Cleaning the bathroom was, and probably still is, the least favorite of my least favorite things to do: chores. I remember wanting so badly to grow up because I was tired of being treated like a kid. Well, that backfired because it meant I was tasked with more responsibility — way to fix me, Mommy!
Doing chores is likely on the bottom of the list of things our kids want to do also. Alas, they have to be done … so how do we motivate our kids to do these things? Here are some suggestions that worked for our family.
Implement a Rewards System
Now, this doesn’t have to be complicated. The main idea here is to have something in place to ensure positive reinforcement. I get the question sometimes: why should I reward my child for something he is supposed to do? Well, don’t you like to get your paycheck? Being recognized for something feels good at any age. Moreover, it’s nice to have something to look forward to.
I find it healthy and productive to use an intermittent system, where my son earns a reward after consistently completing a chore for at least 3 weeks in a row. This helps him know what it feels like to do the work with or without praise because, let’s face it, the positive reinforcement isn’t always there. This concept is one we’ve heard from many a parenting blog. There are many great ways to implement a system that works for you! I think it is even more efficient when the family gets involved. It can be fun! And this leads me into my next point.
Make it a Game!
At six years old, our son can fold his laundry, put away dishes, make his own breakfast, clean his bathroom, and organize canned goods. He really likes the last one. I would like to say it’s because his father and I are great examples of what disciplined work looks like. But it’s more than likely due to the fact that we implemented play into teaching him to work. Let’s remember, they’re kids. It’s important to start attaching value and meaning to certain responsibilities through the language they speak — play!
When I taught our son how to fold his laundry, I was enthusiastic and showed him how many shirts I can fold in five minutes. Soon it became a race. Once he was able to fold a shirt pretty well, he got faster and seemed to love the fact that he was doing “big boy” things.
It’s also a great idea to buy cleaning toys and engage children in pretend play with tools that are their size. It makes for a great transition. This is an example of a place to tie in the rewards system as well. My son earned things along the way, especially in the beginning. Our quality time in the form of play proved to be a great way to get things done! We sang songs, danced, and just acted silly the whole time. The fact that we could go back to see the work we did after playing such a cool game seemed to really make it stick.
Take it Piece-by-Piece
Breaking down tasks into little parts is something I learned early on. It makes things so much less stressful. A day’s worth of chores may seem like a lifetime to a child, so let’s get realistic! Maybe one day the bathroom gets cleaned. Or perhaps small trash bags are taken out daily, so it doesn’t pile up. Incorporating breaks is also important. This can be a reward in itself — see? No money spent for a five-minute break from folding clothes.
Our six year old appreciates a chance to get a second wind after he takes a minute to have a sip of water. It also gives the child a chance to see how far he or she has come — cue the positive reinforcement. See how that works there? Taking this approach is also a great way to begin teaching our kids how to set realistic, attainable goals. Who knew life lessons can show up in folding laundry?
Model, Model, Model
I’m not talking about voguing here! I’m referring to the important fact that our kids are watching everything we do. Parenting is an incredibly humbling experience where we are often faced with our own flaws as we teach our children things. Every eye roll or sucking of teeth I do when I see that I have things to take care of at home reinforces the reluctance that is already in place. So, how is your attitude about doing dishes? This is by no means a negative judgment on your ability or motivation to do housework. Life certainly happens and not doing your chores doesn’t mean you have terrible character. But I must say, that old saying “Do as I say, not as I do” can backfire. Especially when it comes to an impressionable kid! I am by no means happy to mop all the time (my kitchen could use a quick run through right now!). However, you may accompany the eye roll with an “I don’t feel like mopping the floor, but Mommy’s gotta handle business!”
One of the things I try to instill in our son is the fact that we need to take care of the things God gave us. That means we try our best to keep things in good shape and have a decent attitude about it because it could be gone tomorrow! What values can you and your partner model through doing chores? How can you help your children grow? Are there life lessons that can be found after scrubbing the bottom of the toilet bowl?
Hindsight is 20/20
I can actually say I appreciate the work ethic my parents instilled in me. It all started with one small responsibility at a time…
In all things, consult with your partner. Be on the same page. This will assist with more than you can imagine. New to parenting? I’m excited for you because you will learn so much more about yourself than you realize. Don’t worry. You will find a system that works for your family. Have fun with this experience, whether you are a new parent or not. We can all use every second as quality time before we have to send our babies into the world! Happy mopping!