Starting Kids with Chores for Spring Cleaning

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

The daffodils are starting to peek out of the ground and there is a sense of an end to a long winter. Spring is finally appearing and it is time for spring cleaning in many households. It is also a great time of year to introduce children to the idea of household chores.

Household chores are excellent activities for all children, even going down to age two or three years old. However, many families get into a pattern where parents do most of the household chores and any work the children do around the house is sporadic. Starting children with daily chores can change that pattern and also give the children a host of benefits.

Chores enable children to learn basic skills that are important for them to be able to live independently. Most children will not grow up and be able to hire people to wash their clothes, make their meals, and clean their house. Daily chores also lead to a greater appreciation of what it takes to manage a household and a family. There is nothing like doing some chores and then being able to realize the fruits of their labor. Finally, children have a chance to provide a real contribution to their family. This allows children to develop their self-confidence and provides parents opportunities to give them praise.

While there are many benefits to chores, there is the task of getting children used to doing them. The first step is to pick one or two quick and easy daily chores for children that are developmentally appropriate. We don’t want five year olds having to mow the lawn. Some easy first chores could be taking dirty clothes to the laundry, folding clothes, or taking dishes from the table to the sink. As the children get older, they can take on more chores that are more complex.

After selecting a couple of chores, parents should demonstrate how to accomplish the chore. For instance, a father could help break down the steps on how to take dishes to the sink for cleaning after meals. He should demonstrate how to scrape the table scraps into the garbage and then gently placing the dirty plates in the sink. He then should ask the child to do it so as to ensure the child understands the chore.

When starting children on doing chores, parents need to ensure quality control so that the chore is being done correctly. This involves reviewing children’s work and providing feedback to them. This lets children know that they will be held accountable for their work. Towards the end of a day, pick a time when parents and children can check in about chores. One easy way is to have a chore chart posted on the family’s refrigerator where chore completion can be tracked.

Throughout the whole process, parents should be generous with their praise when children complete their chores and do a good job. The more praise that is received, the more likely children will take to the chores and continue to do them over time.

Of course everything won’t go smoothly. Children often will forget their chores or procrastinate. It is normal to have to prompt or remind children to complete their chores. The key is consistency so that chores will become a habit.

As spring begins, thoughts turn toward being outdoors and giving the house a thorough cleaning. Take that opportunity to get children excited about doing their own household chores and set them up for a life where they can be independent and feel confident in their skills.

This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Sunday on March 30, 2014.

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