I recently complained to a friend of mine that I felt like I needed to teach my children to do more work around the house. She was so sweet as to give me her copy of 401 Ways to Get Your Kids to Work at Home by Bonnie Runyan McCullough and Susan Walker Monsoon. I read it as soon as I got it, but have yet to set up a "chore chart." I will do so soon!
Here are some my notes from the book:
- Children need to be trained to do work around the home. There are 7 steps: set the goals, know the learning season your child is in (i.e. their age and maturity), get together with them, assign the jobs, teach them how, provide incentives and consequences, and, lastly, evaluate their performance. Interestingly, having them actually do the work for the first time is step five out of the seven steps! The authors describe how much you have to lay the groundwork to decide what chores your kids should do, how they will do it, etc.
- Set small goals. Instead of having your small child weed the entire garden, use string and posts to block off a two foot by two foot square space. As the child gains competency at weeding that small area, increases the size every few weeks. This is a great idea for me, because I frequently give my children tasks which overwhelm them. I need to give them smaller tasks which they can take ownership of and gain skills. As they develop confidence and competence, then I can expand their chores.
- Give a child one chore to learn at a time. After successfully mastering that chore for a week, then add another chore to that child's assigned tasks.
- Chore charts can become "regulators" in the home, so that the parent and child can work together. Traditionally parents tell children what to do and children do them. With an effective chore chart, the chart becomes the teller and the parent can act as a consultant and cheerleader.
- Expect more from your children. The authors state that we tend to treat our children as if they were two years younger than they actually are.
- Insist on order. Filth is unhealthy. Clutter causes confusion and wastes time.
- Do "ridiculous training sessions" to prove your point. If a child forgets to close his dresser drawers, tell them "I see that you are having difficulty with the skill of closing your dresser drawers. Let me teach you." Then demonstrate the task once and make the child do it ten times. This should be an unpleasant and embarrassing enough experience to teach the child to close his dresser drawers next time.
- Have an "Extra Chore Box." Every night at 8 pm pick up all of the child's toys, books, etc. which are laying around the house. Put the items in a big box. If a child wants an item out of the box, they have to do one of the pre-determined extra chores.
- Empower the child by acting like a consultant rather than a dictator. As your child is doing laundry, ask "How can I help you with your chore?" This makes the task the child's responsibility and you are merely helping her complete the job.
- If the child cannot handle a chore, there are 3 options: make it easier/lower the standards, change the job entirely, provide review & practice.
- The parent's job is to supervise: not as a taskmaster, but as a coach.