One thing that never fails to amaze me is how hard working children are. Another thing that never fails to amaze me is how much easier it is to parent when we allow them to be hard working.
When a child wants to help, they are asking to be involved in making the home functional, in being with the adults in the family. They want to know that they add a valuable contribution to the family, and that they are capable and that we have faith in their inherent ability to “do”. And when our children know that we find them to be capable, contributing, and that we want them with us, they feel good about themselves! Amazingly, when children feel good – especially about their relationships with us – they are more cooperative in general.
With so many littles around our house, I completely understand the urge to simply say, “Let Mommy do it so we can just get it done faster.” But the reality is that when we do this, we are setting ourselves up for more struggles later. Also, finding ways to include children in our work teaches them how the work is done, and they are able to take on more of the responsibility as they grow – which makes life much easier on the adults in the house!
If you can’t imagine jobs for your children, let me give some examples of ways our kids help out.
Elliott – 2 Years Old:
Elliott is a fantastic helper! One of his many jobs is to carry the key to the locker room at swim class every week. He also helps me to dump the soap in the washing machine and to put the clothes in. Later, he helps me to put the clothes in the dryer or on the drying rack. He loves to get things from the fridge when we are preparing food. He loves to sit on the counter and dump things into the crockpot. He sets his own spot at the table most days. He loves to help feed the dog! Walter scoops the food for him and he dumps it into the dish at breakfast and dinner. He can take things to the garbage and the recycling. He is, by personality, very orderly, and likes to put things just as they are supposed to be – doors closed, gates closed, shoes where they belong, and so on.
Walter – 5 Years Old:
Walter is my official kitchen helper! He gathers the correct cookware, utensils, and ingredients for whatever I am cooking. He helps to add ingredients to dishes, shake spices, stir pots, and carry things to me. He LOVES his job. And at the same time, he is learning a valuable skill, as being able to cook for himself will be doubly important because of his food allergies and intolerances. He also is in charge of making sure the dog is fed twice daily – whether Elliott wants to help or not. He clears his spot at the table after meals. He can wipe down a surface with vinegar spray and a washcloth. He is learning to use a dust pan to help clean up the floor. I sort his laundry and he sometimes helps to put it on hangers or fold it, and puts it in his drawers and closets. He puts his dirty laundry in his basket. He helps me or Sofi to haul heavy loads, whenever we need help. He loves to help Daddy build or repair things.
Sofiya – 7 Years Old:
Sofi has reached an age where her years of helping me and slowly learning skills has actually yielded her the ability to work on her own at several household tasks – which she thoroughly enjoys and is proud of. Sofi loves to cook! She makes her own pancakes at breakfast many mornings, and oatmeal for breakfast when it is cold. She can cook pasta. She can put leftovers in the oven for lunch and turn the oven on. She can make almost anything that we would typically make in the toaster oven, and take it out when it is finished. She can pour drinks and help the boys to get snacks. She can cut veggies for a salad. And I’m sure there are several other things that she helps Daddy with in the kitchen that I am completely unaware of. She also clears her spot at the table, and can scrape dishes into the compost. She can help Elliott to prepare his morning pancakes and cut them up for him (she often does this while I stand at the griddle and cook more pancakes for us). She helps Elliott to wipe up if Micah or I are busy. In fact, she happily helps Elliott with many things. She once came trooping through the room with Elliott’s potty bowl – she had wiped his bottom and was on her way to empty the contents, without ever telling me that she was doing so! She loves to help him dress, and to attend to his clothes when he needs to go potty. She even helps him with his shoes, when he will let her. She sweeps floors and porches. She is a pro with a brush and a dustpan. She can wash dishes, though we have a dishwasher. She can do her own laundry with minimal assistance. She helps me to hang laundry on the drying rack. She can sort and put away her own laundry. She often helps me to put away the boys’ laundry. She can wipe down a bathroom – though I draw the line at her cleaning the toilet. She can water the plants. Sofi also loves to help Daddy to build or repair anything. She puts away groceries very proficiently – and the boys both help at the level they are capable, but she generally directs.
As you can see, our children are genuinely a help to us. And knowing that they are is such a boost to their self-confidence and their behavior!
What do your kids do to help out around the house?