Both my boys have grown up to be extremely helpful kids. They each get on with their chores without much reminding – although I have to admit there was a year or so of dodginess when my eldest was out so often his share began to slip. I simply asked him to start paying more rent to cover the shortfall. This quickly did the trick!
Generally speaking however, I didn’t find teaching my kids to do their part particularly challenging. Whether this place of comfortable equanimity is a result of the approach my husband and I took, or simply because my kids are just lovely people in themselves (which is of course true either way) remains to be seen of course. All I can do is outline our stance with you. You’re welcome to try it out and let me know if it also works for you!
10 tips to nurture more helpful kids
- Always focus on the positives
- Sit down as a family and agree a ‘contract’ together
- Base the division of chores on realistic skills and availability
- Carefully explain your expectations and provide any necessary training and safety precautions
- Play to one another’s strengths and preferences
- Be seen to fulfil your end of the contract
- Always assume they’ve simply forgotten to do something – rather than purposely avoiding it
- If necessary, give reminders in time to allow your kids to choose when to do their chores
- Don’t expect them to do the job exactly as you would
- Thank them!
Positivity is key
For us, the first point was key – and also the hardest habit to get into. It is ultimately worth it however. Even if you don’t care whether or not they take a share of the chores, I recommend this approach as the absolute charm for managing teenage boys. It might work on girls too – I’m afraid I have no experience at all in this area other than to say I’m pretty susceptible to praise myself!
A family contract
Your family contract should be discussed and agreed together. Everyone should genuinely have their say and their opinions heard. If you’re fair and genuinely willing to listen, you’d be surprised how quickly your kids will volunteer their services.
Don’t expect a five-year-old to be able to empty a dustbin that is almost as tall as they are. Neither does it make sense to ask an older teenager to carry out chores that need daily attention – they’re not likely to be home every evening. Likewise, don’t assume that a kid can’t do something just because they’re young. It’s rather amazing what a child will enjoy doing - many six-year-olds will absolutely love getting their hands on the vacuum cleaner! Play to strengths and availabilities.
A sense of control is fundamental
Everyone likes to feel in control of their own time, and kids are no different. Whenever you can, if you find yourself needing to remind your kids to do their chores, try to avoid the ‘Do it now!’ command. This will just draw out the fighting instinct. A better approach is, “It would be helpful to me if you could empty the dishwasher before I have to cook in a hour’s time.”
Your way is not always the best way
Another easy trap to fall into is the assumption that, if someone else is doing a task using a different approach to yours, the results will be inferior. This is simply not true. Additionally, practice makes perfect. So, when your kids start doing a job for you, don’t hover over them. Teach them. Then walk away and let them get on with it. Whether their initial attempts are perfect or not – if they’ve tried you should be hugely grateful and positive about the result. Praise them, praise them again and don’t forget to thank them.
Remember. What’s more important? Teaching your kid to be responsible and able to take care of themselves and, ultimately their own homes, or the fact that they’ve missed a bit and left the cloth in stinking heap on the chopping board?