I recently had a very pleasant day. My daughter was up before I was. She had brewed a pot of coffee, broiled two rice cakes with sliced carrots and cream cheese, and chosen my favorite yogurt for on my plate. Breakfast was ready before I was.
Not only that, but the kitchen was spotless. When my youngest daughter came up the stairs my oldest daughter made her some toast and a bowl of her favorite cereal. In a little while she had made all six of us breakfast and cleaned everything up.
Let me assure you that this doesn’t happen every day! Before you start thinking that I live in a world of make-believe, let me confirm that this was a bit of an anomaly. The fact that she was the first one awake was the first miracle… the rest made us wonder who traded our daughter with a very incredible clone!
As I enjoyed a second cup of cinnamon coffee (yes, she made that, too) it dawned on me how grateful I am that I’ve spent time and effort (and yes, hours of frustration) teaching my kids life skills.
Call it what you will, but life skills are crucial for our kids to become responsible, employable, enjoyable adults somewhere along the line. Maybe it’s time we stopped calling them chores and let the kids know why we think it’s so important they learn how to do them well.
Choose some chores around the house that your kids can take care of. They may need your help to start, but as they become proficient they can become the ‘pro’ in your family in that area.
We have a ‘pro’ popcorn maker. One of the first cooking tasks our third child learned was how to make popcorn on the stove with a whirly top popcorn maker. We have a ‘pro’ vacuumer. All the kids have to learn to vacuum, but there is just one I call if I need a super-duper job done.
Recently our seven year old learned how to fry eggs, make hashbrowns out of leftover potatoes, and very carefully put things in and take things out of a hot oven. (She still needs my supervision for that last one.) It’s exciting to see them learn skills, become independent and even look for ways to improve without your prodding.
Truth be told, there’s hardly a child who loves cleaning toilets, but they can learn to do the job all by themselves and to do it well. Make a list of the chores that could be done by one of your kids, then spend some time teaching them how to do it well.
Here is a list of a few chores (or life skills) that you could be sharing with your kids:
• Cleaning the bathrooms (young ones shouldn’t use toxic cleaners)
• Making lunches
• Making breakfast
• Doing a laundry flip and fold (flip what’s in the washer into the dryer, put something into the wash, fold what came out of the dryer)
• Make their beds/tidy rooms
• Take out trash
• Set/clear table
• Wash dishes
• Empty dishwasher
• Shovel driveway
• Mow lawn
• Sweep & mop floors
• Help with the grocery shop (hunting for prices or items, packing the bags and trunk, unpacking at home)
• Meal planning
• Light cooking & baking
Believe it or not, there are some things on the list children as young as three can do! Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect… it has to get them on their way to being responsible adults and relieve you from ‘doing it all’.
Use plenty of encouragement!
One of the best ways to encourage them is to leave the job alone once they’ve finished. Never redo a job that doesn’t meet your expectation. If the made bed is bumpy and looks like there’s still someone sleeping in it – so what? If the t-shirts are folded into ball shapes instead of squares, don’t fret this time… just take a little more time on the next load.
When it comes to folding t-shirts our family loved learning this ‘less than 2 seconds per shirt’ folding method from a video. You might enjoy it as well! (Don’t forget to pause the music on the right side so it won’t sound like Chinese!)
The colored strips are removable and move down every Wednesday. (The bottom chore goes to the top.) Under each name it tells them when they have to do a laundry flip and fold. That way if everything goes as planned, we get four loads of laundry done a day (occasionally we actually have no loads to do and there is much joy and celebration in our house when that happens!) and each part of the house gets a tidy everyday and a good clean once a week. Yet not one single person does a lot.
I’m the floater. I help out the younger ones and tackle the jobs that are not on the list (cleaning out the fridge, waxing the floor, canning, organizing the pantry… again… and stuff like that).
As a married single mom I’ve had to learn how to keep my life from being overwhelming. Teaching my children some life skills has paid off well. I think it might for you as well. Why not give it a try?