Now is the time, mommies! You can decide what attitude your child takes toward chores/work/helping, starting TODAY!
There are so many reasons that people say they like to wait until their kids are a little bit older to introduce chores. It is true that if you wait until your child is 8 instead of 3 you won’t have to teach them how to hold a spray bottle or have them fetch a stool so that they will be tall enough to wipe down the bathroom counters. But in the years before they turn 8, while they are not learning to work and do chores, they will be learning something else…
What are they learning from you?
We must realize that our children are ALWAYS learning! How you fill their childhood will determine the foundation of their worldview. Period. You might say, “Well, my child goes to school or hangs out with friends a lot so, technically, THEY are forming his/her perspective.” Well, 1) do we really want other people to be the ones that are shaping our kids, and 2) we are still the one that determines where our children spend their time. If you don’t know the caliber of the people your child is with most, or you don’t have any control of the activities your child will participate in while there, you might want to think again!
When we stand before the throne of God someday and our child has gone down a path they shouldn’t have, we will have to address the decisions that we made as parents. We won’t be able to blame teachers, friends, doctors, or influencers in our life. God did not entrust our children to them, we did.
All of that to say, if you are not starting to teach your children a good work ethic and personal responsibility ASAP, they aren’t sitting in neutral…they are learning that they DON’T have to do chores, take personal responsibility for messes, or learn an appreciation for Mommy by helping her with the endless tasks she needs to handle. They are missing the concept that when you make a mess, you clean it up…when you live in a household, you have to take responsibility for part of the upkeep…and when you grow older, you will need to be ingrained to naturally take initiative if you want to succeed!
Shall I get off my soap box now?
Want to be a lady of leisure?
Let’s move to a lighter topic! Another benefit that comes from starting early in teaching your kids chores is that once you get over the initial learning hump, it makes YOUR life easier. I have a 3- and 4-year-old and I no longer have to empty any of the garbages, fold/put away their clothes, make their beds, clean up their toys, clean off the table after we eat, wipe down their bathroom, or entertain the baby when I’m in the middle of something! I guess you could just call me a “lady of leisure”…
As you probably picked up from the title, this is the third part of my series on homeschooling a preschooler. To check out parts 1 and 2 click here (link) and here (link). If your child is under 3-years-old, I specifically talk about how I handled that in part 1.
From the time kids are walking, they are wanting to feel important and needed by helping Mommy. If you take the time to let them do that from the get-go, by the time they are preschool age they will have the foundational worldview that picking up after themselves and doing chores, in general, is simply a part of life. Just like going to the bathroom or getting dressed…it might not always be their favorite thing but there is no reason to fuss because it simply is what is.
So after 3-ish years of letting them tag along with me and giving them a few tools so that they felt successful in “helping Mommy”, I decided they were ready for more intentional training. To start off, I did some googling on “age-appropriate chore lists” to get some ideas and temper me in areas that I might have expected too much. Taking into account what skills and understanding levels I have seen in my children, I compiled a list of what I thought they were ready to learn.
3- & 4-year-old chore examples:
- Empty the garbages
- Help clean the bathrooms (assign/teach specific tasks)
- Unload certain portions of the dishwasher
- Dust/wipe down surfaces
- Spray/wipe the table after a meal
- Clear dishes
- Make their bed
- Clean up a room after they have played in it
- Entertain younger siblings
Now the only question was, how to intentionally help them learn these chores. I have mentioned in a previous post that I try to fit our “educational activities” into my infant’s morning nap time, which is usually about 1.5 hours long. Chore education fits in there too.
At the beginning of each week, I choose a chore that I want them to learn and we practice it EVERY day during that week. Yes, last week we cleaned the bathrooms FIVE times! If at the end of the week, if they still seem a little uncomfortable, we will step back, and figure out a better solution. Sometimes they might require intentional practice for another week, but sometimes they just might need to back up a bit.
For example, last week I taught them to help me clean the bathrooms. I did the mirrors and the toilets, and I taught both of them how to clean the bathtub and the countertops so that they can take turns. Previously, the only chores I had taught them that require wiping surfaces is cleaning off the table after eating and doing a quick, daily wipe down of their bathroom. For both of those chores I taught them to specifically look for dirty places that needed wiping, figuring that if all the dirty places were gone, they had been thorough. Not so. I now realize they never really learned to COMPLETELY wipe down a surface. They’ve more been spot-checking than anything else. (And obviously, when using chemicals, we always use an organic, plant-based, non-toxic cleaner so that the kids are safe using it).
Well, now…how do I really get them to understand what sort of scrubbing thoroughly cleans a surface? I decided to take a whiteboard, drew all over it, got them to spray it down with cleaner, and then clean it! And not stop cleaning it until the drawing is completely gone. Presto!
New daily life
Once you teach a chore, try to use it to develop good and automatic habits:
- Once they learn what it means to clean up a room, have them go through the house picking up all of their things before lunch and dinner to keep the house in good shape.
- After that, add the knowledge of picking out clothes, dressing, and making their beds. Then, introduce the rule that they are not allowed to leave their room after they wake up in the morning until they make their bed, get dressed, and clean their room.
Or use them as productive destractions:
- During my 8:30 am nursing session with my infant, Heidi and Daniel empty the house garbages
- While I’m doing the 11:30 am feed, they are straightening the house in preparation for lunch (They are usually napping during the 2:30 pm feed)
- As I nurse at 5:30 pm, Heidi and Daniel wipe down their bathroom of all fingerprints and smudges and then straighten the house before Daddy gets home
- After I finish the 5:30 pm feed, they help me distract the baby as I finish making dinner
The only other thing I would add is to never assume your child’s knowledge base. If you feel like they should know something that they don’t, it will just cause you frustration and will give them a bad taste in their mouth toward that activity. Keep your standards high but back up and take as much time as they need in order to get them there!
Thank you so much for coming here today! If there is any particular chore that you are trying to instill in your child but can’t seem to turn on their metaphoric lightbulb, comment below and I will try to help!