Studies increasingly point to the importance that chores play in self-identity, self-esteem, work ethic and the formation of habits for a lifetime, in our experience we would 100% agree. - Erin*
We've been parenting for over 18 years and helping skills has become part of the fabric of our family culture. Upon pondering how to translate an integral part of our lives into words I concluded it can all be summed up in one word, expectation. We (my husband and I) strongly believe it is important for children to help out and we have an expectation that they will.
We were both raised in families where working alongside parents and siblings was the norm, we were children of the 70s (teens of the 80s) and this was standard. As new parents we reflected upon our own upbringing, researched and came to the conclusion that having jobs/chores would be a vital part of our children's development. Studies increasingly point to the importance that chores play in self-identity, self-esteem, work ethic and the formation of habits for a lifetime, in our experience we would 100% agree.
As parents we uphold that it is a natural part of belonging to a family unit that we all 'pitch in'. It is fortunate in that we are unified in our view and have similar standards of 'job done to satisfaction'.
We aren't strong believers in pocket money, so whilst our children may receive a bonus for a major project or can earn money for siblings' birthday presents or Christmas by doing extra chores, mostly work is undertaken just as part of being a contributing member of the family. The phrase 'the world does not owe you a living' is one the children have heard a few times;)
How does philosophy translate into reality? I'd like to preface the following by sharing we are not perfect, nor perfectionists, we aren’t militant in our approach or discipline (although we do write it up in lists), our children grumble occasionally (and get away with it) although we do 'drag' younger ones in sometimes, nor are we always consistent on a daily basis, but over the long haul we have put in the effort and it is paying off for all.
So. Some tips?
- Start young!
- Make it fun- turn it into a game
- Create little challenges - be creative e.g. "pick up all the blue toys, the cars, let's race the clock, race each other"
- Sing rhymes
- Have little ones be your 'runners' (run misplaced items to the correct rooms).
- Sometimes young children will be happy to fall in with your ideas, sometimes not (they're the not so good days;)
As the children grow older games don't have the same appeal;) We have tried various methods over the years:
- Job charts
- Rotating jobs
- Changing jobs once a week (they keep them for longer if not up to standard as obviously they need more time to master the skill;)
- Sometimes we have paired children, sometimes they prefer to work individually on tasks.
- At present each child is responsible for a particular room and one or two kitchen duties, the older children also are responsible for their own laundry.
- It helps to have a regular time each day for cleanup.
- Until the children are capable of consistently meeting a certain standard I do an 'inspection' of their room/area once they tell me they have completed their task. They are familiar with the question "is it to Mum's standard?" If not they will be sent back to re-do until we’re both satisfied with the result.
Are you growing little helpers at your place? How do you tackle it?
*Erin lives on a 140 acres on the East Coast of Australia with her husband and nine children, she shares snippets and musings about family life, home educating, owner building, striving for organisation, trying to eat grain free, creating a home library and other interests including books, photography and books. She blogs at Seven Little Australians and Counting