It’s tempting to ‘motivate’ children to do their chores with a little financial incentive. I mean, who’s really winning when you get to pay them just R5 to pack and unpack the dishwasher? But, there is a danger in this and it didn’t take us long to decide, as a family, that chores get done for free.
Because, when chores are associated with a cash reward or some other kind of payment (Lego, a trip to the aquarium, etc…), they don’t serve their purposes. The purposes of a chore aren’t just to help you to keep (sane) a tidy house. They are:
To develop maturity in your child – when children learn that they are able to do different things around the house, they tend to work harder at school as they have a sense of confidence and self-discipline.
To promote the unity of the family – working for one another gives each person a sense of value and responsibility. We’re a team, we need to help one another.
To be prepared to serve and help others – life isn’t all about me, me, me. When children learn to do chores for no physical reward, they learn to give of themselves. Chores teach kids to put the needs of others (their family) ahead of their own (possibly not feeling like doing the chore). We could all do with more members of society that are willing to do that. Children that are always served (i.e. don’t have to do chores) tend to have a false sense of entitlement and a warped view of the world.
I’ve often heard parents discussing chores and the guilt that goes along with them. “They’re so little”, “They already get so much homework”, “It’s faster for me to do it myself”. But, children are being left alone with iPads, online games and the Internet more and more, which means that they are expected to do less and less around the house. And, the less parents expect of their children, the less their children will do, give and grow. In fact, I question whether we’re even that aware of what our children are capable of anymore. A hundred years back, you had four-year olds carting firewood around and looking after the babies. Of course, there’s a middle ground, but let’s consider the chance of getting much closer to it.
The Solution (in my humble opinion)
Chores are a must for their self-confidence and their ability to take on a sense of responsibility. So, here are some easy ways to implement a structure for chores in your home, without ever attaching money to them:
Keep the chores age-appropriate – there’s a great break-down of what chores can be tackled at what age here. Even a two-year old can throw his diaper away and pack his toys into the box, so start early to get the habit firmly in place. Little ones love copying their parents so, when you’re wiping down kitchen surfaces, give them a cloth to help you.
Work and grow with your unique child – as your child develops and becomes better at certain chores, give them more to do. This will give them a sense of accomplishment and help to refine their skills. If they are particularly good at or interested in something, let them handle that so that they enjoy the chore more.
Make chores a priority – resist the urge to cancel their chores because there is too much homework or they are tired. This sounds like tough love, but doing chores actually helps children to learn responsibility and do better at school. They are too important to be put on the back-burner.
Don’t stress about how well the child has done the chore – give them time and let them learn the best way. As moms, we tend to want to just grab the broom and do it ourselves, before they make more of a mess. But, this teaches them that they’re not capable of the chore and diminishes their self-confidence. Your goal isn’t to have the chore done perfectly, it is to teach your children the importance of working together in the home and the joy that giving brings.
Give the right reward – by rewarding them with money or an outing, children learn that, once they’ve achieved what they wanted (a trip to the zoo, for example), they no longer need to do their chores. Rather, let them see how their chores contribute to their home and their family, and how happy they make you and them.
Embrace the opportunity to teach your children more and to allow them places that will only add to their development and confidence. You’ll need to give a little, but the reward will be well worth it; both in the immediate and the long-term futures.
Guest post by Amelia Meyer
Amelia is a freelance writer, wife and mom. She is based on the gorgeous Garden Route and blogs at Suddenly a Mom when she’s not ear-deep in projects for clients. She is also an owner, copywriter and editor at Voxate.