Helping Hand

Helping Hand

How do you get your kids motivated to help out around the house?

Do you find at this time of year, there are so many things to do and never enough time to complete them?  You have homework, housework, office travel, uniforms that need to be laundered, bake sales requiring a few dozen cupcakes – the list is honestly endless.  When you realize you are not only managing your own life, but also that of a few others – it hits you that you need a little back up.  Let’s call in the troops.  Thankfully, you may have birthed a mini cavalry.

Yes, I put my kids to work.  Do they like it?  That would be an enormous stretch.  Do they recognize that their parents need help?  Generally, but it does take some creative incentives to get things done without the usual griping.

The obvious first thing is to try to make tasks fun.  The challenge here, who has the time to make picking up and bed making fun?  These things just have to be done.  The trick is to preempt the dawdling and achieve lightning fast results.   Something like “While I’m making your lunches, you guys make your beds – extra cookies for the winner”.  Setting the expectations beforehand also helps.  In other words, before your six year old daughter dumps her 35 Polly Pockets, with their assorted wardrobes and accessories on the floor, you make sure she knows they will only live on the floor until dinner.

This brings up consequences.  How do you set meaningful ones that keep kids motivated to help and also stay upbeat about it?  It’s tough to balance this.  I tend to appeal to the give and take aspect of all the things we do.  For my son, he plays sports almost every day of the week it seems.  I gently remind him that if he expects a ride to practice, in turn I’m expecting him to take out the trash.   I don’t have to give him a ride, I am choosing to.   It’s an attempt to teach respect for all the little things that often get taken for granted.  These are the foundation lessons for building strong partnerships and teams.

Another interesting exercise is asking your kids to write down everything that they think needs to be done around the house.  Sometimes they will come up with terrific new ways of getting stuff done – or even tasks that need to be done that you never would have thought of asking them.  Who knew that they’d love to rake leaves or help polish furniture?  If they come up with it themselves they are invested – and that’s half the battle.

I do believe it is essential that kids realize they are important contributors in their home.  It helps you and it helps them feel connected to something bigger than themselves.  It teaches responsibility and accountability.  When everyone pitches in everyone wins!

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