When our children are very young, we’re happy to do everything for them. We love looking after them, taking the time to do things for them, and giving them plenty of love at the same time. It’s part of our job as a parent, and we expect to have to do it all, knowing that they can’t look after themselves.
But, at some point, they need to learn. Doing everything for a baby is as it should be, but as they grow, it’s important, for both of you, that they learn to look after and do things for themselves. You certainly won’t want to send them to college, worrying that they don’t know how to care for themselves or do basic household tasks. You’ll want to know that they can do their own washing, cook healthy meals, and generally keep themselves well looked after. Of course, when they are younger, them being able to do things for themselves has the bonus of giving you a little more time to tackle other jobs or do something fun.
Part of teaching them how to look after themselves is giving them more responsibility around the home. This can be hard for both of you. You might not be ready to accept that your baby is no longer a baby, and they might rebel against the idea of taking on chores or helping around the home. But, it’s a crucial step in their development.
Keep in Age-Appropriate
You can start giving even very young children some responsibility. Starting good habits early on will make things much easier in the long run. Toddlers often enjoy the responsibility more than older children and feel special when they do things for themselves.
But, you need to keep things age-appropriate. A toddler or preschooler can start with simple tasks like getting themselves dressed and putting their dirty washing in the basket. Build from there, but never expect a very young child to use the oven or anything else that might be dangerous.
Give Them The Tools They Need
You can’t expect a child to keep their bedroom clean and tidy if they don’t have what they need to do it. If they have no storage space, or they can’t reach their shelves and boxes, how can you expect them to tidy up? Put a hand woven laundry basket in their room or the bathroom, and they can put their dirty washing away easily. Make sure they can reach what they need to do the jobs that you have asked them. Buy a step or stool for any jobs that you might want them to do in the kitchen and ask them what they need to help them. Watch them do tasks, and if there is something that they are struggling with, ask yourself what you could do to make it easier.
Teach Them Well
Your priority when giving your children more responsibility at home will always be keeping them safe and taking care of them. Giving them the tools that they need to do a job safely without struggling is a big part of this, but so is what you teach them. Don’t just ask them to do a job and expect it to be done. Teach them the right ways to do things, show them carefully and slowly, answer any questions that they might have and supervise them, at least until they are more comfortable.
It’s tempting to say “no one praises me for washing up,” which is probably true. But, praising your children, showing them your gratitude with a quick thank you and telling them how proud you are of them for helping out more will encourage them to do it more. You might want to offer pocket money or other treats in a reward for chores, but some parents think that this sets a bad example and that we shouldn’t teach our children that they should only do things if they are paid.
Make it Fun
Very young children will enjoy household chores more if they have fun doing them. You might enjoy it more too. A reward chart can be a great start, but finding ways to enjoy jobs and to turn them into games can also be effective. A game of pairing odd socks might not be fun for you, but for a toddler, it’s a different way to spend time doing something with their parents. Put some music on, dance around the lounge with dusters if you want to, just try to have some fun with it while they are young.