Working alongside our children
Melissa posted these questions in a comment last week:
I love reading about how you involve your children in your chores. This is something I'd like to read more of.
You have mentioned that you do your cleaning while your children are awake, which is just a mystery to me. When I have attempted this, we've ended up with more of a mess than we began with! I would like to hear a detailed description of how you work along-side your children. How do you get/keep them involved? How do you deal with them not even wanting to help you (or getting tired of it just as you've begun)?
Also - out of curiosity - do you follow a particular parenting "method"? If not, what standards to you use to discipline/bring up your boys?
First, I'd like to recommend my podcast from about 5 months ago: Cooking with Children. In that podcast, I try to explain and describe how I get my little ones involved in cooking. :) Now, about your questions... :)
Cleaning (or doing anything!) with little "helpers" takes extra time, especially when they're still small. And yes, it tests my patience lots of times, too! ;)
But for general cleaning, I let the children help by sharing the vacuum cleaner with them (before or after I've used it to vacuum what really needed done!), letting them use the hand-held vacuum (always after I'm finished with it, since they run the battery dead!), giving them their own cleaning rag (with water or vinegar sprayed on it), letting them sweep and try to use the dust pan, letting them help mop with their own rag, giving them a dust cloth...
Usually it is fairly easy to get them involved, since they're still at that age where the work is mostly fun for them! But, if we need coaxing, I sometimes offer a reward (such as a Tic Tac or some small treat) or a promise of something that comes "after".
For example, if Yehoshua isn't wanting to help sort laundry, I remind him that as soon as it's washed, we'll go outside to hang it up -- and he loves to go outside, since that means he gets to ride his bike while I hang laundry. :) Or, I'll say something like "After the dishes are done, we'll read a book together!" These sorts of "rewards" give him enough motivation to keep on helping. :)
The other thing that helps a LOT is to work right along beside them. I think pretty much every chore or job they do, there is a parent right there helping or directing. I'm sure this will change as the children get older (they're 3.5 and almost-2 right now).
This might mean that while I wash dishes, Eliyahu rinses/plays in the water, and Yehoshua clears the table and brings the dirty dishes to me. I am constantly thanking Yehoshua for the dishes he brings, and telling him what a great help he is being. He feels like he's doing his part for the family, and pulling his weight as a "big boy". And in the mean time, I'm "entertaining" both children while getting work done!! :D
Or, for a meal, I will tell Yehoshua how many forks or spoons to get out for us. He knows that it's his job to get out silverware (it's hard to start eating breakfast without a spoon for your cereal!) and so while I am busy with last-minute meal preparation, Yehoshua is right there helping set the table. (It's great for learning counting, too... :D)
From my personal experience, it seems that children do best when they are constantly directed and motivated by having a parent right with them. My boys do go off and play by themselves sometimes, but I don't (at least at the ages they are right now) just send them off to do a chore for me.
No one, children included, really wants to do a bunch of work if they feel like their authority figure is just sitting around. Now, Yehoshua WILL go and do things for me (like if I am resting, and ask him to bring me my water bottle, for example) but I really think his positive attitude about serving others is because he is made to feel like an integral part of the family, but with responsibilities. :)
Besides interspersing work with fun ("Let's do this first, then we'll play a game together!"), and occasionally giving a small treat or reward (which I also do as a surprise; when the children have been especially helpful or polite, I surprise them with some sort of treat and tell them they've been so helpful/kind/polite/etc.), I also give a lot of verbal encouragement.
I am truly so impressed with the things little children are capable of doing (or trying to do!!) and I tell them that a lot. :) Words are free, right? :) I don't try to make them prideful, and it's always sincere -- and I also try to praise what they've done or how they've acted rather than just praising them. So, for example, instead of saying "You're such a good boy!" I say "You did such a great job sweeping up those crumbs! The floor looks fabulous!!" or "Wow, you really got that window clean! It looks so nice." Praising their work makes them want to do good work in the future. :)
And lastly, I do try to keep things reasonable. We don't usually spend the whole day working. ;) We spend time playing, reading, coloring, and stuff like that. :) I don't feel like I'm forcing the children to work, because for the most part, we can find a way to make it fun, or some motivation to make it through another 5-10 minutes before we move onto play. :)
Right now, here is my chore chart for Yehoshua (3.5 years old):
•Help put away clean dishes (he puts away the ones in drawers or low cupboards)
•Help set the table for meals
•Help clear the table after meals
•Help fold laundry (washclothes, simple things)
•Help put away clean laundry (in the drawers he can reach)
•Pick up toys
•Help take out trash/compost
And here is Eliyahu's chore list (he's 22 months old):
•Help wash dishes (really, this is mostly playing in the water, though he does rinse the silverware and put them in the drainer for me)
•Put dirty clothes in the hamper
•Help put away clean clothes (mostly dish rags, which he runs to the cupboard one at a time, for lots of exercise!)
•Pick up toys
Those are the lists that I made to help ME remember to make sure the boys are doing "their" chores... since it's still too easy for me to just start folding laundry and forget to ask for help! :)
Sooooo, those are some of my thoughts on the topic. :) Remember, I just have two children, and they're still young -- so I am not an expert when it comes to raising children. :) But hopefully you've gotten a few ideas you can incorporate into your own home! :)
I'd also love it if some readers shared chore lists/ideas for their young children! I'm sure there are a lot more ideas out there than what I've had myself. :)
Melissa also asked about parenting methods. We don't follow any certain parenting methods, and haven't read a lot of parenting books (besides the Bible!). :) We do see the fruits of consistency and boundaries. We're still young, still learning, and still just getting started as parents. :) Through my blog here, you'll get an idea of how we live. We're not perfect, but we're always aiming high... higher than we attain. :)