At one time, I was reluctant to ask my children to help out with chores around the house. One reason was that I felt it was simply easier to do it myself, than to take the time to teach them. I reasoned that I would have to stay with them and watch them the whole time they completed a task, waste valuable time when I could be getting other things done, and then afterward, I would probably have to re-do it all anyhow.
Another reason I was reluctant to enlist help from my children was a feeling of guilt. These were my responsibilities, and the children might feel as though they were being treated unfairly, doing “all Mom’s work!” Besides that, children needed ample free time… childhood is only a short time in their lives, after all!
I have come to realize that delegating certain household tasks to my children is not only “okay;” it is beneficial to everyone in our family. Let me list a few of the benefits:
- I have been given some much-needed help from my children. Children are a blessing, but they do generate a lot of messes and needs. If I tried to do it all myself, I would be much more tired and have less “Mommy Time” with them.
- The children are learning valuable household skills which will equip them for when they grow up and have homes of their own.
- They also have a sense of being useful helpers in the home, and it’s a wonderful feeling for them to know that they are blessing someone else.
- They have learned to appreciate the value of a nicely kept home, because they are involved in making it look that way.
- Finally, keeping busy with purposeful activities helps to keep children from wandering aimlessly, and this helps them keep out of trouble. Even giving your 2 year old a damp rag and asking them to dust the chairs will buy you 5 or 10 minutes to finish mopping the floors!
By establishing some simple routines for housekeeping (Chores, Mealtimes, Daily Habits and Tidy Spaces, all of which you can read about in some of my other pages), you and your children will spend a relatively short amount of time on these tasks. You will all be left with more time for more important things, such as homeschooling, outings, reading together, or working on hobbies. And, your children will still have ample time to simply play.
I rarely experience a complaining attitude from any of my children about the work they do. A few tips on encouraging good attitudes:
- I do give tangible rewards sometimes, such as candy or time to watch a video, but this is considered a bonus, not a guarantee. I give relational rewards very generously though, by giving hugs, telling them how blessed I am to have such great helpers, or simply saying “Thank you!” or “Great job!” They should know how much I appreciate them!
- I am careful to make sure the tasks, and the amount of time I ask them to work, are age-appropriate. Periods of work for my young children are usually 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Occasionally they will give a good hour of work, such as when Michael has them help with outdoor work. They love to do projects with their Daddy, but even with this kind of enjoyable work, an hour is about their limit.
- Michael and I always work harder than the children do. I can imagine that children could become bitter if they felt that they were required to work hard, while Mom and Dad were lounging about. My children know that I work much more than I ask them to.
Regarding the “it’s easier to do it myself” logic, that may be true – for the moment. We probably will have to re-do a lot of their work, especially in the beginning. But think about the education you are giving them. Think about the sense of usefulness and purpose you are giving them. Think about the years to come when they will truly become wonderful helpers for you. We need to get out of that “temporal” mindset and think long-term. Remember those benefits that will result!