Updated: Apr 1, 2020
"It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings."
Is it really possible to get young children to behave AND build healthy self-esteem... just with increasing responsibility!? The answer is YES!
Would you believe me if I said that chores are the way to achieve both? See this article on the proven benefits to learn more.
When my daughter Halie was three, she was at the magical age where they begin to fight back on everything. We were constantly stuck in a battle of wills, resulting in my husband's lament, "I have TWO three-year-olds!" Yes, I was reduced to a youngster stuck in a loud battle. Thank fully, I was attending and Early Childhood Family Education class. The parent educator alerted me, "Many times, at this age, if you increase chores and responsibility, a lot of these power and control issues just go away." Well.... it was worth a try...
The secret is to increase their responsibility?! At first, I was skeptical about this, but I went home and told me three-year-old, "Mommy is so busy! I need you help around the house! You are older now, and I know you can really be a big help!" I made a list of chores that need to be done and I asked her which chores she wanted to help with. From that day on, her behavior changed!
According to Erik Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development, a preschooler's internal drive for initiative, when encouraged, can result in a wonderful sense of purpose. If their new found need for control is not satisfied, guilt and negative behaviors can spring up. How can we work with the child to give them a sense of purpose, that leads to better behavior and less struggles for power?
By age 6-12 years, children enter Erikson's fourth psychosocial crisis, involving industry (competence) vs. inferiority. They will now need chores more than ever so they can get the wonderful feeling of being capable!
Throughout this Naptime Nugget, I will talk about how to get kids to behave better while building useful life skills.
What are some good ways to encourage young children to do chores? Here are a few tips to help!
1. Make a checklist and let the child choose - If you make an actual list of the chores that need to be done and then ask the child which one they would like to do, they will more get more excited about doing it (they perceive a choice - which feels powerful). This way, the child has a say in what they will do and you not just telling them what they should do (which takes away their need for power and control). See some of the free printable chore chart links below!
2. Have the child do "real" work that will actually make an impact on your day-to-day life. Can the child help younger children? Set the table? Wipe the table? Don't just make up jobs to get the kids to do something. Kids are smart and will be able to tell when they are actually making a difference and really helping. Hint: When they ask to do a job - let them! My second daughter always wanted to mop - can you imagine the mess? Well, we eventually gave in and provided her with a dry mop with a squirt bottle. My chore "resister" actually spent an hour cleaning the floor! Follow the child's lead and interests, and battles will be reduced.
For early childhood educator's, what jobs are "real jobs"? Can children clean tables before and after snack, help lead a song at circle time, help a younger child get shoes on, etc.... what would make the child feel extra special and valued? Also, make sure not to just give jobs to the well behaved kids! It is the children with challenging behaviors that might benefit from feeling helpful the most!
3. Make cleaning fun - Instead of, "Come on, we have to clean up", make it sound like fun or a game. "Let's have a 5-minute cleanup race - I bet we can clean up the floor before the timer goes off!" Highlight how good it feels to clean up together and how fun it can be to spend time doing it together rather than alone. Tie the help to positive outcomes, "We cleaned so fast - now we get more time to play outside before snack! WOO HOO!" This specific praise will go a long way toward encouraging future constructive behaviors!
These tips should have kids three and older wanting to help you do chores and help them to grow life skills. What you are doing matters and makes a difference in so many lives. Thank you for being the educators of our future leaders! They need you to help them grow up to be strong, confident and independent. Together we can make that possible.
*Subscribe to this blog! Part 2 - gaining cooperation when children refuse to do chores "From Helpless to Helpful" can be found here. AND, there are more to come on this and other valuable Naptime Nuggets!
Resources with More!
Some of the facts around chores and additional tips for success: https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Chores_and_Children-125.aspx
Bright Horizons - Tips for How to Involve Children https://www.brighthorizons.com/family-resources/chores-how-to-involve-your-child
Raising Responsible Kids - https://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=118254&page=1
FREE Printable Chores Charts:
*See my chores charts pin folder on Pinterest! www.pinterest.com/raeleneostberg
*5 Free simple examples: https://www.freebiefindingmom.com/5-free-printable-chore-charts-for-kids/