I have a five year old and an almost three year old, and while I have given them ‘jobs’ here and there (take out the recycling for mommy, pick up the play room), they have never been ‘accountable’ for these jobs over a long term basis. Typicall I say, “You aren’t going outside to ride bikes until this room is clean.”
Until this week.
This week, I decided they were both old enough to start helping around the house.And so we created a chore sheet, which is now hanging on the refrigerator.
Someone said the other day, when I mentioned that my two year old would be helping with chores, that she was too young. “She just won’t understand the point of it all,” they insisted.
I believe we can teach our children from very early on the pride that comes with helping out the family.
Says Dr. Donna Tonrey, a marriage and family therapist at La Salle University in Philadelphia, “One of the most valuable aspects of chores for children is it allows
them to be a contributor to the family system. As a contributor, they
feel connected and valued.”
In addition, she says, this helps them feel as though they are part of a team. Think about it: If we are always doing our ‘own’ thing – ie: mom is in the kitchen washing dishes, dad is in the yard mowing the grass, kids are in the playroom doing something totally different – we are not working together to make the household run more smoothly. When the kids take an active role in this – it: your son helps you wash the dishes after dinner and your daughter does some window washing – they are working with you to keep the home clean and neat and orderly.
“As a child feels more connected to the family system, they gain a sense
of self connection, which helps the child when operating outside of the
family system,” she continues. “We all need connection and autonomy. Chores are a good
way to help a child have a sense of both.”
Susan Kuczmarski, Ed.D., author of “The Sacred Flight of
the Teenager: A Parent’s Guide to Stepping Back and Letting Go,” says that not only should children have chores but they should be allowed to work with the parent to determine the chores they will do.
child selects (key: parents don’t assign; they let their kids choose)
and takes total responsibility for 2 big chores that he/she likes to do
and does well.”
My daughter was the one who suggested she wash the dishes. While I believe her motives were of the ulterior kind – as a kindergartener, I’m not seeing her much these days, so I think she wants some alone time with just me after dinner – I do feel that her desire to choose a chore and to stick to it (she even wrote a note that said “I do dishes with you”) was wonderful. And each night she remembers that this is her job, even if I forget.