Growing up in a family with 5 children, helping around the house was absolutely necessary. My mother was adamant that her children know how to clean up after themselves, make beds do laundry and more, even though we had a live-in maid. This was just the way she was raised. But a Harvard Grant research study that started in 1938 and continues to this day reveals that she was on to something. The study states that there are two things that each person needs in order to be successful. The first is love, which we are sure you shower on your child daily. The second is a good work ethic. And the best way to create that work ethic is to assign chores to your child as soon as possible. But how do you get pre-schoolers to do chores? Here are 5 tips to make it happen:
- Be realistic about the tasks you are assigning- In our fantasy memories, we were cleaning kitchens and bathrooms at age 5. But the truth is we probably weren’t. Also, just because your child has a big vocabulary and can work the remote control on your sound system, they are still cognitively and physically young. So they should not be expected to do major household chores. Keep their tasks small and specific to them. Things like "put your shoes away," "hang up your jacket," "put these plates on the table." And make sure the tasks are appropriate to their abilities, not their age.
- Be very specific about your request- Yelling “Clean your room” or “pick up your toys” and expecting your pre-schooler to follow through is a tall order. These are big, open -ended directions that can be hard for some kiddos to process and understand. It’s better to be specific and direct. Instead of “Clean your room,” say “make your bed” or “put your clothes in the closet.” And make sure, that there are definite places and spaces for your kid’s stuff. Bins for toys, drawer for clothes, plastic labeled containers for legos and Shopkins etc.
- Help them- Yes we know the whole purpose of giving your kids’ chores is to lighten our loads. But the truth is we still are going to have to monitor our children’s chores for a while ( and by "a while", I mean years, not months).Don’t give a directive and walk away. Work alongside them, for now. Model what you would like them to do. Make a chart with steps on a dry erase board that they can cross out. Eventually you will fade away your help, maybe standing in the doorway, and eventually able to leave the room. But for now you are your child’s partner in the process. Keeping them on track and making sure they understand what needs to be done.
- Don't redo their tasks. Of course you can clean better, or fold better, but if you are asking your child to perform a task, you should give them the space to do it to the best of their ability (there is that word again). And that may mean being OK with misfolded clothes and unevenly stacked books. Otherwise what you are teaching them is that their work has no value. If order means that much to you, assign them tasks that won't trigger your organization-obsession. Or, as we suggested in tip 1, make sure that your kid has proper places to store their stuff. Label bins and baskets with pictures or words, depending on your child's reading ability.
- Remember that your child's consistent task avoidance may not be disobedience. Their whining may actually be them saying “it’s hard,” “I don’t know how to do it,” “please help me,” or even “I’m scared of the responsibility." If your child continues to resist a task after 4 weeks of consistent effort on your part, then you may want to reconsider the task and choose something less challenging for your child to do.
Having your child do chores around the house is a wonderful way to teach them that they are part of a community, and their contributions matter. We all know that life takes work. Teaching our children to do that work is our parental responsibility. If you do it with love, respect for your child, and maybe a little music (Vanessa Williams version of "I Got Work To Do" was our favorite clean up song), chores can become something your kids look forward to doing with you. Share how you make clean-up time fun in the comments below
Keep Calm and Potty On