Sunday, February 24

Raising Little Helpers: Teaching them to do it

It's no secret that I have high expectations for my kids.  Realistic, but high.  I expect that my children help with household chores and responsibilities on a daily basis.  With my husband deployed, my boys really are helping a lot. They've taken up some of the chores that my husband usually does. But they always have and always will help around our home.  

The boys are six and nine years old but have helped with "clean up" since they could walk.  Now, they have daily chore lists that alternate on a weekly basis.  I have created a green chore list and blue chore list.  Each Sunday they switch lists.  One is mostly garbage focused (daily trash removal, recycling disposal & weekly trash to the curb) and one is laundry focused (sorting, starting, switching and folding) - our two biggest chores.  One list has sweeping, the other has vacuuming.  One has dusting and wiping counter, the other has mirrors and glass cleaning.  When I was creating their lists, I felt by separating and focusing the lists, it gave them a chance to learn different chores and not get bored with doing the same chores every week.  (Specific chores for each list are at the bottom of this post.)

But how do I get them to do it "right"?  That's the trick, isn't it? The answer: teaching & guiding them through the steps.  And then reassuring them that they are capable and able to do it.  There are many stages to helping with chores and they are each in various stages with each specific chore.

Step One: Watch me do it. 
Like most things in life, we simply learn by exposure.  When the boys were about 3-4 years old, I would have them watch me do a chore, talking about what I was doing as I did it.  "We make sure when we're sweeping we get into the corners under the cabinets."  They get to witness the "right" way to do it without the pressure to get it right the first time.

Step Two: Help me do it.
After watching me a few times, I'd ask for their help.  If we were sweeping, they would hold the dustpan.  If we're cleaning mirrors, they get to spray the towel.  This got them involved in the process.

Step Three: I help them do it.
When they had been helping a few weeks with the chore and seem to understand all the parts of the chore, they got to be the leader in the chore.  This allowed me to be along side them, but they got to "be the boss" and ask me to do the helping, rather than the leading.  I made sure I was in the room, participating with them while they were in this stage.

Step Four: I supervise while they do it.
During this stage, I stand aside and they complete the chore without my help.  I am just there to make sure the details get done and they are being through.  For some chores, this stage lasts a long time. A. Very. Long. Time.

Step Five: I check their work when complete.
This is the stage my older son is at for most of his responsibilities.  He completes all his daily chores and tells me when they are complete.  I then go through and check to make sure they were done well.  Very rarely are they to my standards, but I have to remind myself he's only nine years old (and that I'm a perfectionist).  I try to overlook the little things and pay attention to if he really put in the effort or not.  Occasionally he will have to redo a chore, but if we spent enough time on stages three and four, there are fewer "do overs".

This stage is a gentle balance between my son's self-esteem and learning how to do things correctly.  If something does need redone, but it doesn't warrant a "do over" I try to do the work on my own, after my son has left the area or gone to bed for the night.  I don't want him to feel that he can never please his mother or that nothing is good enough for me.

Step Six: Teach how to recognize when a chore needs done.
This is the hardest stage for me.  I can see when things need done, and just do them, or ask one of the boys to do them.  But, when I allow for this stage to really take hold, my children learn better.  Rather than just reminding them it's been awhile since we did a chore, I'll ask them to look over the chore list and see what needs done.  It's inevitable that they will not see all that I see, but they are able to recognize a few items at least.

Payton, who is nine, is at stage five with most of his responsibilities, though he still requires help with putting new sheets on his bed (stage three).  I expect it to be like this for sometime as some things are just easier with help.  Maxwell, who just turned six, is between stages three and five with his chores.  Some I have to help with (sweeping into the dustpan is hard for him), while others he's able to do and I can just check him (dusting furniture).

Also, I try to lead by example.  Just like my children, I have a list of things that need done each day.  It hangs on my refrigerator just feet above their lists. I am responsible for the bathroom, the stove top, refrigerator and daily maintenance of a clean home. I also keep my monthly reminders on that list; clean the dishwasher, clean the washing machine, change the furnace filter, wipe the fan blades, etc.

This system was adapted from something I read several years ago, though I'm not sure of the source.  It has really helped me to see where they need my help and make sure that my expectations weren't further along than they were ready for.  I'm not rushing them and we can work together as long as needed. 

Through the process they have learned how to become more responsible family members and the stress of all the household work is off my shoulders.  I really am pleased with the results.

What do you do in your house?  Do you rotate chore lists between kids or are they assigned the same chores each day?  What kinds of chores are on your kids' lists?

Next Post:  Raising Little Helpers: "Why do I have to help?"

Both boys daily lists
: make bed, clothes into hamper, brush teeth (twice), complete all schoolwork/homework, put away all clean/folded laundry, clean up playroom toys

Blue Chore List: feed/water dog breakfast, indoor trash to the cans, trash & recycling to the curb, retrieve trash & recycling, dust blinds and wood furniture, sweep floors, put sheets back on the beds, set table for meals

Green Chore List: feed/water dog dinner, sort laundry/switch to dryer/fold (with mom's help), vacuum floors, wipe down mirrors & windows, wipe baseboards & vacuum edges, wipe switch plates, counter tops & doorknobs, clear table after meals

**Not all chores are performed on a daily basis.  Some are several times a week and some are only once a week.  


The D'Alessandro Family said...

hmmmmm... you definitely have me thinking! i admit, other than picking up the toys every evening and taking their own plates to the counter (and putting in dishwasher), my kids don't have enough responsibilities in our house. i think it's about time for a change :)
thanks for the insight!

The D'Alessandro Family said...
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