Getting your children to help is going to be different for everyone. When I first became single, my youngest was only 4 months old so you know she wasn’t helping much. My oldest was only 3 years old so she was only able to help a little bit. She was good about helping pick up toys but only if I was helping her. It was extremely hard for her to understand that she had to pick up the messes that her younger sister made. My advice to you to get your children to help is first model the behavior that you want from them. If you want their help, make sure you help them. If you want them to do something for you without asking, make sure that you are doing things for them without making them ask.
Some of the mechanisms that I have used to get my children to help out are:
1. Let them do what you are doing right alongside you. If you are cooking, give them a bowl and some ingredients so that they can copy your every move. My daughters have both been cracking eggs since they were 3 years old and making their own personal pizzas since about the same age. If you are worried about the mess, do what I did and put fake food and other kitchen toys in the kitchen so that they can feel like they are a part of providing for the family. If you are vacuuming, give them a toy and let them think it is a vacuum and let them go over the parts you just finished.
2. As they get older, use a chore chart to help communicate what chores need to be done. Now that my children are 5 and 8, we use a chore chart to help them know what chores I expect them to do as soon as they get home from school. I have used a number of different chore charts and the one that seems to work best for us is a magnetic one that allows me to change up who is doing which chore each day. Don’t forget to add what chores you are going to do to the chart (picture below shows our chart). This helps them clearly see that you are doing more than they are and makes them want to contribute more.
3. As great as my children are, they have their defiant times when they simply do not want to do anything. I think we all have those moments. It is perfectly natural to get tired of constantly having to do something. So make sure that you create a chore schedule that allows everyone to have a day off. I would love for our day off to be Sunday but for now it is Tuesday since we have so much going on right after work. If you have multiple days that you stay busy from sun up to lights out, then you might consider giving them extremely simple chores that can be done within 5 minutes on those days. That way they stay engaged with chores regularly while not overwhelming them and you.
4. Reward them for their contribution. I am not saying that you have to pay them an allowance (though that is a great way to teach them about money). I am just saying that everyone likes to be appreciated so make sure that you praise them in public for the great job they did helping you. Let them overhear you talking to your friends and family about how proud you are of them. Make time for special time with them as a reward for completing their chores every day. Or, you could even keep a stash of their favorite candy and give them a piece each time they complete a task. I use rocks as their reward. I put 10 rocks in two different jars at the beginning of each week. If they do not complete their daily chores, I take a rock away. If they do more than their share of chores, they get extra rocks. Then at the end of the week, we count up the rocks and I pay them 50 cents for each rock (usually about $5). My youngest usually ends up breaking even and my oldest often choses to forfeit her money for some other reward (usually one on one time with me). The key is, it gives them a visual of how they are doing on an ongoing basis.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s post. I would love to hear what tools you use as a parent that helps you and your children stay on track. Make sure you leave your comments here so others can benefit from them as well.