
- Cook simple meals with supervision
- Plan birthday party
- Change bed
- Iron clothes
- Mow lawn
- Have a neighborhood job, such as pet care or yard work
- Baby-sit younger siblings (with adult at home)
Doing Their Part
"Doing chores is a discipline we have instilled in our kids since they could communicate," says Janis Legg from Sarnia, Ontario. "We were consistent with our expectation of the results and didn't let it go, even if we were tired. My son, who is now 10, knows he's expected to do his share."
Legg says that getting her kids to do their chores is not a problem in their house and believes it's because she and her husband have placed increasing responsibilities on their children since they were very young. She believes in communicating with your kids that even though the jobs are not fun to do, everyone has to pitch in so they can all have their social time.
"My son is responsible for making his bed, taking his sheets off weekly for doing laundry and straightening up his room," says Donna Ahlstedt from Lawrenceville, Ga. "He is also asked to unload the dishes every day [and he] makes his lunch for school."
Ahlstedt is confident that the reason her son doesn't grumble or groan about doing his chores is because he knows that if he has a bad attitude about what she asks him to do, there will be consequences. "He will have more privileges if he is cooperative," she says. "I like the idea of positive reinforcement of good behavior more than consequences for irresponsible behavior, but I use both, and both are actually effective."
To Pay or Not to Pay
Whichever way you decide – to pay or not to pay – experts believe it is important to be consistent. Having jobs to do within the home on a regular basis can provide your children with the valuable experience needed to better manage a job outside the home.
"We just implemented a new program at our house: cash payment at the end of each day," says Tina Miller from Merrill, Wis. "If the chores are all done – and done properly – they earn a dollar right there on the spot. If the chores are not all done, or I've had to nag too much to get them done that day, the dollar is pro-rated: They might get 75 cents."
Miller used to do a weekly allowance and keep track of it on paper for them. She found that at the store, when she would write a check for something they wanted, her kids would end up in debt to her if their purchase was over what they had on paper.
"This wasn't working," she says. "I wanted to teach them to handle their money better so they didn't have to learn the hard way as adults. I encourage my kids to save some of their money, and tithe some. It seems to be working pretty well."
There are lessons to be learned from dividing up household duties, and if you start at an early age, children benefit tremendously from the skills they develop while helping out. Self-discipline, organization, money management and the satisfaction of a job well done are just a few.