Last week I discussed the "we're all in this mess together - so what's wrong with sharing the work?" approach to chores. This week, some points to bear in mind if you want to take that approach.
Be clear in your own mind about the purpose of giving youngsters chores to do. It shouldn't be to get your tasks done, or even to teach them how to work.
The aim is to develop responsibility, independence, self-esteem, and an understanding that people need to co-operate and work towards common goals.
Start as soon as they're ready and capable of undertaking even the simplest chore. Most 2-year-olds and certainly 3-year-olds can put their toys away and clear their plate from the table.
Tasks should be broken down into small steps or parts that are appropriate to the child's age and ability. In this way, each part can be carried out successfully and with satisfaction.
You need to make it very clear what is expected, and might need to show them several times so they can see and understand what is to be done.
Be prepared to let them try it their way, but don't tolerate sloppiness. If the task isn't done to the level they are capable of, insist that it be done properly.
They need to know what it is that makes a good job. Show them the difference between a job well done and one sloppily done.
You need to tell them when they have done a good job.
They may need you to work patiently with them to sort out any problems or safety aspects that might arise while doing a job. Be ready to offer advice, but don't be quick to step in.
Don't overdo the chores. Leave time for leisure activities and, later on, homework and other commitments.
Bribery is out. The best payment is a smile and a "Thank you".
As they grow older, support part-time jobs such as lawn mowing, babysitting and paper runs. This further teaches independence and responsibility, and they learn to work to other people's standards.
Initially, this approach does take time and patience. It may sometimes seem easier to do it yourself. But remember, doing it yourself may mean always doing it yourself.
And what's more, having someone else do the dishes is kinder to your hands than even the gentlest detergent.
There is a long-term bonus for you, too. Once established as part of the way the family operates, it is more than likely to be the way the family will operate forever. The co-operation, sense of team and support for one another will be there for life.
© Ian Munro 2012. All rights reserved.
- The Timaru Herald