Silvana Clark, aka The Fun Consultant, offers parents creative tips on how to make chores fun - or at least more tolerable - for kids. Drawing tips from her book "Fun-Filled Parenting," Clark explains how to help kids of all ages - from toddlers to teens - put a positive spin on chores and establish a good work ethic early on.
If your child smiles broadly and jumps up from the TV to help you energetically with household tasks -- or better yet, picks up after you -- then stop reading this and nominate yourself for Parent of the Year. Everyone else: It’s time to de-chore the notion of chores. There’s something about the word “chores” that instantly causes friction: Parents want children to learn responsibility and a sense of work ethic by helping around the house; children simply want to avoid doing chores by any means possible. And while getting your kids to regularly welcome chores is probably a fantasy for most families, there are ways to make chores a bit more tolerable for children -- and the adults who nag them.
|"Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing." -comedian Phyllis Diller
Good habits start early.
As with most habits, it’s best to start young. When kids are toddlers and preschoolers, they want to help -- usually at those times when it’s not terribly convenient for you. Yet the more we praise our children for helping, the more they’ll see chores as a part of life, just like brushing teeth.
Of course, it’s not too late for your son to pick up some good habits. Let him see that his contributions are important. If you ask him to set the table and he doesn’t, sit down to eat at the empty table. Ask him what the family should do -- there are no plates or silverware. It’s obvious the family needs his help in order to eat dinner.
When your son complains that he has more chores than his sister, point out that he also has more privileges, such as later bedtimes and more freedom to go out with his friends.
You might consider getting a chore chart from www.kidscontracts.com, which specializes in the pre- and early teen ages. Another website, www.parents.com, has free down-loadable chore charts for other
Many parents find it helps to work alongside their child. Can you weed the garden together? How about polishing the outside windows while he does the inside ones?
Fun habits are hard to break.
Remember how Mary Poppins got the children to clean up their room? She sang “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Her idea was that a bit of “sweetness” and downright frivolity made an ordinary experience enjoyable. So, when all else fails, threaten your children with a loud rendition of “A Spoonful of Sugar” if they don’t do their chores. Seriously, though -- here are some great ways to add variety and fun to those dreaded domestic duties:
• Play some loud music (Beach Boys’ surfing hits are great!) and have children complete specific chores before each song ends.
• Try assigning chores and set a timer for 10 minutes. As soon as the timer goes off, children rotate jobs. Knowing a task ends in an allotted amount of time helps children feel that an end is in sight!
• Using small strips of paper, write out household tasks that need to be completed. Insert one strip of paper (the equivalent of one chore) into a balloon; then blow up the balloon. Repeat the process until all the chores are in midair. Then have family members pop two or three balloons…without using their hands! After popping the balloons, each person completes the chore described on the rolled-up paper. If you have both older teens and little ones in your family, color-code the balloons so that younger children get age-appropriate chores. (Caution: If there is a toddler in the house, quickly pick up any popped balloon pieces to prevent him or
her from putting the latex in his or her mouth.)
• Are there lots of small toys cluttering the floor? Give your child a pair of kitchen tongs and then keep time to see how long it takes him or her to pick up and put away 10 items. Let kids have a light-hearted competition to see who can pick up the most toys. The tongs transform an ordinary job into a game.
• If there’s a major project to do, consider inviting another family to help. Two families raking leaves or organizing the garage creates an instant party. Be sure to help your friends at a later date.
• Get a set of index cards and write a chore on each card. Include a few highly coveted cards such as “Give your mom a hug” and “Watch TV for 30 minutes.” Include one grand prize card that reads, “No chores today.” Let children select two or three cards, and then have them complete the tasks described.
• Walk through your house and see what child-friendly items could help your children. Are there hooks available at a low level so that your child can easily hang up her backpack and coat? Consider putting down a large towel or sheet when your child plays with LEGOs, then as he or she finishes, simply gather up the corners of the sheet and funnel the LEGO pieces into a storage container. How about labeling storage shelves with pictures or words so that children can easily put away toys in the proper place?
Chores, tasks, domestic duties -- whatever you want to call them -- are a part of life…unless, of course, you are fabulously wealthy and have cooks, gardeners, and housekeepers. But until you win the lottery, teach your children that chores are necessary but can also be fun. When you plan ahead and add a few creative ideas, children soon learn that everyone needs to chip in and help run the household.
If you’re still not a believer...
My daughter Sondra is supposed to keep her room in a semi-clean state. Still, one day after repeated warnings to straighten things up, her dad and I took over. We triumphantly walked into her room carrying large garbage bags and announced, “We’re cleaning your room!” Ignoring her protests, we turned into the Two Musical House Cleaners, singing in dramatic musical-theater style such profound lyrics as “Oh, my! There are so many shoes on the floor. That must mean Sondra has too many shoes. Let’s put these four pairs in storage.” The shoes were deposited in the garbage bags. The next chorus was, “Look at this -- 12 magazines on the floor. I think one magazine is enough, don’t you?” Soon another bag was filled with magazines.
Within 15 minutes (and many verses later), we had four large bags filled with items from her bedroom floor. Again, with a comical yet triumphant flourish, we left her clean room, singing, “It should be easier for you to keep a clean room now that you don’t have so many things. You can have these bags back after you keep your room clean for two weeks.” Naturally, we took a bow after our Tony Award-winning performance.
Sondra didn’t give us a standing ovation. Yet one year later, all we have to say is “Do you want the Musical House Cleaners to clean your room?” and she races to her room, dragging the vacuum cleaner with her.
From “Fun-Filled Parenting” © 2010 by Silvana Clark. Published by Regal Books, www.regalbooks.com. Used by permission. All rights reserved.