Source Credit : Should Kids Help with Family Chores
By Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D. at www.PerfectingParentingPress.com
Many parents wonder if they should expect their kids to take on household responsibilities. Even though parents report that their children are willing to help out when asked – or even volunteer to do a job – many families don’t ask their children to take on regular chores. Some think it’s not worth the potential conflict and nagging, and feel it’s easier to do the chores themselves. Some feel children don’t do the jobs well enough anyhow. Some parents feel their children are too busy. Other parents can’t see the value of teaching children to do chores. And some parents resented having to do chores growing up. In households where paid housecleaners and gardeners do the chores, it may not fit easily into the routine to assign tasks to the children.
But there is real value in having children shoulder their share of the work. Here are five reasons:
- Doing chores together helps build the spirit of “family,” enabling kids to see that everyone has to do his share. We don’t want our kids to believe that it’s adults’ job to do all the work. Teaching the habit of pitching in with tasks encourages a child to step up and do his part – rather then doing as little as possible – at home, in others’ homes, and in the community.
- Children learn their parents’ standards and work ethic when their parents teach them to do chores. We don’t want our children to learn to take the easy way out and do jobs in a halfhearted way. Too many parents complain that their school-age children aren’t motivated and won’t try their best at schoolwork, sports, projects, etc. Family jobs have great value as a way to help our children internalize the standard of working hard at a job.
- Getting kids accustomed to doing chores helps them learn patience and perseverance. You’ll be able to see the results when your child has to wait while you talk to a neighbor or tackles a school assignment that he isn’t enthusiastic about.
- Some children don’t know what to do with themselves when they’re not being entertained, and complain about being bored if they’re not having fun every minute. Chores help children realize that doing ordinary and even tedious tasks are part of life, which helps them appreciate the activities that are fun and amusing.
- Doing family tasks helps children learn how to thrive with the independence they’ll need in college and adult life, with less of a learning curve when they need to prepare food, do laundry, and eventually take care of their home.
If you want to build family chores into your kids’ lives, here are answers to the important questions.
- At what age? Toddlers and preschoolers love to imitate you and to help you, but can’t be counted on to do jobs regularly or well enough. Still, we should encourage them and praise their help. By starting at this young age when they’re eager, you get them accustomed to pitching in, and by five years old they can start doing regular family tasks.
- How frequently? Daily jobs (seven days a week) work best so they become part of a regular routine; then kids are less likely to argue and negotiate about those jobs on Mondays – after the weekend off.
- What kinds of jobs? (Children three and over can do some of these on an occasional basis. Kids five and older are able to do any of these jobs on a regular basis.) Most of the jobs should be about five minutes. Look at the kitchen first. There’s lots to do there: Setting the table. Bringing the serving platters to the table. Rinsing dishes. Washing and drying pots. Loading and unloading the dishwasher. Then look at all the jobs involving garbage: Dumping garbage from the wastebaskets throughout the house. Dumping the kitchen garbage into the bigger garbage cans. Putting cans outside for pickup. Look at the possible recycling jobs. There are also plenty of laundry jobs. And vacuuming individual rooms and cleaning sinks, etc., are also worthwhile tasks. Cooking probably shouldn’t count as a job, because it’s fun for most kids.
- How many jobs? Elementary school children can do one or two jobs a day, increasing to three or four for teens. Even busy kids can spare these few minutes, especially if everyone in the family has jobs to do – including parents, of course.
- Should kids keep these jobs forever? No, every month or two, have the kids look at your master list of chores; offer them the chance to keep them, to trade jobs with their siblings, or to choose new ones. Doing chores is more interesting when they get to do something new, and it allows parents to teach kids different skills.
- Should you give children an allowance for doing family tasks? We’ve all heard the two sides. Allowance should be tied to the chores children actually do, or the allowance should be completely unrelated to doing chores. (Of course, some families do not give an allowance at all.) My advice is that it’s valuable for your child to connect being responsible for doing work with receiving a monetary reward. If we lived in a culture with few things to buy, few ads, few choices, then money wouldn’t be that important. But our children want to have things – lots of things – and most get interested in money sometime during the elementary school years. Children’s endless desire to buy new things is a major issue for parents to provide guidance on. Children should be learning that it takes work to earn money to buy things and that money doesn’t come too easily. (As you know, young children think money just comes from the bank or out of the ATM.) It takes years before children realize that you can’t just go to any bank and be handed money.
- How much allowance should kids get? This differs a lot depending on your community, the ages of the children, and how many jobs they do. Check with other parents and teachers to get an idea of the community standard. Assuming the older children in your family are doing more work, they should get a bigger allowance. (With age usually comes more privilege and more responsibility.) Teaching chores is much more successful when parents set up a chart for kids five years and older so they can check off their jobs each day. Then allowance is paid only for jobs done. Make sure you set a time to go over what they earned and didn’t earn that week. (Lots of families need to set a consistent weekly time or else the whole plan falls apart, and kids go back to not doing regular family chores.) Either give them the money to put “in their bank” or keep a tally. Many parents have started their children on chores and not followed through. Parents feel disappointed in themselves and their children when they give up on their parenting plans, and children lose some of their trust and confidence in their parents.
What can they spend their money on?
Parents should allow increased decision-making around spending as children get older. As kids are starting regular chores and allowance, you’ll need some guidelines about their spending. You might want to start with only the first category, but within a few years, consider dividing the money into three categories: inexpensive purchases, more expensive purchases that kids need to save for, and charitable contributions. Parents usually decide the percentage for each category with increasing input from kids as they get older. Parents are the gatekeepers even on the inexpensive purchases until children are about ten years old. When children want to buy something, you can help them by talking to them about how to decide whether they should spend their money on “that” or not. You can teach them how to judge an item’s quality,
whether it’s an acceptable purchase based on your family values (such as toy guns – yes or no – or whether the child already has similar toys). In short, we want to teach them to be thoughtful, not impulsive, consumers. If we do a good job, we won’t have to keep giving them money when they’re 40!
Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D., author, has been a child/parent psychologist and a specialist in childrearing and development of young children for more than 25 years. Her parenting psychology practice is in Emerald Hills, California. She is also on the adjunct faculty in pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Rothenberg was the founder/director of the Child Rearing parenting program in Palo Alto, California, and is the author of the award-winning books Mommy and Daddy are Always Supposed to Say Yes … Aren’t They?, Why Do I Have To?, I Like To Eat Treats,I Don’t Want to Go to the Toilet, I Want To Make Friends and the just-released I’m Getting Ready For Kindergarten. These are all-in-one books with a story for young children and a manual for parents. For more information about her books and to read her articles, visit www.PerfectingParentingPress.com. To find out about her counseling practice and her speaker presentations, go to www.PerfectingParentingPress.com/about_author.html.
Any parent knows: An evening can go to heck in a matter of minutes.
Our 9-year-old daughter pipes up suddenly that she needs a pink dress to play Sleeping Beauty in class the next morning. It has to be pink. It has to be pretty. And she needs it now!
Any sort of reasoning—like the suggestion to wear a wedding-worthy yellow dress—won’t work. Frustrations explode into shouting, timeouts and all-too-familiar rants of “this family sucks,” followed by heartbreaking rounds of “I hate myself!”
The next morning, when nerves calm, the yellow dress is perfectly fine and our daughter cheerfully chatters about Belle’s ball gown in Beauty and the Beast.
The difference? The anxiety attack is over.
Sneaky and insidious, anxiety seizes our daughter like a riptide pulling her out to sea. Her negative thoughts build like a tsunami, and it’s useless to swim against them with problem-solving logic.
Like a real riptide, the only escape seems to be diagonally. A surprise dose of humor—tough to summon in the midst of a blowup—can spring her free. As one therapist explained, “You can’t process anger and humor at the same time.”
It’s taken years of keen observation and research, plus the support of educators and psychologists to help our kids, ages 9 to 13, cope with mental health issues that also include Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and depression.
Recognizing that something isn’t right and pursuing help isn’t an easy journey. But it’s necessary. In the same way you’d pursue cures and solutions to manage chronic physical conditions like cancer and diabetes for your child, you have to advocate for your child’s emotional well-being. It requires being proactive, persistent and patient.
“If you can intervene early and get proper treatment, the prognosis is so much better,” says Teri Brister, who directs the basic education program of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
KNOW THE SIGNS
“One of the most difficult-to-recognize issues is anxiety,” says John Duby, director of Akron Children’s Hospitals Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. “(Children) won’t say, ‘Hey, you know, I’m worried.’ You have to be tuned in.”
All-consuming worries—about parents’ safety, bullies or natural disasters, for instance—can look like a lack of focus at first. Some kids ask frequent questions about “what’s next” for meals or activities. Changes to the daily routine (a substitute teacher or a visit to a new doctor) can trigger headaches, stomachaches or a sleepless night.
At its most extreme, anxiety induces panic attacks. Kids break into sweats, have trouble breathing and feel their heart racing.
Depression may cause similar symptoms to anxiety with headaches, stomachaches, not being able to sleep or sleeping more than usual. “They may withdraw socially,” says Duby. Kids may head to their room after school and not emerge until morning. Some kids are constantly irritable and angry.
“We often think depression doesn’t happen in children, but it does,” he says.
Step 1: Trust your instincts
If you’re worried about your child’s mood, trust your instincts as a parent, recommends Brister.
The red flags of mental health disorders tend to pop up during school years when children have to navigate academic expectations, make friends and increase responsibilities at home.
“You have to look for (behavior) patterns,” says Brister. These can include impulsive acts, hyperactivity, outbursts, an inability to follow directions or recurring ailments that may impair how the child performs in class, extracurricular activities or simply sitting through dinner with the family.
Most concerned parents start with a visit to the pediatrician. (PETER’S EDIT For Australian parents your family GP is a good place to start) The family physician can help you analyze symptoms and understand whether there might be an underlying condition such as food allergies or a chronic lack of sleep.
Step 2: Seek professional help
(PETER’S EDIT: In Australia a referral from a GP to a psychologist via a mental health care plan or ATAPS will ensure an informed, appropriate and timely assessment. If the issue is developmental, a referral to a paediatrician may be preferred or if your GP has a serious concern a referral to a child psychiatrist may be made. Wait times for each option should be relatively short in the private sector.)
When our son was 5, we sought testing for ADHD with a referral from our pediatrician. Unfortunately, we couldn’t even get on a waiting list for a psychology appointment. We were told the list had backed up to a two-year wait, so it was eliminated. We had to call weekly and hope for an opening.
When our daughter needed help as her anxiety escalated, it took a school district triage nurse to get us an appointment with a psychiatric nurse.
This is, unfortunately, not an uncommon scenario for parents. You need to use all the leverage you have to access experts in the school system or mental health clinics to help with your situation. Stay persistent and be pleasant rather than pushy.
And when you do get an appointment, make the most of it by consistently tracking the concerns you have about your child’s behavior and putting them in writing for the physician to read. Have a list of questions ready, and always ask about additional resources you can tap into, from support groups to books.
Mental health practitioners will also be gathering resources and information about your child from report cards, checklists and questionnaires. These can help pinpoint whether a child has anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, is on the autism spectrum or may have a combination of these. “It allows us to have a more objective view,” says Duby.
Step 3: Find your normal
Once there is a diagnosis, families can decide how to move forward. That might mean trying medications, working with a psychologist or setting up an Individualized Education Program (IEP) at school.
Additional services that may help include occupational therapy, which can identify specific movements, such as swinging, spinning or brushing outer limbs with a soft brush that may help your child’s brain process and integrate sensory information.
These tools and approaches can help families be proactive about preventing and managing mental meltdowns. It’s also essential to help children feel a sense of belonging at school and in community groups. Families need to build up their children’s strengths so they have the self-esteem and confidence to move forward, says Duby.
And parents should stay on top of the situation, watching for changes in behavior and mood, especially as children get older, says Brister.
Hormones may help or worsen conditions, which makes it important to have a diagnosis and support network before the teen years hit.
“I can’t emphasize enough how essential it is to recognize symptoms early and treat them,” she says.
SIGNS OF DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
Signs in children may differ from the symptoms we commonly associate with adults who have the disorders. Depression in kids may look like irritability, anger and self-criticism, says the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It could be as subtle as her making less eye contact with you than in the past.
School performance is another important indicator. Grades can drop off dramatically; students may also visit the school nurse more frequently with vague complaints of illness.
Children who suffer from an anxiety disorder may experience fear, nervousness and shyness, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. They may worry excessively about things like grades and relationships with family and friends. They may strive for perfection and seek constant approval.
HOW TO CALM IT DOWN
Whether a child has mental health struggles or not, emotions inevitably boil over—especially as preteen dramas escalate. Here are ways to help de-escalate the situation and restore calm to your family life.
• Keep your body language non-threatening and stay as even-keeled as possible. Don’t get in the child’s face or use a raised voice.
• Teach kids how to breathe slowly through the nose, then exhale gently through the mouth as if cooling a hot bowl of soup.
• Create an “away space,” a place to cool down and take a break. Consider a quiet nook in a bedroom, a spot on the stairs for kids who don’t like separation or a backyard corner for those who find comfort in nature.
• Let kids know they can’t hit others, but it’s OK to punch a pillow or punching bag or to squeeze putty or a squishy toy.
• Figure out what’s physically comforting—feeling the softness of a blanket or stuffed animal, nuzzling the fur of a family pet or piling under heavy blankets.
• Listen to favorite tunes on a music player.
• Provide a journal for writing out frustrations or doodling when the words won’t come.
• When emotions simmer down, sit side by side to talk through how the situation could have been handled differently and work on solutions together.
(PETER’S EDIT: AUSTRALIA:
HeadSpace: headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation Ltd is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing under the Youth Mental Health Initiative Program. A great resource for parents and teens.
HealthyChildren.org from the American Academy of Pediatrics has a section dedicated to “Emotional Problems.” Parents can tap into great information on how to help their child. Audio segments recorded by experts in the field can be used as a launching point for family discussions.
TheBalancedMindFoundation.org, founded by the mother of a daughter with bipolar disorder, provides help for families. Online, private support groups offer 24/7-support and online forums are a way for parents to connect.
WorryWiseKids.org, a service of the Children’s and Adult Center for OCD and Anxiety, has a wealth of information about the different types of anxiety disorders children can have, how to understand them and how to seek treatment for them.