We’ve all been there…the pile of rejected clothes left on a teenager’s bedroom floor for you to collect and wash, or toddler who tries to ‘help’ but ends up making more mess than you started with. If this sounds like your family, Sharon Mitchell from Mayday Mummy has some suggestions on how to get the whole family to ‘work’ together for a clean and fuss-free household.
Kids love pretend play, and as parents we often encourage it by providing toy wheelbarrows for gardening, cash registers for their pretend shops, kitchen to practise their cooking and cubby houses as a smaller version of their own homes. So how can we help our kids to want to contribute to the real household?
Yes, when they’re young it may be easier – and quicker- to hang out the washing yourself or pack the dishwasher without the fumbling hands of your young child slowing the process down, but think about the future you want for your family. In 10 years’ time, what’s your ideal evening meal routine? Does it include your teenagers helping prepare dinner, and automatically laying the place settings, then clearing the table unasked? What about your weekends? Do you visualise yourself doing 4 loads of washing all by yourself, or would you count on some help from your family?
Being happy to help around the house is an easy skill for your kids to “learn” if you start encouraging them from an early age – and the secret to doing this is making it fun!
Making chores fun
The word “chores” means ‘a tedious but necessary task’. That doesn’t sound like much fun, so why not ditch word and replace it with something with a positive connotation. Kids love to be a “special helper” – so encourage helpfulness with terms such as:
- Assistant cook/chef
- Washing warrior
- Special Cinderella broom sweeper
- Queen/King of the laundry (they can match socks, sort into piles, fold tea towels)
- Super -speedy bed maker
You could also try:
Finding an activity around the house your child enjoys and make it ‘their’ special job. They will take pride and more responsibility if it is their special role.
Turning tasks into a game – most children love a time challenge. (e.g. how quickly can you take the garage to the bins)
Transitioning pretend chores into the real thing when your child is ready – for example, washing the dishes doesn’t have to be just pretend play. Start by giving your child a stool and the Ikea plastic crockery to wash up in the real kitchen sink.
Should you pay for “chores”? The two schools of thought
Some parents use monetary rewards to encourage children to help around the house. Certainly, teenagers (who need money for outings) are more motivated by money or other incentives like Itunes gift cards. Many parents view this as an introduction to working for pay.
Other parents encourage their children to contribute to the running of the household without monetary reward. This approach is based on the belief that, as part of the family, each person should help out – it’s not mum’s job to do all the washing and cooking. If the entire family eat, shower and wear clothes, the entire family should to help with shopping, laundry and cleaning.
What about the jobs no one wants to do?
Consider writing a list of 6-10 tasks that need to be done on a regular basis. Rather than allocating a task to your son/daughter, consider letting them choose. If you have more than 1 child, give them the list to negotiate who does what. From an early age they are able to adopt the approach of taking turns in picking from the list (similar to picking members of a basketball team at school – only in this case, no one feels rejected, just cleaning the toilets is left to last!)
Remember, rewards, bribes, payment, threats and punishment can be avoided. Share the load and share the joy!
Do you pay your children to help around the house?