It is the job of parents to raise their children to be good citizens. Grandma was right; citizenship begins at home. So how to you raise good citizens?
You need to understand the definition, and the activities that will promote responsible citizenship. Pride, honesty, compassion, gratitude and service to others are all components of good citizenship, and all qualities that regular household chores will grow and strengthen. Priority setting, time management, accountability and responsibility are skills that will benefit your children throughout their lives. Families who share the burden of caring for their home grow closer. Successful task completion and pride in a job well done are powerful experiences that build self-worth. Basic household and landscape maintenance are learned through chores. The sense of belonging, contributing and being needed, some of the most basic of human needs, is strengthened by contributing to the running of the family home.
If you’re not making regular chores a part of your children's lives, please read the above paragraph again, then ask yourself why. There truly are no adverse effects of chores on kids (unlike the devices to which they are devoted), and the positive effects for children and parents are considerable.
Start today. Start with one weekly and one daily chore. Do not pay your children for doing their chores, but do discipline them if their chores aren’t done, or aren’t completed per your directions. And if the chore is time sensitive and not done, go ahead and do it yourself and discipline later.
You can (and should) start with 3-year-olds, but you can start with any age. You’re the boss, you’re in charge, and you can assign chores because you know you should, even if your kids don’t like it. Chores are definitely one aspect of raising children for which you will be thanked later, regardless of how much they squawk now! You don’t need fancy charts and you don’t need stickers. You can determine which chores to assign, and when they should be done. You can divide the labor as you see fit.
Make sure to in-service your children well so you are certain they are able to perform their chores competently. It’s nice if you’re able to consider your children’s natural penchants when assigning chores as we all prefer to do tasks in which we’re interested or enjoy. Rotating certain chores will help your kids learn all of them, and may keep it more interesting. Our two children were born on odd and even days, and we used that to determine whose turn it was for a variety of things. Even dates were our son’s turn to do the dishes, our daughter’s turn to set and clear the table. On odd dates they switched. We used that for riding shotgun, too, and it worked beautifully. Plus, they always knew what day it was.
For younger children, you can use music or a kitchen timer to help them stay on task. Check the internet for age-appropriate ideas for chores, and be willing to give up some control. We always thanked our kids for doing their chores (even if later I compulsively rearranged the dishwasher). Make clear that assigned chores are not optional, and other activities and privileges will be limited if chores aren’t done competently and in the stated time frame. And, if you’re thinking that your kids are too busy to have household chores, think about why that’s a problem, and reduce their number of extra-curricular activities. Unlike chores, most of those activities will not be applicable once they’re adults.
Faucett is a Certified Leadership Parenting Coach, San Diego County CASA, and public speaker. Need a speaker for your next event? Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org