Monday, 19 November 2012

Guest post: Tips for Teaching Helping Skills in Children (Part 2)

It is heartening indeed when your children take ownership in their jobs, not only completing it to satisfaction but having a real sense of pride in their ability. - Erin*

Our children are officially placed on the job roster on their 5th birthday. While they are so young I work with them, teaching alongside as we go.  We have tried pairing with an older sibling but this was unsuccessful as it led to 'disagreements' and unfairness regards work distribution. The older sibling can end up carrying the bigger load. 

It can be common in families with a wide age spread to let our younger ones slack off; to have a tendency to ask an older child first. They can get the job done faster and to a higher standard.  However I strive to keep in mind some once read advice "don't ask an older child to do something a younger one can”. We also distribute tasks fairly between girls and boys.  Some personalities are easier to motivate and work with and we have to guard against letting the more 'difficult ones' slide.


Short term rewards or rather 'earning privileges' can be a helpful tool.  For young ones it may be something small and tangible, for older ones it may be the reward of a movie or computer time, it may be "we'll play a board game after we complete the task." 

Outward motivations are useful in the immediate, yet the 'bigger picture' is a desire to instill a sense of pride in a job well done.  It is heartening indeed when your children take ownership in their jobs, not only completing it to satisfaction but having a real sense of pride in their ability.  In time they can even seek mastery of tasks beyond what you have asked.  

We're now blessed to be at the stage where all the older children (8yrs+) can 'pitch in' and clean the house when needed, including bathrooms (we use natural products so safe for all).  Our teens have a repertoire of several meals they can cook, our oldest can do the grocery shop for the entire family's month's supply.  They have and can tackle many house building projects. We are now reaping the benefit of perseverance of those earlier years.   

Each family needs to find their own 'stride' which varies according to the home itself and family dynamics (which can be fluid). While we have tried a variety of methods over the years, with varying degrees of success, the reality is it all comes down to you as the parent to follow through. To assure the job is done. 

You do become tired at times and you wonder "when will they just 'get it'?" "Why do I always have to be 'the taskmaster'?" 

Truth is you'll be 'at this job' for at least the next decade.  Try to keep in mind the bigger picture (hard some days I know) years of good habits will pay off, not just in terms of being helpful within your household. You are equipping them with skills and habits for a lifetime that they will take into their study years, the workforce, their family life, their life choices.  

The key is having clear expectations and following through. 

Are your kids helpful in your household? What tips, tricks and rewards do you use?

*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


River said...

Sticking with it until they "get it" is the hardest part of the teaching process, but so well worth it when you eventually have willing and capable young adults.

At Number 32 said...

Learning how to cook I think is so important as a life skill. You never know when you may be on your it can really help bring people together. Great post

Catherine said...

I agree! Children really do enjoy taking some pride in their responsibilites. Parenting during their learning phase has to be very gentle, very patient, then the reward is the satisfaction that they've developed a new skill on the road to independence.

Lovely to read your posts here, Erin!

Erin said...

River, thank you for the encouragement, sometimes it is hard, good to hear from someone who has willing and capable adults that it pays off.
No 32, I agree cooking is a vital skill. It is however surprising how many don't have the most basic skills in that area though.
Catherine, the satisfaction on little ones faces is so heart warming:) ah thanks.

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