Kids aren’t babies forever (thank god!) so how do we introduce new responsibilities without making it such a chore?
Personally, we have 3 young children, the youngest 2 being twins. We’ve had our fair share of challenges, but through trial and error, we’ve found some solutions that helped our family to find a rhythm, and hopefully we can help yours too.
- What’s YOUR attitude towards chores?
If we convey boredom, frustration or passive attitudes towards chores, our kids will do the same.
Public enemy #1 for kids is BOREDOM! And they’re yet to understand that regardless of boredom, things need to get done.
Demonstrate that you have no adversity towards house duties, and that by doing it efficiently, you can now go back to doing what you want to do. Role model that a job well done is satisfying… even if it's folding laundry.
- Remove the distractions.
Look around - is there anything distracting? The biggest distractions tend to be SCREENS, small or large. The screen doesn’t even have to move, it could just be on and my kids instantly get absorbed by it, it’s absolutely mind boggling!
It’s also good to explain that the distraction will be set aside during the task and that they can come back once it is complete.
Also give them the opportunity to express what they wish they could be doing instead of the task and motivate them to get it done so that they can do the activity they wish to do.
- Set a time limit for each task.
Our kids love to drag on a task and somehow expect it to disappear if they drag it on long enough (or perhaps we’ll take over out of pure frustration). Sound familiar? For example we’d say “tidy up your room” or my favourite, “bring down your dirty washing”, and they’d do it as slow as they can because they know bedtime is around the corner.
What helped remove this procrastination was setting clear time limits, for example you can say:
- “The dishwasher has to be emptied in 20 minutes” followed by the consequence such as early bedtime or reduced screen time. This will help them realise there is a cost to procrastination!
- “Let’s see if you can get that done in 15 minutes tonight. I will check if they’re done correctly.” followed by the reward, “when you do, you can stay up 15 minutes later tonight”.
- Follow a structure or schedule family chore time.
I’m a huge believer in routine or structure because it helps our kids. It removes anxiety and uncertainty (and let’s be honest, fighting between themselves about who’s turn it is to take out the bin) when they understand their expectations.
We found having a visible weekly planner is a lot easier. And, we set a time for EVERYONE (even the dog) to do a task, the sense of fairness gets things done without any complaints.
- Empty the dishwasher - Alternates each morning before school between the kids and then on Sunday it’s the grown ups turn.
- Walk the dog - All three kids walk the dog together and the poo patrol alternates each day (yes they fought about that too, so it needed a schedule!)
- Setting and clearing the table - We leave this job for the children to manage, I love structure, but I also believe that they do need some “undefined” responsibilities to manage and negotiate.
- Avoid using chores as punishment.
Chores should be a normal and expected responsibility for everyone - we’ve accepted this as a matter of fact.
When house chores are used as a consequence, it will leave a negative emotional association and the child may resist altogether.
BUT we have used chores as a form of consequence to create justice! For example, when one child has wronged the other, we will get the guilty child to take on board the other child’s chore as a solution to make amends.
- Reward good behaviour - positive reinforcement!
Sometimes rewards can backfire when kids expect something in return.
One of the ways we’ve avoided this is to reward EVERYONE. Here are some examples:
- Friday nights when everything is completed, we all enjoy a movie together.
- Sunday - once breakfast is done and their rooms are tidied to start the week. We treat ourselves to a lovely lunch or ice cream. If the weather is nice, we’ll visit the beach or go for a family bike ride!
We hope that these tips come in handy for your family, we understand first hand that this is a challenge! We’d love to hear what strategies work for you and your family too.