Henry is a big help around the house. He really is.
When he’s in the mood.
I’d like to implement a chore system in our house, but before doing so, I asked Sarah, founder of füdoo Boards, how to do it. As well as inquiring about why its important for kids to have some responsibilities.
How can I raise a responsible child?
It looks like I’m right on track with starting this with Henry at this age. Sarah says, “It is time to begin talking about helping the family unit when your child is about three years old. Your child can perform simple jobs and feel great satisfaction for helping the family.”
Sarah named off just a few benefits of allowing children to take on chores and responsibilities:
- Self esteem. Pride in a job well done. “I am important because I have a job to do.”
- Family Unit Strength. “Doing a family job really does help our family out.”
- Work Ethic. Hard work brings internal satisfaction (pride) and external satisfaction (praise, money later in life). “I’m not afraid of a little hard work.”
- Responsibility to others. “My job is important because others are counting on me.”
Sarah adds, “It is this internal satisfaction that will help to build your child’s responsibility around the house, his work ethic later in life and his self-worth as part of the family.”
As a teacher and the founder of füdoo Boards, Sarah is a big fan of charts. The chore chart is no exception.
The key to a good job chart is that is isn’t too long. If your child is younger pick two simple jobs and put them on a chart. When the jobs are accomplished they get to record a smiley face or star and then earn a rewarding bike ride or trip to the library that afternoon after nap. Keep it simple. There is no need for money rewards or food rewards yet. Let them work for time spent with you as their prize.
After some days of frantically getting ready for school, with a 1st grader and a preschooler, Sarah, along with the kids, came up with a system for their house:
During our after school snack I asked Joey and Lily what jobs needed to be done by them to get ready for school. The chart is what we came up with. They used the chart for about 2 months with rewards at the end of the week. After that they knew their morning jobs and just mentally worked their way through the checklist every morning. Two years later, they still refer to “their checklist” as they are getting ready for school. We have also shared it with many families with the same morning dilemmas and the kids love it!
Sarah shared her “Schoolgirl Checklist” with me and we’re making it available for everyone to download it to use in your own homes! Feel free to adjust the chart to fit your needs, and let the kids in on the planning, too!
Besides having routine responsibilities (we talked more about routines previously with Erin of The Intentional Parent), children this age can start to become a big help around the house too! Sarah put together a starter list of some easy jobs that a three year old can accomplish:
- Family Pet chores. “We have committed to taking care of our pet. He is part of our family.” Feeding cat, giving dog water, sweeping up messes with small hand brush and dustpan, leading a walk with pet (mom might need to hold the leash too)!
- Clothes. “We all wear clothes in our family. We need to keep them clean and in order.” Putting clothes into the dryer (mom takes them from the washer and hands them to child), sorting socks on mom and dad’s bed, putting socks into the sock drawer, putting child’s dirty clothes into the hamper (cleaning up after himself).
- Meals. “There is a lot of work to be done in order to put a meal on the table. I can help.” Put forks and napkins at table (one for each person in the family), wiping off table before or after dinner (use a wet wash cloth), sweeping crumbs up with the little broom and dustpan, putting recyclables in the proper bin, stirring, slicing (with help), kneading, recording your füdoo Board magnets for the family’s meal.
- Outside. “Upkeep is important for our home and cars and it makes them look better.” Pulling weeds, washing car windows, raking, bagging leaves, scrubbing things like fences or tiles (kids love to scrub).
Sarah reminds me to, “Remember to start slow and not expect perfection.”
These jobs can be adapted to your child’s development level as well.
An example of how to do this is with a hierarchy of kitchen jobs that Sarah gives:
- Age 3. Put forks and napkins on table. Wash table before setting. Stir mixture for dinner. Lead thanks or prayer at the table.
- Age 4. Cut celery with butter knife. Bring glasses to table for water. Sweep under table after dinner. Mark food magnets on the füdoo Board.
- Age 5-6. Set whole place setting (napkin, fork, spoon, knife, glasses, plates, placemats), present filled füdoo Board to family during dinnertime, using water pitcher pour water in glasses at table, clear their dishes from the table.
So how do I introduce these responsibilities to Henry?
Start with baby steps and keep the big picture in mind. Imagine your child at 16 and how this easy job, at age three, will lead to other more difficult jobs as he matures. High expectations for children are always important because they are usually capable of more than we can imagine, but the expectations need to be realistic and come in some form of hierarchy. A younger child, age three, needs to build a capacity for simple responsibilities before he or she can tackle the bigger stuff at age five.
I’ve said learning is play, or play is learning many times on this blog. But here’s another one for you:
Working is Play.
And Sarah reminds us that it all ties into learning.
As an Early Childhood student at the University of Maryland, it was ingrained in me that a child’s work is actually the same as their play. When a child is working at a task, whether it’s sweeping the floor or making a Lego tower, it is playing. Even more importantly this work-play is how they learn and develop.
Children naturally enjoy helping out, as long as we (the adults) try to remember:
- Don’t expect perfection. The windows might still have a few streaks, trust me. Take a deep breath and fix it to your satisfaction later. Never “fix or perfect” your child’s job in front of her. She will never want to do it again. Try using a helpful hint like, “Hey kiddo – try scrubbing to every corner of the tile in this row. It’s going to really shine when you are done!”
- Practice your patience. The job will take longer and so you need to have some time to let them go at it.
- Let them use cleaning tools that are special for cleaning. Feather dusters, vacuum attachments, special scrubbers (no heavy chemical cleaners), are all so exciting to use. We let the kids take turns vacuuming our füdoo van (with ear plugs in!). They can’t wait until it is their turn.
Let this be a learning experience, for both you and your children. Sarah says this is number one on her list of how to raise a responsible child.
As a parent of a preschooler, you need to give your child the opportunities to show you what an amazing helper he/she can be. I know it is easier to just “do it myself” sometimes, and that’s okay. But when you have the time, start trying to let your child take on a few job tasks. Refrain from always setting your child in front of the TV in order for you to get the “real work” done. Try to make them be a part of the real work of making a family home function. You will not regret it in the long run. Enjoy!
I want to leave you with a quote that Sarah mentioned in our conversations that I think is something to remember:
Teach your young children to help around the house and you will help yourself at the same time.