Monday, August 6, 2007

Children and Chores

A good friend once told me never to do for my children what they could do for themselves. That simple piece of advice has helped me to encourage my children from a young age to be responsible for their belongings and to help around the house. I've learned patience in the process as things don't get done nearly as quickly as they used to, but the joy of a smoothly running household and the pride my children take in their work make it all worthwhile. How does this work for us? Our toddlers have each learned to take their dirty clothes to the laundry basket. Amid much clapping and many cheers they take aim and toss. (And if they miss, they try again!) They put away their toys, wipe up their spills, etc. Somewhere around 2 to 3 years of age, they dress themselves -- so helpful in a growing family! Velcro shoes have been a great investment at this age. By 4 they make their beds and keep their rooms tidy. Our list goes on, and the chores will be unique to each family, but the idea of letting each child do what he/she is able has helped us tremendously. Siblings eagerly teach the younger children how to do their chores so that they can pass them on. A 4 year old has shown a 2 year old what to do with the recyclables. At 5 our son had his little brother emptying the dryer with him. We have very few chore battles here as doing what they are able is just something the children have grown up with!

Another chore idea that has worked for us is assigning chores to certain children for an indefinite period of time. My oldest are currently doing jobs that have been "theirs" for years! The 13 and 11 year olds alternate days for dishes. The 9 year old gets up in the morning and puts everything that has air dried away. (The 6 year old does the silverware.) The 9 year old also takes care of trash. The 6 year old is responsible for recyclables and emptying the dryer. (The 4 year old is "in training" and currently sharing these duties.) The older two help with our dogs, the younger three have just taken on the responsibilities connected with a small coop of chickens. All take care of their own bedrooms and help with their baby brother. These everyday kind of jobs have been much the same for the past three years. When it comes time to house clean, I offer a list (verbally most often) of choices, and everyone starts on something. Thus the basics get done each morning and are simply routine, while we mix things up a bit for cleaning. This has been easier for us than assigning a lot of chores (that then need to be checked up on), and/or changing assignments so frequently that nobody remembers who is doing what!

contributed by Mary Z, Wisconsin

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