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Involving the Kids in the Housework

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 21 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
Involving The Kids In The Housework

Working mums have little enough free time as it is, so you may breathe a big sigh of relief when your children are actually old enough to pitch in with the housework. But you may find that getting them to do their share of household chores is a lot harder than teaching them to tie their shoelaces, or even to read.

Many working mums find it's a lot easier to do all the housework themselves. But children need to be taught to do household chores, so don't take the easy way out. While you might sometimes feel that enticing them to tidy up their room, empty the dishwasher or take out the rubbish is an uphill battle, it's something they need to know how to do. Often, using rewards – not bribes and threats – is the best way to make everything run smoothly.

Pocket Money Debate

Let's fact it. Mummy and Daddy don't receive money every time they prepare the dinner, Hoover up the living room or fix the broken toilet. So should Junior get a 50-cent piece if he tidies his room every morning, or does the washing up after the Sunday roast? Or should contributing to household duties be a requirement for every family member – without recompense?

If you decide that your child's pocket money should hinge on whether or not he does his chores well and without whingeing, agree on a reasonable amount of cash – and stick to it. Smaller kids don't need much money as an incentive, and a sticker chart or promise of a trip to the cinema or special dessert could do nicely instead. If you do agree to give them money, decide beforehand if there are restrictions on how they spend it to avoid more battles.

Age-Appropriate Chores

Kids of all ages can pitch in with the housework. Here are some guidelines about what you can expect from every age group:

Age 3-5

  • Children at this age still see doing daily chores as something fun and exciting. So take advantage of it while it lasts! Along with helping to tidy up their own rooms, they can support you by dusting, helping with food preparation and clearing away non-breakable dishes. They can also be of great assistance in putting away the shopping and wiping down dirty kitchen surfaces. Sticker charts and plenty of verbal praise work wonders.

Age 6-8

  • At this age some kids may balk at helping around the house, while others may still enjoy it. Cleaning out the hamster cage and brushing the dog may be seen as fun chores, as will vacuuming and using a mop. Less enjoyable duties will probably include taking out the rubbish, folding laundry and helping change the bed linen – can sound fun but after a few times can be frustrating. Helping with the washing up is also an option. Sticker charts, praise and some pocket money can be appropriate.

Age 9-12

  • Somewhat older kids can wash dishes themselves, learn to do laundry and even clean the bathroom. However, at this age, success depends largely on what they enjoy doing. It may be raking leaves or other gardening tasks, washing the car or preparing simple meals. Let them know what is expected of them both daily and weekly, and let them work toward gaining either pocket money or a special treat.

Age 13 on up

  • Most teenagers can perform virtually all household chores, so decide together what they want to do. Let them know what is expected but give them some freedom in choosing to do chores they enjoy most. Rewarding them can be helpful but let them know that helping out is obligatory, especially at this age.

Making Housework Effective – and Fun

Once you decide on which chores your children will do and when, what is the best way to keep them motivated – and continue carrying out duties to your standards?

  • Set a good example. Both parents need to be involved on the housework front. If your son sees you constantly nagging Dad to clean out the loft, he won't do his chores on time either.
  • Have reasonable expectations. Of course you can do it better yourself, but that would defeat the purpose. Lavish praise and hope that next time they'll perform even better.
  • Keep things light. It's always a good idea to make tasks fun, so try making a game out of doing the washing up. Younger children in particular love incorporating play into daily chores. When tidying a bedroom, for example, put away all teddies first, then dolls, then books. Let them find each item and make it into a treasure hunt.
  • Give them more and more responsibility. Letting kids take on more tasks gives them a feeling of independence. Even a three-year-old can make dinner – with a lot of supervision and help. Let them feel they've accomplished something, and next time they'll be eager to do more.

Household chores needn't be pure drudgery. With a little forethought, your children can be trained to give you loads of support on the home front. Just stick to it, and hopefully it will become a natural part of your family routine.

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