Mary Poppins said it best: “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun! You find the fun and snap the job’s a game!” And while we can’t all have the magic of self-cleaning rooms at the snap of a finger, we can take advantage of the idea that a little fun makes things easier, as does a little team work. Great tips, from Mary Poppins, when we’re looking to encourage and invite our kids to take part in family chores and join in the “Family Team”. This can be a great opportunity for kids to learn about contributing, teach responsibility and help your child feel more in control. For some families, this takes the shape of a weekly or monthly chore chart, or connecting chores to rewards. Today, however, we’re going to look at family chores from a Peaceful Parenting perspective, and tips to help your kids be helpful, contributing members of the home and society in the long run.
How Kids can Benefit from Doing Chores
Being invited to help out around the house and be part of the Family Team by participating in chores can be helpful for building kids’ confidence and more. Kids feel competent and capable when they are asked to and given the opportunity to help, and see the results of their hard work. Giving children ownership over a task tells them we trust them and that their ideas and effort matter. These are all great building blocks in building self-confidence.
By emphasizing the “Family Team” and that every person - no matter their age - has a role to play, we can help kids feel a sense of belonging, connectedness and worthiness. By working as a team, we’re helping kids with relational skills like team work and communication.
And of course there are the life skills that they are gaining since we’ll all need to know how to cook, clean and take care of oneself and others eventually!
Building Intrinsic Motivation
Mastery (pride in a job well-done) and an intrinsic motivation to help (learning that doing something well and helping feel good) are what makes ‘helpful’ and ‘responsible’ character traits. Sarah Rosensweet
How to build intrinsic motivation? Consider how to connect positive feelings during and after tasks. Make it clear to kids that they are contributing to the family "team". Help them recognize the value of what they are doing and the impacts of their help. In doing so, they will associate the chores with something good and will be motivated to continue doing them.
When you are ready to start assigning chores, make sure you set up a system where everyone knows what needs to be done and can contribute in an age-appropriate and interest-based way. It’s helpful to look at lists of chores by age-level and keep real expectations of yor kids and what they can - or might want to help - accomplish. You can see our list of age-appropriate suggestions here! The key is to get everyone involved in setting up the system so that there is interest and buy in at every level and everyone has a role in contributing to the overall goal of keeping the house tidy.
Are Chore Charts a Good Idea?
As parents, we all want our kids to help out, and this often means performing some chores to contribute to the household. And while it’s easy to connect this to earning money or other rewards, there are several reasons why chore charts may not be the best idea for you.
Studies have shown that kids who get rewarded for doing chores actually end up doing less than those who aren’t given any reward at all. What happens when your child has enough money and no longer needs the reward? The motivation to help out disappears.
For many, the main point of having chores is so that your child learns to contribute to the family and develops intrinsic motivation, which isn’t achieved through a rewards system. If you want your children to learn the value of hard work, then you need to model that behaviour yourself and help them recognize and realize that intrinsic motivation. This is the foundation of a peaceful parenting philosophy, which instead of chore charts, can instead use other methods to motivate children to do chores.
Here are some tips to help encourage and invite your kids to be part of the family team and take care of the family home! With a little creativity, encouragement, and empowerment, you can set kids up to be contributing members at home and in society who know that helping feels good. Here are some tips from our Expert Advisor and Peaceful Parenting Coach Sarah Rosensweet for parents to encourage peaceful and playful help at home.
Give your Child Choices
Consider giving kids a menu of options to choose from. For example, you could offer two different choices for cleaning up after meals: one choice is to clear the table, and the other is to load the dishwasher. When kids have some element of choice, they feel empowered and responsible.
As far as specific chores go, try to keep things simple. While some aspects of the home require supervision, most of the work can be done without adult direction. Try to give your kids plenty of opportunities to learn through experience rather than telling them exactly what to do.
You may also consider creating chores that are not time-sensitive. For example, if you have a three-year-old, you could look at options like picking up toys, putting away laundry, and helping prepare food. These types of chores don't necessarily need to be done right away, but they can serve as building blocks towards bigger goals.
Your Child is Still Learning - Keep expectations in check
Because your child is still learning to do tasks, it is important to not be critical about the quality of the job they do and keep your expectations age appropriate.
Help them to break down the steps to the task, giving them scaffolding to build on so they understand the steps involved in the chore.
Examples of breaking down chores into steps could be:
1) Put dirty dishes in sink
2) Fill sink with hot water
3) Add soap
4) Soap dishes
5) Rinse dishes
6) Dry dishes
7) Put away dishes
8) Empty sink
9) Wash hands
In doing so, this puts boundaries on the task, and helps the child to see exactly what will be going into each chore. This will hopefully help them to organize their thinking for larger and larger tasks in the future.
Reminders are Helpful
Often getting your child to complete their chores by a certain time can lead to an uncomfortable standoff. The line behind nagging and reminding is very thin, but if you set the expectation that you will be reminding them, and do so in a friendly way with positive reinforcement after the task, the reminders can be helpful.
Make things fun!
This is the Mary Poppins piece. Making things fun will go a long way. Try to turn chore time into a fun competition against the clock to add some motivation to their work. If your kids like healthy competition, see who can pick up the most toys in a certain amount of time, or who can set the record time for tidying their room. For little ones, make stuffy clean up a basketball game, or putting laundry away a game of catch. A favourite song playing in the background for a certain amount of time that will define the length of the chores is a great way to add a bit of fun to otherwise tedious tasks like clean up!
Providing helpful context and the “why”
If you are having trouble getting your child to do chores at all, they may not be connecting the importance of the task to the effort they are being asked to provide and maybe it's time to reevaluate how you are presenting the chore. If this is the case, ask them to explain why they should be expected to clean their room. Explain how doing this will make the space more organized, tidy, and easier to find things when needed. Ask them to tell you what they would like to do differently in order to make cleaning their room easier. If your child is particularly strong-willed, this can be a very important step to convincing them of the importance of their chores.
Looking for more tips and tricks? Our printable download and checklist, developed in consult with Peaceful Parenting coach and expert Sarah Rosensweet, will help you remember all these helpful hints and give some suggestions for age-appropriate tasks. Download it now!