Family affair

Airdrie House and Home: turning household chores into a family affair

Helping children with household chores reduces the burden on parents and teaches the skills children need to become independent adults. But other benefits may surprise.

When it comes to household chores, having a child at home increases the workload exponentially. Endless toys, games, books and equipment; inevitable spills and endless laundry – kids and messes go hand in hand.

Helping children with household chores reduces the burden on parents and teaches the skills children need to become independent adults. But other benefits may surprise.

“The sense of belonging is probably the most important aspect of household chores that parents don’t really think about,” said Barb Gross, manager of family resource services at Community Links. “Children who contribute to the household belong to the household. They feel that they are important, that they are needed and that they are appreciated. This sense of belonging is essential to the development of a child.”

But at what age should chores start? Gross suggests as soon as children show interest.

“My mom always told us to get them involved before they realize it’s work,” she said. “Because little people love to help, they love to be a part of what’s going on. So get them started as soon as possible.”

Gross said children as young as four can do regular tasks such as putting away toys or helping set the table. She said even an 18-month-old can help sort the socks.

“It’s also good for their development. They learn colors, they learn sequence, they learn matching and counting,” Gross said.

However, it is important to keep in mind that the expectations of an 18 month old will be different from those of a 12 year old. Parents need to consider their child’s skills.

“Sometimes you have 12-year-olds who are really responsible. You can put the China,” Gross said. “The other kids, you’re not going to do that. You don’t want to give them Grandma’s priceless vase because it’s going to break.”

Setting your child up for success is crucial, Gross added.

“We really want them to feel – especially at the start – that they can do it, that they can achieve it,” she said.

Before introducing a chore, make sure there is room for everything and your child knows what goes where. Provide clear and realistic expectations so they understand what the completed task looks like.

Gross said you can’t just ask your child to go clean their room. Instead, have them complete small, easy-to-do tasks, like putting away all their toy trucks and cars. Once that is done, ask them to put away the next specific item and so on.

“If you say you have to get the teddy bears off the floor and they put them all under the bed, are you okay?” Gross asked. “Some parents would be okay with that. Others might say, ‘That’s not what we agreed on.’ Revisit your expectations of what it would look like, then let them try again.”

Another way to help achieve success is to set age-appropriate time limits.

“A little person may only have 15 minutes for chores. You don’t want to drag things out because it seems like they’re taking forever,” Gross said. “It has to be accomplished and they have to be able to do it right.”

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For older children, the time limit helps motivate them because they know that once the time is up, they are free to go as long as the task is complete.

When assigning a new chore, Gross noted that the caregiver should perform the task alongside the child.

“You can do it first and show them how to do it, then they can help you do that chore. Then you actually help them do the chore. [Finally,] they do the chore under your supervision,” she said.

Once they show they can perform that skill, a new task can be added.

Gross said finding ways to make housework a fun part of family time is invaluable. She suggests putting on some music and dancing while you clean up. The goal is to subvert the narrative that chores are punishment.

To help kids stay on task, make sure rules are in place and kids know them. Gross gave the example of her eldest son’s tendency to get distracted while cleaning his room.

“I told him I only work as long as he does,” she said, adding that when her son stopped to read comics, she stopped helping him. “He still had to clean his room, whether I was there or not.”

Gross said it has helped his son learn that chores are done much faster when he stays focused and gets help from his mother.

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As household chores are part of family life, consistency makes them part of the family setting. Whether it’s daily chores like making the bed or weekly chores like cleaning the bathroom, kids need to know that these chores need to be done every day/week.

When it makes sense, parents can encourage children to do chores at the same time each day. For example, dirty clothes are put in the hamper when they change into pajamas or dirty dishes are taken out of their lunch box and put in the dishwasher when they get home from school.

“If they’re at grandma’s, they can always put their clothes where you want them to put their dirty clothes. They can always put the books away, that kind of stuff, to make it a habit.” Gross said.

For many parents, chores and allowances go hand in hand. However, unless caregivers are trying to teach their child about money, Gross recommends against tying monetary rewards to housework. However, the lure of earning a few dollars can motivate children to take on tasks beyond their usual chores. For example, raking leaves in the fall or shoveling snow in the winter.

“Earning your money is great, but it shouldn’t be for the things you do as part of a family,” she said.

How then will the parents force the children to do their chores? Gross said it was a process of balancing responsibility and privilege

“Responsibility is earned,” she said. “The more responsibilities a child has, the more privileges they have. So if they can prove they are responsible enough to do the tasks they are supposed to do, they may also be responsible enough to be allowed to leave. to a dance. They have to realize that one is not exclusive to the other. That it is necessary to show: ‘I am responsible when mom asked me to do this.'”

Another type of consequence that can persuade children to do household chores is called a natural consequence. It happens because of action or inaction.

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“An example of this is you’ve asked them to have their laundry in the hamper and in the laundry room by Friday. Anything that’s not there by Friday won’t be washed,” Gross said.

The child will soon learn whether he wants something washed by a parent or whoever does the laundry that week, he must meet previously established expectations. The consequence of not doing so means they will have to wash it themselves or wait until next week to wear it.

There are also logical consequences, which are imposed from outside by the caregiver.

“That’s not necessarily the best consequence, because we don’t necessarily want our kids to do things because they’re going to get in trouble if they don’t,” Gross said.

For example, if a chore is not completed and the caregiver has to do it, the child must do a task chosen by the parent.

“I usually tried to make those tasks the least fun,” Gross said. “They don’t have to be mean, but your goal is to really get them to ask themselves, ‘Is it really worth not doing this five-minute job? Now I’m going to do this work, and it’s going to take me a lot longer, and it’s not going to be as much fun.'”

She added that the consequences can be a reward. For kids, a consequence of doing their usual chores might be choosing which movie to watch on the weekend or going to the mall with friends. Gross warns, however, that caregivers should be careful with rewards as they tend to up the ante – today they have to stay up late, but tomorrow they’re expecting a new bike, for example.

For more information on age-specific chores, duties, responsibilities and more, contact Community Links at (403) 945-3900 and ask to speak with a Parent Coach.