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.
There are times when parents have to stay tough and Nigel Latta explains how best to do it
A COMMON question among parents of young children is: ‘‘ When does raising children start to get better?’’ The answer could be that it doesn’t get any better, it just gets different.
MADE TO ORDER: Keeping a firm hand but not rule by fear is the recommended way to go.It’s a theme Nigel Latta explores in his new book, Politically Incorrect Parenting. Latta will soon present a show of the same name on Channel .
While the issues he explores are hardly new, this is not your average parenting book. It doesn’t trade on a parent’s fear but on the reassurance that there are ways you can survive, keep a semblance of sanity and still enjoy the company of your little home-grown terrorist.
It’s battlefield wisdom from a therapist who’s seen more than most of us could handle and has some commonsense tools to help ordinary parents who need a hand.
Some of the chapter headings might give you a clue to his approach.
The preface ‘‘Never Mind the Kids . . . Save Yourself’’ is a pretty good hint, but there are also gems such as ‘‘How to Make Time Out and Sticker Charts Actually Work’’. Then there’s ‘‘Why You Should Never Negotiate with a Terrorist’’.
‘‘I just think parenting is such bloody hard work and the last thing you want to do is read a book on raising your children that’s boring and just makes you feel worse,’’ Latta says.
‘‘You want to read something that feels like a bit of time off.
‘‘What I try to do in the TV show and the book is to give people useful things that they can actually use to make things better but also just reassure people that life is not that complicated.
‘‘We all worry about damaging our children if we say the wrong thing, or send them to the wrong school, or don’t read them enough stories. It’s not about any of that stuff because it’s not stuff that matters.’’
Latta fears the modern world has done away with a lot of common sense. ‘‘I understand common sense as wise thinking,’’ he says. ‘‘If people have a problem with their children most will Google it and they come up with million different opinions . . . and a lot of scare tactics.
‘‘Scaring people is a way to sell books because it works, but I just think it sucks. You don’t need to make parents any more afraid because as soon as you have children you start to worry and it never stops.’’
After helping thousands of people crawl out of what they feared were bottomless pits, Latta has found a common theme running through the vast majority of cases.
‘‘By far the biggest issue is that people just need to toughen up and that invariably gets it sorted,’’ he says.
‘‘People come to me and say they have a four-year-old they just can’t control and I’m wondering if he’s a mutant six foot high fouryear-old.
‘‘And they become paralysed with all this modern doubt stuff that makes them wonder if they’re doing the right thing when really it’s pretty straightforward.’’
For example, what to do with a fussy eater.
Hungry children eat, Latta says, it’s as simple as that.
He has a key message for parents who are doing it tough. ‘‘Get tough on the behaviours you don’t like and praise them for stuff you do.
‘‘Do that and it fixes anything – a few simple things and it’ll all be fine.’’
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One of the least-praised pleasures in life — and yet one that is probably most likely to bring lasting happiness — is the ability to be happy for others. When we think about empathy, we tend to think of feeling other people’s pain — but feeling other people’s joy gets short shrift That must change if we want to have a more empathetic society.
While working on our forthcoming book, Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential — and Endangered (my co-author is leading child trauma expert Bruce Perry, MD, PhD), one of the most common questions I’ve gotten is, “What can parents do to raise more empathetic children?”
And, as I talked about sharing joy with a friend last week, I thought again about just how important the pleasurable part of empathy is in parenting. Sharing pleasure is actually one of our earliest experiences: consider the way a baby’s smile lights up a room and all the silly things adults will do to elicit these little expressions of happiness and connection. Videos of laughing babies delight us for the same reason. [I dare you to resist the laughing quads!]
Cuteness is nature’s way of getting us through the most difficult and demanding parts of parenting: if babies weren’t so darn cute, few people would be able to take the dirty diapers and other drudgery of caring for them. But their smiles and laughs are overwhelmingly infectious.
It’s this same early dance between parent and child that instills empathy in the first place. We all have the natural capacity (in the absence of some brain disorders) for empathy. However, like language, empathy requires particular experiences to promote learning. The ‘words” and “grammar” of empathy are taught first via early nurturing experiences.
Without responsive parenting, though, babies don’t learn to connect people with pleasure. If your smiles aren’t returned with joy, it’s as though you are being asked to learn to speak without anyone ever talking to you. The brain expects certain experiences to guide its development — if these don’t occur at the right time, the capacity to learn them can be reduced or even lost.
So, most of us come into the world and receive parenting that implicitly teaches us that joy is shared. Babies don’t just smile spontaneously — they also smile radiantly back when people smile at them. The back and forth of these smiles, the connection, disconnection, reconnection and its rhythm teaches us that your happiness is mine, too.
Over time, unfortunately, we learn that we are separate beings and sometimes come to see other people’s happiness as a threat or a sign that we’ve lost a competition, rather than something we can share.
This, of course, is natural, too: we are also normally born with an acute sense of fairness and justice that makes us sensitive to say, whether our older brother’s toys are nicer than ours. While cries of “that’s not fair” are the bane of many parents’ existence, they’re not just selfish. They’re part of a social sense that we should
receive equal treatment.
How, then, can we help kids to develop both their sense of justice and the ability to share joy?
One key is making the implicit explicit. When we see kids smiling in response to others, point out how seeing someone else smile made them feel good; when we see that they enjoy our reaction to their artwork and gifts, praise them for being happy for us. Saying that “it’s better to give than receive,” may ring hollow — pointing out when children are actually experiencing the feeling of taking joy in giving is much more powerful.
Allowing children to own this ability and recognize it in themselves will also encourage it — helping them to define themselves as the kind of people who are happy for other people will make them feel like good people, too. Encouraging such an identity will reinforce other positive behaviors as well. Changing behavior to suit an identity you prefer is actually one of the easiest ways to make changes.
Further, rather than calling kids selfish or self-interested when they protest about someone else getting what seems like something better, reframe this as a concern for justice and ask them to look out for when what seems unfair is unfair in their own favor, too. Children who see themselves as being “bad” or “selfish” will unfortunately take on that identity, too — if they don’t recognize their own prosocial behavior, they can’t enhance it and may embrace a very negative view of their own desires and drives.
Sadly, as a society, for centuries we have embraced a view of human nature that is selfish and competitive — with evolution being described as a contest in which the most ruthless are always likely to be the winners. In fact, research is now showing that, at least in humans, kindness is also a critical part of fitness.
For one, both men and women typically describe kindness as one of the top three characteristics they seek in a mate (sense of humor and intelligence are the other top two picks; gender differences in valuing attractiveness and resources come lower on the list).
Second, the ability to nurture and connect is critical for the survival of human children: in hunter/gatherer societies, the presence of older siblings and grandmothers can be even more important to child survival than the presence of fathers according to Sarah Hrdy’s research, suggesting that cooperation in childrearing made genetic survival more likely — not competition.
This means that human nature isn’t the selfish, sociopathic murk we’ve been told it is. While we are certainly no angels, our altruistic side is equally real. To create a more empathetic world, we need to own this as adults as we teach it to our kids.
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