What is your child capable of doing? What are some of the things that are important for your child to learn?
A chore is defined as a small or odd job or the everyday work around the house or farm. For our family, this means emptying out the dishwasher, bringing the trash cans in, making the bed, making breakfast, cooking rice, carrying the laundry, fetching diapers and wipes, cleaning up the room, clearing out the plates and putting away folded laundry.
This is Micah, our four-year-old bringing in the trash bin.
As parents, our hearts’ desire is to raise our children properly to prepare them to become confident and mature adults. We believe this begins by equipping them to be independent and responsible individuals even now and for us, this begins with chores. But oftentimes getting a 2 year old and a 4 year old to do these can be a battle. It can sometimes take days, months or even years to get them to master some of these life skills. So here are a few tips we follow when we train our children to do their chores.
This is Titus, our two-year-old emptying out the dishwasher.
1. Start Now!
Training begins at an early age. Demonstrate how to do the task first. Make sure your child is aware of the tiny details. For example, when emptying out the dishwasher, ask your child to pay attention to how you carry the breakable plate and how gently and quietly you place it back on the shelf. Have your child repeat what you just demonstrated. Then step back and praise him for trying really hard and focusing on the task at hand. It won’t be perfect, but the effort is worth a high five. A beautiful verse that has motivated my children to continue their chores daily is Colossians 3:23 which says, “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Teaching my children their work must be done for the Lord allows them to refocus their mind (and heart) on “just getting it done” to “glorifying God as I do it.” I distinctly remember my 3 year old asking me what the phrase “and not for human masters mean.” It was a joy for me when he understood that human masters meant “us- mommy and daddy.” Which meant if he was doing the job just to make us happy, then it would not be done to honor God. He realized that he had to faithfully do his job because he wanted to make God proud of him and not us. Of course we will be very pleased but his motivation needed to be turned towards God instead of pleasing us.
This is our two-year-old putting away the cup and preparing his breakfast.
This is our four-year-old preparing a yogurt parfait and making rice.
Since play dates can sometimes turn your house upside down, take a few minutes before you leave to have your child put away the toys he played with. Encourage him to clean up after himself any time he visits someone else’s home. By doing so, you not only remind him of his “cleaning up” chore, but also are equipping him with the life skills that will make him a responsible adult. Always remember to keep an eye out for opportunities that you can turn into teachable moments.
2. Gradually Increase the Responsibilities
As your child gets older, use your regular household chores as a key part in teaching him responsibility. Start by creating a list of assignments and the person responsible. Post the chart where everyone can see it.
For my 4 and 2 year old boys, a daily set chore is provided. I tell them their jobs during breakfast, have them repeat it back to me and expect them to complete it before dinner. Luke 12:48b says, “…Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” The boys know what is expected of them and are usually pretty cooperative with accomplishing the tasks.
Our family recently went on a road trip. Upon returning home, our van was dirty and dusty. So my husband spent an afternoon (aka a lot of time and energy) teaching and supervising our boys as the three of them cleaned our van. The boys not only had a wonderful time bonding with their dad, they also learned the value of hard work as
their dad patiently coached them. They went on to washing our smaller car after that. Needless to say, they had a lot of fun!
3. Whistle While You Work and Throw in a Few High Fives Too!
We all know that chores aren’t always the most enjoyable, so it definitely boosts your child’s confidence if you add a touch of fun to the process. Simple things like singing a fun song while you fold laundry or racing to pick up the toys always helps make it less of a bore. You can even make up silly songs or rhymes as they do the work. My boys did some “jedi” training using the ladles as light sabers (with the matching sounds) before they were returned to the drawers — the strainer as an R2D2 helmet by my silly toddler and the cutting board as Captain America’s shield. They have learned to laugh and chant teamwork, teamwork or hum the tune of Star Wars (can you see a pattern here?) while the utensils made their way back to the drawer. This whole time, don’t forgot to praise your kids: “I’m so proud of you for picking up the mess in your room.” “I appreciate your help! Thank you for serving our family.” “What a blessing you are!” “I love how everything is packed away so nicely. It must have been done very gently too because I didn’t even hear a peep!” “Every day, I see you becoming more and more responsible!” Of course, “Thank you!” with a matching high five always goes a long way!
4. Practice not Perfection. Process not Product.
Do not expect this to happen overnight. They will make mistakes! But you will have to realize that you can use these as teachable moments. Recognize the small deposits you are making will one day reap big dividends. In the beginning, our boys took 30 minutes (it seemed like FOREVER) to empty out the dishwasher, but as they practiced and grew in confidence, they’ve now cut the time in half! My 4 year (when he is focused) can get it done in less than 10 minutes. How’s that for progress? Did I mention it took him 2 years to get to this point? My 2 year old has 2 more years to go.
5. Always with a Joyful Heart!
The Bible urges us to “do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent” (Philippians 2:14-15). This has been a constant memory verse for all of us, including me! It has been recited and revisited many times especially when inappropriate attitudes or unacceptable behaviors arise.
He cooked his first omelet by himself!
Our family is a team and each of us plays an important role. Our children understand that in order for all of us to function well, we need to take our jobs seriously. We are all in this together and if one of us decides to falter, everyone is affected. There had been nights when dinner had to be postponed because the dishwasher was still full. The serving plates and bowls were not ready to be placed on the table because they had not been put back. Our boys had to quickly get their job done or no one would get dinner. We used this time to teach them that no job was too big or too small. Each one is important and must be done properly. We’ve only had to postpone dinner a few times after that because they were slowly getting the memo!
Remember, we can always ask, teach and train our children at any age. And as they mature, they will be capable of much, much more. Don’t shortchange them with the ability to learn life skills!