What is the one thing that will teach your kids the most valuable skills?

You're not alone. As a working parent, you may have become an expert at shifting schedules and routines. Unfortunately, all this change has certainly come at a cost: exhaustion and fatigue.

You’re not alone. As a working parent, you may have become an expert at shifting schedules and routines. Unfortunately, all this change has certainly come at a cost: exhaustion and fatigue. In fact, one survey reported that 76% of U.S. workers are experiencing worker burnout. And now that summer is in full swing; you may be navigating schedules for your children to keep them busy while you continue to work through going back to the office or a hybrid schedule. What is one thing you can do to help you with the fatigue?

One way to regain energy and zeal is to take things off your plate. Delegating tasks is great at work and home too. Have you thought about organizing your family around housework? Chores can pile up, and they can add to the stress and exhaustion you feel. Getting others at home to step up and help is not only a great way to help offload some of the burdens you may be bearing, but it is also a great way to teach your kids most of the valuable skills that you want them to have to be successful adults. 

The resistance that you can get from your children when you mobilize them to do chores can feel very heavy, like when you’re riding a bike up a steep hill. You may want to give up because of the emotional drama that can come exacerbated by rolling eyes, sighs, sarcastic jabs, stumping of the feet, or procrastination which can create a heavy spirit in the home. It all can test your patience to the brim.  

It’s no wonder that many parents give up on teaching kids to follow through with chores opting to do things themselves. One poll quoted in a Wall Street Journal post found that while 82% of parents reported having regular duties growing up, only 28% said that they require their children to do them.

We can learn from the households which have embraced chores as part of the expectations in the family. An interview of Latin American households, for example, found that children volunteered their time to help out in the home as these parents from an early age encouraged their children to participate in the day-to-day household activities.

What other reasons help explain the trend in North America from not getting children involved in household tasks? Is it because we’ve focused our energy on creating fun opportunities so that our kids can be happy instead of focusing on ways our kids can learn to be responsible? 

Think about the last time you asked your kids, “Did you have fun?” instead of “What did you learn?” In our quest to ensure our kids are entertained, we give them lots of gadgets that fill up their hours or schedule them in many enriching after-school activities. While these activities are done with good intention, we may lose sight of the opportunity before us. However, we can do one free thing that builds practical skills our children can carry with them into adulthood, and it comes without being a chauffeur to your kids driving them here and there or buying the latest fad. All of these which can deplete you of precious energy, money and time.

Children’s main job is to learn. They learn through the typical academic rigor. They learn through play. And they learn many of the skills that we want them to have to be successful and well-adapted adults through chores. Now is an optimal time to figure out the chores situation at home. Beyond it helping lift some of the burdens from your shoulders, it also has many benefits for their development. Apart from teaching them essential life skills – clean, cook, monitor their space, coordinate, they also learn:

  • Time management skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Accepting responsibility in the family
  • Competence, confidence, and an opportunity to succeed
  • Empathy and responsiveness to other’s needs

These skills are amongst the most important lessons parents hope to instill in their children. If you have neglected to give your children to do chores, now in the summer months is a good time as any to give it a go.

How do kids feel about chores? Suppose you’ve taken the time to have conversations with your kids where you’ve explained why everyone is responsible for tasks and what the expectations are. In that case, they are more likely clued into the inherent value in chores than what their resistance from time to time may have you believe. Check out some tips for chore setting from the fresh perspective of children. Below is an amusing interview of my kids (ages 11 & 7) and their advice on the subject. 

  1.  How do you feel about doing chores?

D: “It depends on what type of chore. If it is a chore like cleaning my room – I don’t mind. If it is a chore like washing the car or cleaning the dog – I don’t like that. 

C: “If it is a chore like cleaning the windows or glass doors, then I like it. Like brushing Shadow, our dog, then I like it. But if it is cleaning my room, then I don’t like it.”

  1. What is it about the chores that you do like to do that make them fun?

D: “Well, I like watering the plants, cleaning my room, organizing my books – gives me a sense of joy because I achieve something – especially when I do it at the beginning of the day.” 

C: “I like it because they are easy.”

       2. What do you learn from doing chores?

D: Responsibility, discipline, wakes you up”.

C: “When you’re lazy, you have to get up and do your chores and you just can’t be lazy all the time”.

       3. What happens when you don’t want to do something?

D: “Well, I do it but I try to fast forward it and do it quickly so it can be finished.”

C: “I don’t get happy.” 

4: What motivates you to do chores?

D: “Sometimes when I wake up, I have this feeling like I want to do something. Usually when I get this feeling, I do origami and that gets rid of the feeling but doing chores also helps.”

C: “What motivates me? If I don’t do my chores then I can’t have dessert or play with my friends – and that is sad.”

5. What is it that your parents do to help you with chores?

D. “They enforce rules like “no computer time” before we do chores, they encourage healthy habits regularly asking us to do chores certain times a day so eventually we do them without asking us. With me it’s establishing healthy habits that work.”

C: “When we are finished we get our desert.” 

6. What advice would you give parents in setting up chores for their children?

D: “I would encourage healthy habits, doing a chore, making your bed regularly so that eventually, your children will do it on their own.”

E: “I don’t like getting baths but I have to motivate your children to take a bath.”

   7. What advice would you give children about chores?

D: “I feel like chores would motivate you and although you may not want to do chores, you need to be organized in your lifestyle otherwise you won’t get far in the world. It helps to be organized.”

C: “You should do your chores, because if you don’t do them – everything in your life – all of your stuff will be all over the place, and it is going to be annoying to have all your clothes and toys all over the place.” 

What would your children say? Interview them and you may find some insights and helpful ways to navigate the resistance. 

Have you incorporated a household management strategy during COVID that you will want to keep?

For more tips on parenting through the summer, click here.

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