Come clean on doing chores

Children learn how important routine is when they do regular tasks at home.

YOU don’t ask your child to do chores — you feel she’s too busy with school and extra-curricular activities. She’d only half do the job and you’d end up doing it anyway. Or maybe you want to avoid a row.

Parent coach Marian Byrne recalls one mum whose own mother did everything for her as a child.

“It was her way of showing she cared. Now the mum does the same, which is ok when kids are small — but not so good when they’re young adults.”

All indicators suggest doing chores benefits children. “It instils a sense of responsibility and teaches self-sufficiency. It gives a sense of routine and discipline — necessary for achieving in any area of life.”

Other activities might well foster responsibility and discipline but doing chores promotes family spirit, points out Byrne.

“Chores allow children contribute to the running of the house and give a sense of family, of everybody pulling together.”

Her advice is: start early if you want to avoid being the stretched, stressed mum, who laments, ‘there are five of us living in this house, but I’m the only one doing anything’.

There’s plenty a two or three-year-old can do to help out, says Byrne — pick up toys, put their books back on the shelf, help clear up a mess. By age five, she suggests they might make their bed, set or clear the table, bring in or put away groceries, help gather up leaves.

“Let children do chores you think they’d enjoy. An outdoorsy child might enjoy picking up leaves.”

A mum of three she counsels parents not to jump in and do the job the way they’d like.

“Be specific — say ‘put your clothes in the basket, tidy your bed’, rather than ‘tidy your room’. If a child’s visual, they might enjoy ticking finished chores off on a chart. A musical child might like to put on music while doing his task. Or you can sing ‘this is the way we brush the floor, brush the floor….’ – so they know chores don’t have to be a ‘bad’ thing.”

If you’re already locked in a battle with an eight or 10-year-old, it’s time to talk with him away from the situation. Tell him chores are a given — everybody in the family has to do them. Ask him to pick — from a list of six — the three he least dislikes. This approach takes the battle out of things, says Byrne.

If handled well, doing chores have a definite role in making happier children, she says.


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