Welcome to this weeks edition of 4 Moms, 35 Kids: How Moms of Many Manage. This week we’re talking about teaching your children to do their chores.
Be sure to read how the other 4 Moms tackle this adventure:
Teaching children to do their chores is all about teaching children to work. And teaching children to work is all about diligence and self-control and that task is life-long.
It’s not rocket science to give a child a cloth and have them dust beside you while you explain what you’re doing. It’s not hard to teach a child how to run a vacuum, mop a floor or wipe out the sinks. (I have posted specifics of how we train our children to do household tasks and what tasks are appropriate for what ages) The challenge with chore training is to get them to accomplish their assigned tasks quickly, cheerfully and completely.
The first 2-3 years of our children’s lives we’re working on teaching them NOT to do things that they shouldn’t and then we spend the next 8-10 years teaching them to diligently DO the things that they should. At least it seems so in our house.
Teaching self control and diligence is a monumental task and while a few of our children can be relied upon to accomplish their responsibilities with diligence, it hasn’t happened overnight. Galatians 6 says,
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
Keep on, keeping on, the reward for perseverance in this area will bring a lifetime of benefit to your child. An employer can easily train an employee to accomplish a task, but they are not able to change the character of a lazy person.
There are two main principles we use when it comes to training diligence in chores.
Be clear. Explain precisely to your children what you expect of them and the amount of time that you expect it to take.
For children who can read, checklists are invaluable. Simply list all the things that the child should do in order to complete the chore. Depending upon the age/maturity of the child you may list more or less specific steps. (i.e. A young child’s list may include the particular steps for making their bed and putting their pajamas away. For an older child you may simply write clean bedroom.)
We allot 30 minutes for chores every morning and set a timer when we begin. When the timer goes off, it’s time for me to check how everyone did. Having a deadline prevents the idler from idling, or at least alerts you to the fact that the child is not being diligent.
Be consistent. For quality, consistent results check chores every. single. day. In the beginning you may find it helpful to look at their checklist and to explain your standard more thoroughly. You may find that there are things that you should add to the checklist and there may be things to remove. If a portion of their responsibility is unacceptable have them fix it right away and/or require them to redo their chore during what would otherwise be free time.
I can’t emphasize how important it is to check those chores every single day. Knowing that they will be required to give an account for their work is one of the most effective way to help them build good work habits.
Over the years we’ve also discovered some tricks that have helped us and our children to achieve a high standard of work consistently.
1. Plan strategically. Scheduling chore time immediately before a meal or snack can work wonders on helping children accomplish their tasks on time. Our kids tend to be motivated by food, but you could schedule chores immediately before anything that the child values and see improved speed.
Of course, our ultimate goal is that our children would do their work with the vision of bringing honor and glory to God, but sometimes food helps us get started along that road (and hunger is a God ordained motivation for work).
2. Be positive. One of the signs that you have your child’s heart is that they desire to please you, so giving them plenty of positive feedback during this training is vital.
Here are a couple of ways we’ve done this:
- Praise, praise, praise – This is obvious, but often as the children are learning to work hard there is a lot of correction that needs to be communicated. Don’t neglect communicating the correction, just couch it in lots of praise.
- Delay instruction – If there is something that the child didn’t do up to your standard (but you can see that they did attempt to do it), simply praise them for their effort and then BEFORE they do that task the next day give them instruction on how to get it up to your standard.
- Reward a job well done – Often this is a natural result of their diligence and I simply point it out. “Thank you kids for your hard work this week in keeping the house clean. Because of your help we have time to….. (go to the park, make cookies, etc.)” Sometimes we make an effort to point out and reward those who are excelling “Several of you children have been doing an amazing job on chores so you all are going to stay up late and play a game with Mom and Dad.“
3. Work together. Children generally love the opportunity to work alongside their parents, so doing housework while your children are is a bonus. Now that my children are older and all portions of the house have been assigned to someone, it would be my preference to sit down and get some of my planning or computer work started, but I’ve found that chores generally go more smoothly if I’m up and working alongside the children.
I generally work on laundry, do a bit of deep cleaning or help those whose area seems to be in the most need. The children LOVE it when I decide to do some deep cleaning in their area and inevitably talk my ear off. It’s just another opportunity to build relationships with these special people God has entrusted to my care.
4. Did I mention that you should check their work every. single. day?
5. Have patience – I do not always demonstrate diligence and self-control and remembering that helps me to be more patient when my children fail.
They will fail and I will fail, but it is reacting to that failure (as well as to success) in a way that brings honor and glory to God that is our goal and our purpose in life.
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