Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tip of the Day: Teaching Kids Responsibility

As I have added more children to our household, I have also added more work.  I don't think there is enough time in a day, (nights included) to run a household without help.  I also don't think that you can responsibly raise a child without teaching them how to work.  Although my kids have asked me if the only reason I had them was so they could help clean the house, I feel it is so important, not only to have a clean house, but for them to learn to work, and also feel like they're contributing.  A child's self-esteem is so important in their success, and teaching them to accomplish something of worth to themselves and others raises their confidence level.  Someday, when they have houses of their own, they may thank me for making them my slaves, now.

Marie C. Ricks, an author and speaker on keeping your house in order and organization, has a saying:  "As parents, our job is to work ourselves our of a job by helping our children become productive, happy, and responsible adults."  I whole-heartedly agree with this.   A lot of my theories are borrowed from her because they seem to work.  Sometimes, things may need tweaked to fit your particular family needs.

I start my kids working from the time they can walk.  Brooklyn, my 1-year-old, has one expected job: throw her diaper in the garbage after I change her.  She doesn't have to be asked to do this anymore because she has gotten, and still gets, so much praise when she completes her task.  Because she has learned where the garbage is, she also makes little "runs" throughout the day when I ask her.  Of course, she does seem to have an independent spirit, and sometimes chooses to ignore me, but then I just make a big deal out of me throwing the garbage away, and hopefully she will continue to get more consistent when asked.  She also loves to line up with the rest of the kids and put her own folded pile of clothes into her closet.  Of course, I usually have to re-fold half of them again, but a minute or two more at this age will save me much more than that as she gets older and can take care of her own clothes.

My four-year-old, Jentry, is expected every morning to get dressed, make her own bed, pick up her room, (not always my idea of clean, but I sneak in later and finish up,) and usually one other household job.  She is probably my best clothes-folder and takes great pride in this title.  She loves to hold her baby sister when I am trying to get something done and don't have the extra arms.  Because she is involved in this, she believes that her sister loves her the most and will usually do anything to help clean-up after her, or just entertain her for a while.

My other children, ages 7, 8, 10, and 12 have the responsibility to keep their rooms clean, beds made, get themselves ready, including fixing their own breakfast, and a lunch if they don't want to have school lunch.  They are also required to practice their piano, and any other music they have, and also take care of their own dogs, cats, and pigeons.

During the school year, I don't use a chore chart.  Usually in the morning, and again in the evening, I have everyone pick up 5 to 10 things in each room of the house.  This only takes the kids a few minutes while saving me a bundle of time.  Sometimes, it's more practical to set a timer for 10 minutes and have everyone work as fast as they can.  We all work in the same room and just rotate through.  I may or may not give a treat.  I like to surprise them with treats instead of having them expect them.  This hopefully will teach them to work for the right reasons.  Besides, I can guarantee that when they get their own houses, there is not a treat waiting for them for every load of laundry they do.  Experience talking.  (I do have to add, however, that one of my neighbors hides a bag of chocolates in her clean laundry so that when she is folding it, she "treats" herself.) 

In the following weeks, I will be writing about Saturday cleaning, and also various job charts I use during summers.  I think job charts are great, but it seems to add more work for me to keep up on them while the kids are in school and so busy.

 I have to conclude with my most effective tool I use in getting my kids to work.  That is praise, praise, and more praise.  My kids love to make me happy.  They occasionally try to surprise me by doing something I haven't asked.  I love this because it shows me they have seen that something needs done and have taken the initiative to do it on their own.  When they know I appreciate it, they seem to do that more often.  Praise is definitely the key.  Even if a job is not done to a standard I wish it was, I try to lay on the praise and then say, "I'm just going to tuck this corner of your covers in and that will make it easier for you to make it next time."  Nine times out of ten, that corner is tucked in by that child the next time. 

Although I've made this sound so perfect in keeping a clean house, when company pulls in the driveway, we still sometimes make a mad dash to find them a place to sit before they reach the door.  With eight people in our house, there always seems to be someones book bag laying around or another snack to clean off the table.  But a time and season is what I always tell myself.  If I am doing my job right, I hope to one day not have to shove extra socks under the couch when my visiting teachers come, or gather up empty candy wrappers and stuff them in my pocket when a neighbor comes to visit.  In the meantime, I follow my good friend, Jana's, motto: "If you want to see me, come anytime; if you want to see my house, make an appointment."

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