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Whistle While You Work

Families know that children should be involved in household chores. But when do you start and how to you make doing chores more palatable?

In terms of the appropriate age, use your best judgement based on your child’s abilities, interests, and personality. Your child may start out with one simple job and advance to more or harder jobs when ready. If you make his first “chore” a pleasant experience, future requests for help around the house will be better received.

The word “chore” has a negative connotation. So, your first chore is to change the word. Teach your child the word “responsibility.” Explain it in terms of things that grown-ups are responsible for. Then tell the child that s/he has demonstrated readiness for some “big kid” responsibilities. Presenting it in this way can make the child feel that you no longer see him/her as a baby. This will boost your child’s confidence and increase his/her willingness to do household tasks.

Here are some tips:

  • Make a list of some child-friendly jobs. Involve your child. “Which ones do you think you can do?” What are his strengths and interests?

  • Always teach any job you ask of your child. Never assume that they know what is involved. Help/supervise for a few days. Compare this to on-the-job training adults do.

  • Do not expect perfection. A 4-year old may be able to make his bed, but it will not have hospital corners.

  • Join your child. Cleaning can be a drag. Make it fun. Sing, turn up the stereo, dance.

  • Play Beat the Clock. Set a timer and see how quickly you and your child can complete a task.

  • Let your child create a cleaning kit he can use. Put a few items in a small tote basket or bucket. These could include: sponge, dust cloth, dust broom and dust pan, spray bottle of non-toxic cleaner, (e.g., vinegar and water, dish soap and water). Consider a special hat or apron to wear when working.

  • If you have more than one child, have a job jar. Put tasks on slips of paper or popsicle sticks. Allow the child to close his eyes and choose. Put in some fun activities too, as a surprise.

  • Avoid power struggles. If needed, use an If….then statement. If you do your job, then you may, or we will _______ (something fun)

  • Avoid payment for jobs. This is the child’s contribution to the family. Find other ways to provide positive reinforcement.

  • Use a sticker chart if that appeals to your child.

What are some kid-friendly responsibilities? (Keep in mind that jobs need to be age and size appropriate): feeding the pet, making his bed, putting away silverware, dusting, wiping the table, cleaning accessible surfaces such as doors, cabinets or mirrors, folding laundry, putting away laundry, helping with groceries, vacuuming or sweeping, cleaning out the car, and setting the table.

Remember that you have 2 goals. First, is to guide your child to be helpful and responsible, and second is to make him feel good in the process.

Remember Mary Poppins. Make it fun. Whistle While You Work!

~Diane Postman

SBVP Curriculum Specialist

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