NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Help Around the House

Help Around the House

            Are you constantly picking up after your children or nagging them to do their chores? Have you decided it is easier to do it yourself than to remind your kids of their chores?  Welcome to one of the most common parent battlefields – getting kids to help around the house.

            Children who have regular assigned household chores feel a sense of self-worth and competency. They also tend to demonstrate responsibility in other aspects of their lives. These children exhibit a higher level of self-esteem and see themselves as an integral part of their family. They are also better prepared to live peacefully with a college or apartment

            Parenting experts Foster Cline and Jim Fay stress that helping with housework develops self-worth and enhances the child's feeling of being part of a team. Children who are responsible for household chores emulate family values and develop a sense of initiative and fulfillment. But how do we make all of this happen without losing our minds?

            Believe it or not, doing housework should be fun. Why would anyone want to do something that is thought to be pure drudgery? Encourage your children's efforts by making positive comments such as "I sure enjoy doing dishes with you. It makes me feel good to have the kitchen clean." Or "I feel so good when my office is cleaned up and ready for me to work. I bet you will feel great when your toys are all picked up and ready for you to play with next time."

            Remember to demonstrate the correct way to do chores without belittling the child.  Say "I like the way you made your bed. Would you like me to show you how I get the wrinkles out when I make my bed?"  Preschoolers love to imitate their parents and often "help" with chores such as sweeping or washing dishes. As parents, we can encourage these early efforts by focusing on the process and not the end product.

            None of us do a task perfectly the first time we try it, but with encouragement we learn to try again until we finally `get it.' The same is true of children. Our praise for their efforts and patience with them as they master a task encourages children to try new things, learn how to fail and to try, try again.

            By the time children are in kindergarten or first grade they are ready for regular chores. As they grow older they can assume more jobs and assist with laundry or cooking.

            Posting the chores that need to be done and asking children to sign up for the ones they would like to do allows them to have some input and control in the process. It is also another way to teach decision making.  

            Keep in mind that this is a learning process for them and that we are trying to encourage their own sense of initiative and personal responsibility. Tell them that you expect the garbage to be taken out "before I take you to soccer practice" or "before we sit down to eat again." This allows them to set the schedule knowing what consequences will follow. Be sure that the consequences you have laid out are reasonable, then be willing to follow through with them.


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