Warning: In this post I’m going to gently step up on my soapbox and give you some unsolicited advice.
If you were sitting across from me at the table, I wouldn’t give you this advice unless I knew we were close enough and I had earned the right to speak this into your life.
But since we aren’t sitting across the table from one another but you’ve chosen to read my blog, I’m going to pretend that we’re close and that I’ve earned the right to speak into your life.
If you don’t like people who shoot it straight and you don’t want any unsolicited advice from me, here’s your chance to stop reading right now.
I’ve warned you.
Okay, so here goes…
Stop Doing Everything For Your Kids!
If I had one piece of advice to give to moms of littles, it would be this: Stop doing everything for your kids.
No, I don’t mean that you should sit on the sofa and veg all day long and let the laundry and dishes pile up and have your kids scrounge for food. I’m not abdicating checking out as a mom nor am I promoting laziness.
What I am encouraging is this: Start letting your kids help.
Let Your Kids Help You
From the time your kids can walk, they are capable of helping. Now, trust me, it won’t feel like helping in the beginning.
It will feel like your kids are just making bigger messes, that it is taking so much more time, and that you could have had the project done or the recipe cleaned or the laundry folded an hour ago with a lot less mess if you just did it yourself.
But the more you involve your kids, trust your kids, and let your kids work alongside you, the more it will pay off in the long run. I’m living proof of that!
From an early age, I had chores that were assigned to me and I was expected to do. When I was 9, our family moved out to the country. This move — and the fact that we had a lot more land — meant that we were all given more chores and expected to work hard.
I’m So Glad My Parents Taught Me to Work Hard
I have fond and not-so-fond memories of lots of back-breaking work from my childhood and teen years: gardening for hours on end, dragging hoses all over the acreage to water the new trees we had planted, and spending almost an entire day each week taking care of the seven acres of the land that were planted in grass.
Truth be told, I wasn’t always so thrilled at all the work they expected us to do. Sweating in the heat and developing sore muscles on a regular basis weren’t what I’d consider fun. But looking back, I’m so thankful for the character I developed through all those hours of laboring in the hot Kansas sun.
And I can tell you without a doubt that I’m so grateful my parents taught us the value of hard work and instilled in us a strong work ethic.
In fact, I believe that a strong work ethic is one of the greatest gifts my parents gave me. It well prepared me for the struggles and setbacks I’ve encountered in the years since and has helped me continue to persevere even when I might feel exhausted and ready to quit.
Start Early & Stick With It
When teaching young kids to work, it typically takes a lot of practice before they get it. Start by being excited about the chore and about how they are going to help you with it.
Then, show them how to do a chore and let them work alongside you and help you do it. Gradually, they’ll become more self-sufficient and you’ll be able to let them do more and more of it on their own.
This takes patience and perseverance, but I promise it will pay off! I remember when I first started teaching Silas (then 2 years old) and Kaitlynn (then 4 years old) how to clean the bathroom. It seemed like an exercise in futility at first, with no one really picking up on what I was wanting them to do.
But I kept at it week by week, and within a few months, they were working more independently!
Nowadays, my kids can pretty much do all of the laundry, take care of most all of the cleaning and house projects, make quite a few different meals, and handle so many tasks by themselves.
In fact, some days, I realize that the only thing they need me for is to talk with them and drive them where they need to go (and the days of them needing that won’t be much longer!)
Need some more practical advice? Check out my post on How to Get Your Kids to Stop Whining & Help With Chores.
4 Reasons Why You Should Let Your Kids Help
- Your kids will feel empowered that they are a vital part of your family. We regularly reiterate the fact that we all have to work together to make our home run smoothly.
- Your kids won’t be so afraid to try new things. I see my kids becoming so confident in many areas — making new recipes, putting furniture together, planning get-togethers with their friends, etc. and I know that a lot of this was borne out of them helping from a young age.
- You will work yourself out of a job. The older and more responsible your kids get, the more they will be able to help! They can help with or be in charge of meal-planning, cooking, organizing, laundry, cleaning, taking care of all their own homework and projects, helping their siblings… and so much more!
- Your kids will go into life more equipped for the real world! (I never would have started MoneySavingMom.com were it not for my mom having me be in charge of menu-planning and cooking and grocery shopping for our family of 9 when I was a teen.)
Note: Don’t Expect Too Much Too Quickly
The last thing you want to do is frustrate your children by giving them chores that are too difficult for them! Start your children out with one or two simple chores and then gradually add more as they catch on and improve.
If you’re not sure what age-appropriate chores might be for your children, you might find these chore lists helpful:
- 20 Chore Ideas for 7-Year-Olds
- 15 Chore Ideas for 4-Year-Olds
- 10 Chore Ideas for Toddlers
Remember, that each child is different. What might be simple for one 4-year-old, could be utterly overwhelming to another. So keep your own child’s abilities in mind when assigning chores and don’t feel frustrated if they struggle to do what another child their age can easily pull off.
Let Them Make Mistakes
Now, let me say it again: it takes a lot of time, patience, and work. They will make messes. They will make mistakes. And they certainly won’t do things as well as you or exactly like you in the beginning.
But keep letting them help. Keep patiently teaching and encouraging and coaching them. Keep looking for the good to point out and only carefully (and when necessary) gently pointing out where they can improve.
Keep praising them and letting them know how much you believe in them and how much you trust them and how proud you are of them!
Pretty soon, you’ll wake up and realize that they are BETTER than you in many areas and so self-sufficient that they don’t need you for much more than spending time, listening to them, hanging out with them, and encouraging them!
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