“Encourage and support your kids because children are apt to live up to what you believe of them.”
~ Lady Bird Johnson, Former First Lady
Like yours, our family always had something happening.
School and school functions to meet those academic, social, and physical facet needs.
Recreational sports and leisure activities to nurture those physical, social, spiritual, and emotional needs.
Annual physicals, sick calls, dental and vision appointments all catered to our physical well being.
Human play-dates and puppies (fish, rabbits, lizards, and a snake, too)…
Early church activities and religious teachings were later enriched through individual, spiritual awareness…
Professional work, homework, and housework…
Multiply all those movements times five and I found myself wishing I’d invested in the gas market because I certainly used my fair share, especially since we lived in a rural area that put many miles between us as those activities.
Like you, I often found myself overwhelmed and overdue for some much-needed “Me” time. But how was that ever going to happen?
When Fave was an infant, my employer allowed me to work four, ten-hour days for a brief stint. Oh, how grateful I was for that one day to spend cleaning the house from top to bottom. Why, I even found myself with time enough to clean windows!
Then one day I found myself with three children in tow and a host of other responsibilities to juggle into our own version of Family Circus.
Though I’d always believed in the expression that “many hands make light work,” I do believe that my desire to teach my children how to help with the household stuff initially grew as much out of necessity as it did from a knowledge that I was teaching them valuable life skills.
When Warren and I were each working about one-hundred hours a week running our family farm, the couch served as a laundry bureau for our family of five.
I remember one day I met with a group of teachers who’d reached out to see if I’d do field trips for their classrooms. Our store hadn’t yet opened and it was pouring rain on a cold, windy day. I invited them to my messy home where “they’d at least be warm.” Relief washed over me when they not only told me they didn’t care about the condition of my home, they proved it by taking a seat on my un-vacuumed floors, telling me about their fall-related programs, and then booking tour dates for their students.
I clearly and desperately needed help.
What I quickly learned was how eager my young ones were to enlist in the Household Help department.
I’ll always remember the time my four-year-old daughter insisted she wanted to be like her big brother and all but demanded I give her Bathroom Duty. I finally allowed it when she was six.
I also remember how each cleaning session seemed to take an eternity, and how my little ones’ glowing grins of accomplishment far outweighed that frustration.
What I discovered is that those tedious training hours proved to be beneficial in a few short years to come. Assignments were made and everyone knew how to do them.
Helping out became a way of life for my kiddos.
I won’t deny that there were a few struggles and bumps along the way, but they were few and far between. We are talking about human nature and children, after all…
Here are five handy tricks to creating your own successful models that will foster independence, efficiency, and a little more ease for you and your children.
Begin allowing your children to assist in age-appropriate household tasks as early as possible.
Start small by encouraging your toddler to return toys to their rightful place.
As soon as they can hold a spoon in their hands, your children can “help” with cooking by stirring ingredients and handing you objects.
Toddlers develop fine and large motor skills by pushing brooms or wiping counters.
If you need to redo their work, do it when they aren’t around so that their last image of helping out is one of success and feeling fulfilled in their work. It took me a little time to learn this, but when they were little I learned to ignore the missed dust streaks. As they mature, you will be able to tell when they are “slacking” and can then teach and encourage taking pride in their work.
It’s never too late to start; the best thing you can do is to start and then to stay consistent.
Create a chore chart.
I created a chart and hung it on our refrigerator. Unless the children asked to switch up the chore rotation, the list stayed the same, making everyone’s job easier. Some people change the lists weekly. Figure out what works for you and your family’s lifestyle.
Let go of perfectionism.
Your young children will feel good about helping out. When you can let go of those perfectionist tendencies that scream when you see streaks on a mirror or missed dust bunnies, you’ll feel a great deal better, too! If you MUST redo what you children have already done, do it outside of their presence.
Give them time to learn, to grow, and to recognize their own mistakes. Possibly offer additional tips before the next session starts, as that way they’ll feel good about their past work and can build on these “new skills” or tricks you teach them.
Involve your children in the decision making process.
Our chore list was a revolving list, where each person had a job of roughly fifteen minutes each day. This way, each job, other than the kitchen, was done twice a week. This made each job easier and quicker. At one point my kiddos began complaining about having to do chores each night. I gave them a choice of working for a about two hours on Saturday morning. They tried if for a while and decided they much preferred the shorter stints and having more free time on their weekends off from school.
Make it your mantra: “With responsibility comes privilege and with privilege comes responsibility.”
I used this quote often and I was pleased when my twenty-five-year old brought it up in conversation.
One of the lessons I tried to instill in my children is that when they showed that they could handle a certain amount of responsibility, they would be afforded more privilege. When they showed us they could help take care of the family pet, they were allowed to have a pet of their own. When they showed us they would take care of their assignments without being reminded, they earned the privilege of having some flexibility in when they had to be done if special circumstances or opportunities arose.
This can apply to almost every scenario you can think of and was one I used for everything from cell phone use to driving and use of our cars.
And now that my children and their helping hands have flown the nest? Let’s just say I’ve grown even wiser.
I’ve since adopted the mantra, “If you’re coming to see my house, you’ll need to make an appointment, but if you’re coming to see me the door is always open.”
What “tricks of the trade” do you use to inspire your children to help with the housework? We’d love to know!