Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chores: The Four-Letter-Word Parents Use On Their Kids

I know, the word "CHORES" is not a four letter word, it is actually six letters. So, please do not send me comments on my inability to count. Also, I know it is not technically a bad word that will get you punished for merely mentioning it. However, if you are making your kids do chores, you might as well be yelling four-letter-words at them.

Do you remember when you were a kid and your parents told you that you couldn't go outside and play until your chores were done? Now a days parents might say to their kids that they cannot play their video games or watch their favorite show until after they are finished with their chores. Do you remember how that made you feel? I know it ingrained in me a very negative attitude towards helping out or doing any kind of work around the house at a very young age. Well, that same negative feeling you got when you were a kid is the same negative feeling your kids are getting about the chores you are giving them now.

I am definitely not suggesting that your kids get a pass on having to help around the house. On the contrary, I am just suggesting that we go about it a different way. I know in my case, much like many other two income families, the last thing you want to do after a long day at work, is to come home to your other job as servant for your kids. You do the laundry, cook them food, wash the dishes, take out the trash, etc., all while they sit on the couch watching television or playing their video games. You may laugh at this, but I personally see many families run this way where, because of the fast paced world we live in, the parent's do the work themselves rather than taking the time and energy to teach their kids how to do it. I know most parents have the best of intentions, but if we get in the habit of leaving our kids alone because we don't want to bother them or allow them to just zone out in front of the television or game while we do all the work, we can't be suprised when our children develop an entitlement mindset.

I believe that kids need to do their part around the house too. But, as parents, it is our job to do the fine balancing act of inspiring our children to want to help out and not intimidating them to help out. This requires some creativity and patience, but if it makes a positive impression on your kids then it should be well worth the effort in the end.

I definitely do not consider myself a guru on this topic, but I am a parent and that should count for something. Three years ago when my son was seven and my daughter was four, I decided enough was enough. So, based on my experience - as a kid and as a parent, here are some ideas you can use to "share the burden" with your kids without having to make any threats:

Make it a fun experience
With my kids, I helped them start their own businesses. I've found that you can have a fun time just deciding on a business name with your kids. I got my kids excited with the possibility of working for themselves and not having a boss in the future if they so choose. My wife and I never use the term "chores" when we need help around the house. We ask them if they want to earn some money for their business and they, for the most part, are pretty excited and proud to do the work. Besides all of the positives like real-world experiences, the sense of ownership, good work ethics, a boost in their self esteem and increased responsibility that my kids get out of having their own business, it is also a "Win-Win". My wife and I get some help around the house and my kids get to earn some money.

Start small and slowly increase the responsibilty
A good example of this is when my daughter was four and my son was seven, my only expectation with the laundry was that they fold the towels and rags. After they mastered that task, I started adding other tasks such as unloading the dryer and putting the laundry away when they are done folding. We plan on teaching them how to properly fold other types of laundry next and eventually they will be taking over all of the laundry from start to finish.

Make it a bonding experience
Think of every new task that you give your child is an opportunity to spend extra time with them to teach them how to do the job as well as to set the bar on the quality of work you expect.

Encourage entrepreneurship
As your kids get older, encourage your kids to take what they've learned around the house and find a need that they might be able to fill. For instance, if your child mows the lawn, he might possibly want to start a lawn mowing business. When my kids become masters at doing the laundry, they might want to start a laundry service where they do the laundry for two-income families who hate to do their laundry as much as my wife and I do! I am sure there is a market for that business. Another idea might be to make your kids bid for jobs around the house or to write up a project plan for jobs that they think up themselves.

Make it a learning experience
Don't make it only about the money. If we make it only about the money, our kids may never want to help us out around the house if there is no money involved. Make sure your kids still have responsibilities without the expectation for payment like cleaning their room, making their bed, getting good grades or brushing their teeth. (Personally, I am not a proponent for giving kids an allowance just because they have reached a certain age. I feel that this just teaches an expectation for money without the expectation for having to do anything for that money.) I think now is a great opportunity to not only teach some good financial habits, but also some good life lessons like the importance of dividing their money into the four meaningful categories of Giving, Investing, Saving and Spending.

Getting your kids to help around the house doesn't have to be like pulling teeth. Make it a fun experience and your kids will love it. Remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you? Well, don't make your kids do chores that you remember hating when you were a kid! And, above all else, don't use any four-letter-words ... like "chores"!

I'm so excited to share this information with you. If you have enjoyed the information or feel that it would benefit someone else, please share it. If you have any comments, please post them below, otherwise, feel free to contact me.
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