Helpful Tips for Getting Kids to Help Out [Guest Post]

Amy Kossoff Smith, Founder of The Business of Motherhood, is an internationally recognized Mompreneur who owns a Web site, www.BusinessofMotherhood.com, and blog, www.MomTiniLounge.com.  Available 24/7, just like Moms, the Web sites offer parenting tips, resources, and a host of ways to manage the job of motherhood.

    Our kids live in a fast-paced multi-media world.  They watch MTV & VH1 and don’t miss an innuendo or inappropriate gesture.  They can tell you what color shirt or tattoo some teen pop star has. There’s no doubt that downloading videos to an Ipod or text messaging requires more technical skill than loading a dishwasher (which appliance do you think requires the greater ability?).
    But our kids manage technology with ease and struggle when asked to run a home appliance. Clearly, they’re capable, but we oftentimes don’t do enough to engage their help.  It’s sometimes easier to quickly load the dishwasher yourself than to teach your child how to do it.  Like any workplace task, with some up front training and reinforcement, you can not only enlist little (& big) helpers, but you’ll reduce your own energy deficit at night in an effective and positive parenting way.
    So what can we do to get kids to help?  Here are some tips for increased compliance in the chore department:
  • Set up your kitchen for success. Think about putting items in areas your kids can access.  If you have young kids in the house, put safe utensils & paper plates within arms’ reach – keep sharp knives on higher shelves.
    • Add some fun.  Play music after dinner while everyone helps with clean-up.  Set a timer in the morning, and reward chore completion before school with a treat.
    • Try to keep the home chore system somewhat consistent with school. Many grade school classrooms seem to have systems for jobs/helpers, and certainly keeping a home system similar to something the kids are expected to do at school might make things simpler & more prone to success.
    • Say “thank you” on occasion. I’m not saying you should be going overboard every time your kid does something to help out – a family needs teamwork to succeed, and everyone should participate daily.  But kids aren’t born knowing how to help, and this is a trained and reinforced skill.  By being appreciative, you are likely to reinforce a repeat performance.  Also, it’s an excellent model for thankfulness, which hopefully will be reciprocated.
    • To pay or not to pay.  This is a debate, and I can see both sides.  With young kids, I don’t believe in connecting allowance to chores.  First, does Mom get paid for doing work at home?  Also, doing work together and sharing the burden is part of being a family.  Finally, as the kids grow older, you’ll be paying increasingly more for chores, and it gets to the point that you won’t be able to afford it!  Try to get the kids to see work as a value, and it will have value to everyone without a price tag attached.

Editor’s Note:  Check out lots of free charts you can use at home on our Mom Life page at BusinessofMotherhood.com – http://www.businessofmotherhood.com/momlife.html .  Check out our Chores & Discipline section:  http://www.businessofmotherhood.com/momlife.html#M5.

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