Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Teaching Kids Chores in 3 Simple Steps

Teaching kids how to do chores is a pretty universal parenting goal.  It's an important goal at our house, for several reasons.  I want my kids to learn life skills like how to cook and do laundry.  I want them to understand that in our house, everyone works before we play.  I want them to be willing to work, and not view Mom as a maid.

I used to work in a biochemistry lab, and these were the three basic steps we used to teach coworkers how to do an experiment.  After I had Buddy, I realized that I could apply the same steps to teach my kids almost any complex task or process (like a life skill or chore).  So, yes, I am teaching my kids like we're in a science lab.  My husband can laugh at my mad scientist ways, but I've found this to be a valuable way to think about how to teach my kids
Three deceptively simple steps to teaching kids chores:

1.  Demonstrate.  Show your child how to do the process, explaining as you go.  Make sure to explain what you're doing and why.

For example, if you're teaching how to sweep the floor, don't just sweep and have him passively watch from the sidelines.  Have him help a little.  Answer his questions.  Explain how to hold the broom, how you're careful to sweep all the corners, to not spill crumbs out of the dustpan, etc .

2.  Supervise.  The child primarily does the chore, with you supervising.  You correct and assist as needed, but let him do most of the work.  

3.  Leave.  Your child does the chore on his own, with you nearby so he can come and ask for help if needed.  When he's done, you come and make sure he did everything correctly.  If not, you have him do it again with you supervising.

Sometimes it takes a long time for each step, especially with very young kids.  I've been working on teaching my three-year old how to sweep the floor for months.  For a while, he just watched, or he'd hold the dustpan to "help" but I actually did the work (Step 1).  Then, he got his own child-size broom and dustpan several months ago for Christmas.  Since then he's been practicing sweeping up dirt (Step 2).  He actually helps now--I do the major sweeping with a big broom, then he sweeps up the crumb piles into his dustpan and carefully throws them away (Step 3).  I consider this Step 3 for him, since he can do his part of the assigned chore without me watching.  

For my kids, by the time they're three years old I expect them to do one or two simple chores without direct supervision.  By the time they're school aged, I'll expect them to do quite a few tasks correctly, in a timely manner, and without me telling/showing how to do it every time. 

Check back in a few days, I'll be discussing where I trip up teaching chores.

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