By Annie Yorty, Crosswalk.com
Mommas, are you tired? A mother’s work never seems to end—especially when her children are small. Days are spent fixing food, doing laundry, kissing boo-boos, cleaning, bathing, dressing, supervising play, running to appointments, breaking up squabbles, reading books, and much more. The list never ends. And what about the nights? Tending to toddlers who resist sleep, soothing nightmares, and nursing sick children all steal essential sleep from exhausted moms.
I confess, I sometimes wondered if I would survive those years. And I will also admit that I often ignored many household chores until they piled up. But that was stressful too.
Of course, we love our children, so we wouldn’t trade a minute of our early childhood momma time. But, oh, how I wished for a few more hands to help with work around the house. My fellow momma, how many children do you have above the toddler age? If you multiply that number by two, you will calculate the number of additional hands you have at your disposal to pitch in with chores. That’s right; those little people can become helpful.
I know what you’re thinking. It seems easier just to do the work myself. That may be true for a while. But try to consistently apply these seven tips to train your young kids to do chores. You’ll be amazed as your child develops a sense of responsibility and satisfaction for work.
1. Start training early.
Toddlers want to be Momma’s little helpers. Most little ones follow their mommas around the house, imitating them and trying to get involved. We sometimes view it as a nuisance, but it’s the perfect time to capitalize on their innate desire to help before they grow out of it. Start by giving them small, achievable tasks. As they grow, adjust the level of the jobs to match their age and ability.
2. Involve your children with your work.
Do you know why your children’s favorite toys are power tools, vacuums, brooms, and kitchens? If you’re a cynic like me, you may be tempted to say it’s because they are not actually required to do any work with the toys. But seriously, young children love these household objects because they want to mimic their parents. If they see Momma mopping the floors, they want to try it too.
There are many opportunities to invite your children to work side-by-side with you:
-Anytime you’re cleaning something with a sponge or brush—the sink, tub, floor, countertop, deck chairs, you name it—give your child the same tool and applaud their efforts to imitate you.
-When you’re washing dishes at the sink, pull up a chair for your child to stand next to you and wash the plastic ware.
-If you’re mopping or vacuuming, allow your little one to hold the vacuum handle with you or ask them to move small items out of the way as you clean.
-When sweeping the floor, give your toddler the dustpan to collect the debris.
-Buy a child-sized rake or shovel so your young one can rake grass or shovel snow with you. Toddlers can also help move piles of grass clippings to the wheelbarrow or trash bag.
-Fix beds together, asking them to arrange the sheets, blankets, and pillows.
Working side-by-side is a natural way to teach children how to do tasks.
3. Make working together fun.
Let’s face it. Work is not always enjoyable. But your approach will guide your children’s lifelong attitude toward work. While there are many ways to turn work into fun, below are several ideas to get you started.
-Sing songs together as you swish the toilet and complete other tasks.
-Make cleaning up into an educational game. For instance, pick up anything with the color red first. Then put away all the toys that make noise. This teaches children organizational thinking as well as the skill of taking care of their belongings.
-Set a timer and see who can accomplish the most work before it goes off.
-Use sticker charts for routine tasks, allowing your child to choose their favorite sticker.
-High-five one another at the end of tasks.
4. Select jobs appropriate to their age and ability.
If a task is beyond your child’s ability, their motivation decreases. But when they succeed, they’ll want to do it again and again. Here are some examples of age-appropriate tasks:
Toddlers—put laundry into the washer; fold hand towels; sweep up crumbs from under the table with a hand broom; put a napkin at each place at the dining room table.
Preschoolers—match socks; stand on a stool at the sink to wash or dry plastic dishes; set plates on the table for dinner; sweep the porch or sidewalk with a child-sized broom; add water to your pet’s bowl; gather trash bag from bedroom waste baskets.
Young elementary-age—set the table; put away silverware; feed pets; sweep floors; rake grass; dry dishes; iron small squares of fabric; wash sinks and tubs.
5. Avoid criticism.
Children rarely get it perfect. But it’s important to celebrate their efforts as you train them. At a very young age, you are simply building their ability to find satisfaction and joy in work. As they grow older, you can fine-tune the execution of tasks, so they are well done according to their ability.
Find something praiseworthy in their work even if the result isn’t yet up to your standards. Amp up their motivation by praising their good work to other family members in their presence.
6. Speak truth into their minds and hearts as you work together.
As you invite your children to work by your side, help them to identify the feeling of satisfaction that work produces. Here are some examples of words that you can repeat often to embed godly work attitudes in their tender hearts.
- You like helping Momma, don’t you?
- You feel happy when you do good work.
- It feels good to put our toys where they belong.
- Working together is so much fun.
7. Reward good work.
Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty (Proverbs 14:23 NLT)!
It is biblical to reward work, so connect tasks to other enjoyable activities. This shouldn’t necessarily be a bribe or payment. Offering payment in advance often trains children to crave only external motivation. Instead, wait until the end of a job well done and say, “Since we finished this task, let’s put a puzzle together.” “Now that we swept the floor let’s go outside to play.”
As children grow older, you may more explicitly direct in advance that there will be no play until work is completed. This teaches them an important principle. You may also choose to connect a special chore with a specific pay or non-monetary reward.
But especially with young children, allow the fellowship and satisfaction of the work itself to be the reward.
Short-Term and Long-Term Benefits
Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Using these seven tips to train kids to do chores is certainly an investment of Momma’s precious time and energy. But the training pays off. In the short term, not only will your children feel closer as you include them, but they will also soon become reliable helpers in your home.
I can’t promise they won’t develop amnesia about the work principles you taught them when they become teens. We parents have no guarantees for the outcome of our efforts. But in the long term, they will likely exhibit an excellent work ethic for future success.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages_eggeeggjiew
Annie Yorty uses her writing and speaking to encourage others to perceive God’s person, presence, provision, and purpose in the unexpected twists and turns of life. Married to her high school sweetheart and living in Pennsylvania, she mothers a teen, two adult children (one with intellectual disabilities), and a furry beast labradoodle. Please connect with her at http://annieyorty.com/, Facebook, and Instagram.