Friday, August 20, 2010

Childish chores


How much housework should we offload to our kids?
Now that I have a newborn at home, I have found myself asking a lot more of my eldest child.
I’ve always encouraged her to keep her room tidy, and occasionally she will help with easy household duties such as taking washing off the line, but I’ve never really asked her to do much more because I’m happy to do it for her.
I don’t think housework should be part of a four-year-old’s day, unless of course she wants to “help Mummy”.
However, now that I’m caring for a baby, I have sometimes wished she did a lot more for herself.
So what do other parents think about kids and chores? Is a four-year-old too young to chip in with home duties? Or should she already have a schedule of jobs that must be done enabling her to understand responsibility and contributing to the running of the household?
Well, the answer is probably ‘yes’, she should do more because it not only gives me a little relief, but helps her learn the value of participating in family life.
Children need to learn that housework is everyone’s responsibility and not something to do just because they will get a reward in return.
However, an occasional reward for finishing chores, can be a great motivator to continue helping each day.
For my daughter, the reward at the end of the day is praise for being “mummy’s helper”.
Of course, parents shouldn’t overwhelm their kids with housework in an effort to combat laziness, but they should be able to handle a few jobs around the house that will inevitably give them life skills when they are adults.
For example, knowing how to do the laundry, use the vacuum, clean the toilet, cook simple meals and wash dishes, are all skills they must do when they leave home.
The trick is to know what duties are appropriate for age.

For young children, it’s important parents don’t expect speed or perfection.
Start small and praise when the job is fulfilled.
By the age of nine, most children can safely use a knife and boil water without accidents, so why not start them cooking at this age.
They will not only feel like a potential MasterChef contestant, but they will develop an essential life skill.
Kids who cook will often eat more healthy and varied foods too.
Tidying up their rooms should be part of their daily routine, just like homework, and a good way to get them into action is to make it a 10-minute fast clean before dinner, or before watching TV.
Teenagers are old enough to be solely responsible for cleaning their bedrooms, but they should also help with other duties such as laundry, cleaning the bathroom and toilet, mowing the lawn and preparing an evening meal once a week.
There is an excellent list of age-appropriate chores at the Raising Children Network (http://raisingchildren.net.au/) website.
Some families might find it useful to set up a family chore plan with a list of what needs to be done and which child should do each job.
If you find your kids are not co-operating, you could try to make housework fun (think Mary Poppins).
Play some music and dance around while cleaning; set the kitchen timer and see how many toys can be put away before the bell goes off; or get them to help find the pairs of socks among the washing.
There are also other benefits of children being involved in household chores that parents may not realise.
For one, they are spending time together with their kids, which wouldn’t otherwise happen if mum is doing the dishes and junior is glued to the TV.
This time together can generate laughter and time to talk to one another.
The jobs get done faster, and everyone will feel a sense of achievement at the end of the day.
And don’t forget that children are also helping with chores if they stay out of your way when you are busy!

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