Whose Work Is Housework?
Not many of us relish doing housework. Most of us hardly get a kick out of cleaning the mini-blinds and baseboards. Kids? They tend to enjoy it even less. But if we all live in the house, and we all benefit from being a part of the family, the question then becomes: who’s work is housework?
One of the main things that kids want to believe about themselves is that they matter, that they are important. The truth is, no one wants to feel useless or redundant. But we often rob our kids of the opportunity to learn that they, too, can make a meaningful contribution, by doing too much for them.
When our children are newborns, we literally have to do everything for them. That constitutes good parenting when our kids are tiny. However, as they grow, we need to remember to encourage their abilities by increasing their responsibilities. The more practice they get, the more skilled they get. None of us intend to raise kids who are still bringing their laundry back home for Mom to do when they’re 27. But how will they learn to separate whites from darks if we don’t teach them? Young kids enjoy pitching in – because they enjoy the feeling of being useful and important in the family.
Consider what jobs your kids could learn or pitch in with, or take over if they’re able. You can even ask them what jobs they would like to learn, or would feel comfortable taking over.
Tidying up and putting toys away every night is a great place to start. Even toddlers can pitch in. My daughter used to sing a clean-up song she learned in pre-school that included the lines “clean up your mess” and, interestingly, “share your mess”. I think that’s a great message to send. Cleaning isn’t a punishment or to be avoided, it’s something we share as a family. Contributing really does give children of all ages a sense of meaning and value. This leads to improved self esteem and confidence.
Chores, whether it’s dusting, or picking up clothes and putting them in the hamper, or cleaning a toilet, or making dinner, are all learned skills. We can’t hand our kids a scrub brush and some cleaner, then turn them loose on the bathroom and expect them to instinctively know what to do. So it’s important that we set them up for success. Be aware of what their abilities really are and take the time to train them in how to do their job to the best of their ability.
This can, however, take some time and effort on your part. I’d never argue that it isn’t easier or faster to just do it ourselves. So make sure you give yourself the time to thoroughly teach your kids what they need to know to do the job well. No one will feel good about themselves if you get frustrated and critical, or if they begin to feel as though they can’t achieve a certain standard.
Most of us don’t get giddy at the thought of taking out the garbage. But our attitude toward housework will greatly influence our children’s attitudes toward it. If we view it matter-of-factly as a responsibility we all have as a member of the family, our kids will develop of a matter-of-fact attitude about it as well. And they’ll get to experience a great feeling of being capable.
More thoughts on How To Get Your Kids To Clean Up.
Use Family Meetings to sort out chores within your family.
If you’re tempted to pay your kids an allowance for doing chores, read this article first.
Just make sure you’re not nagging. Kids hate that.