Kids who do too little at home
It’s never too early to start cultivating a sense of responsibility in your child.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Education announced an initiative that would get students to participate in daily chores in their schools - with the ultimate aim of instilling a sense of responsibility towards their immediate environment. In a society where convenience is highly valued and having a live-in domestic helper is commonplace, chores for kids are definitely part of daily life.
Children are certainly at risk of missing out on the positive values and habits that come from doing their own chores. Self-discipline, independence, confidence and a sense of accountability are gradually built through the seemingly simple and menial housekeeping tasks.
Here are some ideas and strategies to help you get your children to do their chores.
1. Set age-appropriate chores for kids
Firstly, ask yourself what basic skills are important for your children to learn, and what are they realistically capable of doing?
When getting children to help with chores around the house, it’s critical to consider the age of the child. At first, very young children will need lots of direction and specific, step-by-step instructions on what to do. Adults may also need to be on-hand to supervise them. Although this approach will demand more time and attention, it’s much less frustrating than repeatedly yelling, “Clean up this room, or else!” Giving specific, step-by-step instructions, backed by consequences, will yield much better results.
With older children who can read and write, parents can write their daily chores on a small whiteboard or give them chore cards that spell out the specific actions they need to take in order to complete a task. Again, it’s important to be specific about the deadline for completing the task and the consequence if the task is left undone.
When using consequences with children, it’s most effective to balance both positive and negative reinforcements. If children are regularly punished for bad behaviour they can easily become discouraged. It’s just as important to reward them for their good behavior with verbal praise, a hug and even an occasional small reward.
2. Motivate your child
#1 Fun and games. For very young children such as toddlers and preschoolers, turn chore-time into a fun game to engage them. For example, have a ‘chore-race’ to see who can clear the most toys off the floor in the shortest time. Children also enjoy blending music and work. Compile a 20-30 minute playlist of yours’ and your child’s favourite songs and play these while your child completes their chores.
#2 Create a point system. With older children, using a point system can be a fun way to instill responsibility and ownership without resorting to nagging or scolding. Each time the child completes a chore or task on his or her own, they are awarded points based on a pre-set system; the more important or complex the task, the more points are earned. Children can also earn ‘bonus points’ for kind or generous acts. Similarly, points can be deducted for misbehavior or failure to perform expected chores. At the end of a pre-determined time period (such as one month), the child with the most points wins.
The agreement should be formalized with a contract that spells out the goal that has been agreed on. While the child shouldn’t be overwhelmed with lengthy and complicated terms, it’s important to make sure he or she understands exactly what is expected. Once an agreement has been written, it is signed by the parent and the child. The contract may include a point system that enables the child to meet the goal in a reasonable time period.
#3 Trade chores. If a child repeatedly refuses to do their chores despite positive encouragement and reinforcement, parents should consider meting out a ‘consequence’ instead. If parents repeatedly ask a child to do a chore, and end up having to do the task themselves, they should then ask the child to swap chores and carry out a different chore that the parent had planned to do themselves. For example, if a child forgets to put away the dishes, the parent can do it for them, and ask them to fold and put away the clean laundry instead, which will likely take more time and effort – with this approach, children are apt to become more aware of their responsibilities at home.
With a little creativity and thoughtfulness, parents can make chores for kids fun and engaging, rather than an ordeal to struggle through. Beyond the strategies shared here, it’s important to remember that children treasure family time. Doing basic chores together is certainly a quick and simple way to achieve this!
Copyright © 2016. Focus on the Family Singapore Ltd.
Want to learn effective and creative strategies to engage your child at the different ages and stages of their growing up years? Consider joining a Parenting with Confidence workshop. Learn more here.