Parenting is hard work, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. One way you can reduce your stress is to let your child to take on responsibility with jobs at home. There are a lot of ways your child can do this and today we will look at how to implement this and the benefits that it will bring.
When should you give your child more responsibility?
While there are many different factors to consider when deciding when to give your child more responsibility, there are a few key things to keep in mind:
Age is not always a good indicator of whether a child is ready for a particular job or responsibility. All kids develop at different rates and maturity levels differ too. This is why I’m not a fan of the graded by-age chore charts! Take each kid as their own person and try not to compare them to older siblings.
If you fall into the A-type, micro-managing perfectionist personality slot, and delegating a job is going to create more stress rather than less, then have a rethink. Delegating jobs is supposed to make your life easier and help the child build up their skills, not turn the home into a hot mess of stress.
Start young. The younger the better. I can’t count the number of times people have told me that toddlers do nothing but create a mess and can’t clean up after themselves. It’s simply not true. When using Montessori from home and in school we use something called the Work Cycle (more on that here) which teaches the child from a very early age to clean up after themselves.
No, they might not do the job perfectly but with practice, they will get better. What is does need is consistency from you. Helping them to do the work and reminding them when they forget – which they will because you know, toddlers have a very busy schedule!
How can you help your child be more responsible?
Kids are very rarely going to complete a job to adult standards, especially when they are just starting. They are still kids and this is part of the learning process and the only way they are going to get better at the said job is to practice.
First of all, find a job that they are capable of doing. If you are not sure or maybe they are not sure they can do it, do it together the first few times.
If it is a regular job, something you want them to do daily or weekly say, help them remember by setting up reminders or use something like the Montessori Daily Routine Cards in this post.
And never underestimate the power of conversation. Talking about responsibilities and what happens if certain jobs don’t get done. You can make it into a silly game which on the surface sounds daft but actually helps your child understand and remember why they are doing the job.
For example, if it’s the child’s job to clean out their pet hamster’s cage.
Q: What would happen if you didn’t clean the hamster cage?
A: There would be lots of poop.
Q: And then what would happen
A: There would be so much poop the hamster couldn’t move around in the cage and it would smell really bad.
Q: And then what would happen?
A: The poop would start spilling out of the cage and the smell would be so bad we would have to open the windows in the house
Q: And then…
And keep going until there is so much hamster poop that the whole town gets shut down and your family becomes known as the owners of Hamster Poop Mountain, no one can come and play because there is too much poop and you have to keep the windows open all year round because of the poop!
It’s silly but it gets the point across that if we have a pet to look after, we need to care for it properly because otherwise, all these things can happen.
And finally, on this point, most kids want to be helpful, to be treated as a grown-up or older than they actually are. We see this when we watch them role-play. This is where the phrasing is important.
Ask leading questions such as “Do you think you are responsible/big/old/capable enough to do this job?”
If they say yes, then you have a great start but what if they say no?
Then follow up with questions about why what is it they think will be difficult or why they don’t think they can do the job. Take their concerns seriously (even if they sound daft to you) and work through the problem.
What kinds of responsibility can you give to your child?
Again we need to think about the child, their age, and their abilities. Never underestimate what they can do, try them with a job and see how it goes. It might be that you aimed too high to start with and that’s OK, you can adjust and try again.
The free resource library below has a guide for kids’ jobs around the home included so if you are stuck, start with that.
Rather than me giving you specific jobs to delegate start with little jobs that you think your child can do that would also take some pressure off you. These can be simple things like putting their dirty lunch box in the sink or preparing their school bag for the next day.
Frame this as you are the supervisor because, they are still kids and they are going to forget and screw up at times (let’s face it, most of us need a supervisor at times!)
Why should you give your child responsibilities at home?
As a very general sweeping statement, kids have it a lot easier these days than a couple of generations ago. Where our grandparent’s generation was often sent out to work to help the family at a much younger age and older siblings were often left in charge of childcare and housework, many kids today don’t have that.
This is great in some respects but it also means that often kids are not prepared for the real world when they reach adulthood.
- Giving them responsibilities as a child helps their self-worth. They feel like they are part of the family, and their self-esteem increases.
- Learning skills, whether that be how to clean the bath, look after a pet, cook a meal or keep an eye on a younger sibling.
- The importance of trial and error, doing things for themselves, how to complete a task unaided.
- They are growing a mindset that is willing to roll up their sleeves and help out. How to anticipate what is needed, and care about their family, friends, and community.
- Their decision-making skills get tested. Having poor decision skills can be deliberating and result in slow progress through your career, so honing those skills at an early age is important. Especially when the decisions are linked to a responsibility rather than which weapon to use in Minecraft!
Julie Lythcott-Haims talks about the check-listed childhood that our kids are going through and rather than giving them the freedom to make mistakes and learn how to be happy, helpful humans they are stressed and burned out.
For the best success for your child to take on responsibilities at home, find the right jobs for their ability.
Help them understand what responsibility actually means and keep consistent.
The more they practice at it, the better they will get.