PARENTS

How Do I Get My Children To Help Around The Home?

27/01/2015 17:01 | Updated 20 May 2015

Boy washing dishes, kids, chores, cleaning

When they're not in school, kids often find themselves rushing between extra curricular activities - for some, that's just a Tuesday afternoon! With so much on the go, helping out around the house may not seem a high priority. Many parents may be inclined to let children off the hook, and let them focus on more pressing tasks.

There was a time when kids couldn't escape their duties to the family. True, you can't exactly send your city kid out to tend the flocks, but there are equally important places within our communities that could use an extra hand.

Experts suggest that the first opportunities for learning to be of service begin at home.

By taking the first steps to help and share, children gain confidence and a sense of importance. Even the most straightforward of assignments will show them that they can make a difference.

One mum we know moved all of the dishes to the bottom shelves in her kitchen so that her children could set the table without help. The three kids took turns. No plates? No dinner.

They were also expected to sort laundry and to load the dishwasher. The kids complied, not to earn pocket money but because it was their responsibility as contributing members of the family. They held Sunday meetings, usually over ice cream, at which they discussed plans for the week ahead and problems with the week gone by.

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As a result, the children learned that they had a say in organising life in their home, that their family was a team, working to achieve something together.

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As many parents know, it's actually more work to enlist small hands in household chores. It helps to acknowledge that before you start - but it works in the long run, believe us.

It's a good idea to match the tasks at hand to the abilities of the children involved.

Caring for the family dog is too much to expect of a seven-year-old, but he or she could ensure that the animal always has fresh water. A ten-year-old wouldn't take on a solo shift at a soup kitchen, yet it's an experience easily tackled if parents also commit to the outing. Even if the initial behaviour is nothing more than a gesture, successive acts of a similar nature tend to grow in scale.

Don't be afraid to ask too much of your child. Be afraid to ask too little.

It's never too early to recruit your children to help around the house. Complete this worksheet to help figure out who should do what.

1. Write down the household chores that could be completed easily by the youngest in your household. We've started the list with a few examples.

- Tidy toys

- Empty wastebaskets

- Put dirty clothes in the basket

- Help to clear the table

- Matching socks

- Wiping the table before or after dinner

- Feeding the pet (filling food bowl)

- Sweeping small messes

- _____________________________________

- _____________________________________

- _____________________________________

- _____________________________________

- _____________________________________

- _____________________________________

2. Now list jobs that a young child could take on with the help of an adult. We've jotted down a few ideas:

- Sort the laundry

- Load the dishwasher

- Water houseplants

- Set the table

- Collect the mail

- Dusting

- Making bed

- Preparing packed lunches

- _____________________________________

- _____________________________________

- _____________________________________

- _____________________________________

- _____________________________________

- _____________________________________

3. List assignments an older child could do with the proper training. A few ideas to begin:

- Walk the dog

- Wash the car

- Help make dinner

- Care for younger sibling

- Help plan family outings or activities (beach, games night)

- Help plant and tend to a flower or vegetable garden

- Create grocery lists and help with shopping

- _____________________________________

- _____________________________________

- _____________________________________

- _____________________________________

- _____________________________________

- _____________________________________

This blog is adapted from The World Needs Your Kid: Raising Children Who Care and Contribute by Craig and Marc Kielburger, co-founders of Free The Children. As an international charity and educational partner with an 18-year history of working with youth all over the world, Free The Children, among its many initiatives, provides educational resources for local and global issues to help you make a difference: from fun activities you can do at home to awareness and fundraising campaign. Visit www.freethechildren.com.

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