A little while back a reader was looking for advice on getting younger kids to work. Which is, as every parent with young kids knows, a little bit of a puzzle. And also, quite exasperating sometimes. Here’s her question:
We have Saturday morning chores. Everyone has a checklist for the things they are responsible for in their own rooms, then they also are assigned a room in the house to clean (we rotate the rooms every week). We have one daughter (6) who is sooooooo very slow at
everything and HATES to clean or work at all. We have tried many things to change this, but it usually ends up with her getting in trouble, tears, etc. Have you or your parents had a child like this, and if so, what worked for you or them?
I honestly think every parent has children like this. It is not natural for most kids to want to clean or to do their share. So the tricky part as parents is to help them figure out not only responsibility, but the joy it brings to have a part in helping a family run smoothly.
I have three ideas that have helped in our family:
Years ago my parents assigned “Tutors” and “Tutees” in our family. It worked so well in our growing-up family that Dave and I instigated it in our own.
We parents should never underestimate the power an older sibling has with the younger ones. We haven’t done this in a while, but whether it is a formal assignment to have an older child “tutor” a
younger sibling for a month or so on a regular basis, or whether it’s just pulling aside an older child on a singular Saturday morning and giving them a “special secret assignment” to help a younger sibling, bigger kids love to have this responsibility. And younger kids eat it up. Usually.
For example, there were a few Saturdays when Lucy was lounging around not about to lift a finger to do her jobs. I pulled Claire aside and in an excited voice I told her: “Hey Claire, I’m going to give you a very special ‘secret assignment’ today. Your job is to secretly get Lucy to work. Figure out a game or something that will make her excited to help. She loves you SO much and if you’re excited about jobs I know she will be too.”
I am telling you, there’s nothing like watching that older child’s eyes light up at their special assignment. And also nothing like witnessing the residual effects of the games they make up to get the job done. The magical thing about it is that it gets the older child and the younger
child excited to do things at the same time.
2) Make jobs fun
One of our favorite ways to get things done in our family is so simple: We turn on music. Some of my favorite family memories are working in the kitchen together with music blaring. It is sure to kick kids into gear.
Let the children know that jobs are not going away. They happen every single Saturday. And nothing else “fun” can happen until they’re done.
At some point kids realize that they may as well just get those jobs done so they can get on to what they want to do. Because after a few weeks of wallowing around lazily they start to get the picture that they’re only hurting themselves by sitting around on a Saturday.
I also think it’s so important to write down what kids need to do so they can cross stuff off as they go and have tangible evidence that they are making progress. It sounds like this reader did this already.
I posted about how we do Saturday jobs with lists detailing the things to be done. My kids love that part.
I’d love to hear (and I’m sure many other readers would join me in that love) other ideas of what people do to make jobs/chores rewarding and a happy part of the family rather than a tortuous task 🙂