Kids, Chores, and Avoiding Resistance

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine the other day about kids and chores.  How much is too much?  Too little?  Should they be given allowance?  Paid per chore?  Given no money at all?  It’s a complicated matrix, so I’m going to start simply: How to add a chore to your child’s routine.

First of all, it’s important to mention why chores are necessary.  Namely, they help kids learn how to do things around the house (duh), build a sense of responsibility, learn the work it takes to run a household, and help ease the parents’ workload so that they don’t feel like servants in their own home.  By 5 years old, kids are capable of doing many household tasks and are mature enough to grasp the concept of teamwork (as in, it takes the whole family working as a team to keep the household running).

So where to start when adding a new chore to your child’s routine?  Let’s take for example putting laundry away (see my post on Children & Clothing Battles for more on why it’s a good idea for kids to take responsibility for their clothes when they are young):

1. Give them some warning. No one likes to be surprised with new duties, and your kids are no exception.  A day or two before the new chore is to begin, let them know your expectations.  “Jamie, you’re old enough now to put your own clothes away after I fold them.  This week after I finish the laundry you will be responsible for putting your clean clothes away.”

2. Use on the job training. Putting laundry away can be a daunting task for a 5 year old.  When you are first adding the chore, consider doing it as a team, and/or help break up the job into small parts.  “Rosie, you put your socks in the sock drawer while I put your t-shirts on the shelf.”

3.  Play it cool. As in many other situations, your children will take their cues from you when it comes to their emotional reaction and their new chore.  If you are angry, too forceful, or overly authoritative in communicating the task to them, they will likely be angry and defensive in return.  If instead you are easy-going, matter of fact, and don’t dwell too long on the new job, you will likely find your kids more willing to comply.

4.  Don’t expect perfection. If you ask your child to put away their own clothes, they are not going to look perfect, so you might as well give up that expectation now.  What you can expect is for it to be in a timely manner, and with relative (according to age) accuracy.  With this in mind, resist the urge to correct their work or re-arrange their clothes (especially in front of them).

5.  Offer appreciation. Whether it’s in the form of a quarter, a dollar, or simply a thank you, don’t forget to let your child know how much you appreciate their pitching in.

6.  A family effort. If you encounter resistance, trying making the chore a family affair.  “Hunter, in 15 minutes we are all going to put our laundry away.  You, Jenny, Dad, and me are all going to work at the same time until we are finished.”

Good luck adding chores in your family!  Stayed tuned for my next post on negotiating an allowance!

Photo by: Don Nunn


Children & Clothing Battles

“MOM!!! I have nothing to wear!”

“MOM!!! I’m only going to wear pink, twirly dresses from now on!”

“MOM!!! The only pants I like are sweatpants with elastic waists!”

“MOM!!! I know it’s snowing, but I have to wear shorts today!”

Have you every heard any of these – or similar – statements?  Ever have battles over clothing in your house?  Does each morning bring fights between you and your child about what they can (and cannot) wear to school?  Clothes are a big deal in my house.  With two young girls particular about what they wear, I frequently hear comments like the above.   So what’s a parent to do when their child begins asserting their own style and no longer wears the cute outfits you bought without complaint?

Set some ground rules. I pretty much have one in my house: I don’t care what you wear as long as it’s clean.  You may have some others: no skirts above a certain length, no low-cut tops, no underwear showing…you’ll have to pick a rule or two that suits your family.  Keep the list short though, the longer it is, the tougher it will be to enforce.

Is the fight really worth it? Often times it isn’t.  Does it really do anyone harm if your preschooler wears her princess dress to school?  Your 3rd grader only wears Broncos gear? Your high-schooler wears shorts all year ’round (in Michigan).  Probably not.  Identify times when you insist on “appropriate attire” i.e. church, visiting Grandma, family pictures, airplane rides (that was my mom’s rule – still don’t know why).  If it isn’t one of those special times – let it go.

Give them the responsibility. Older kids want certain clothes? Tell them to save up their money and buy them on their own.  Are they frustrated when their favorite top is dirty? Let them do their own laundry.  Are they irritated with the way their clothes look or fit?  Teach them how to iron and make simple alterations.

Get creative. If your child is really passionate about their attire – harness that creativity!  Embrace their enthusiasm and engage your budding fashionista.  Sewing classes, drawing lessons, books on fashion design – try checking out these resources instead of spending your energy fighting your kid.  Who knows, you might have the next Vera Wang on your hands!  As someone who spent part of high school wearing nothing but flower-child dresses, Birkenstocks, and crystal necklaces, I can appreciate that clothing preferences can be an ever-changing expression of a child’s personality.  Do we really want to squash it?

My solution to preschooler’s must-have item of the moment (simple black dress): design it & make it ourselves!

Top photo by: rlcasey