Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Mommy's Little Helper!

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Traditionally many families insisted that each person, no matter what their age was, took part in daily tasks such as making the beds, lighting a fire and sweeping the floor. Until the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 or FLSA, lots of children took on tasks that these days only adults in peak physical health would be expected to perform. When this groundbreaking federal law was passed kids were banned from performing hazardous or dangerous jobs, and children under fourteen couldn't work at all. Those aged between fourteen and sixteen were allowed a part-time job, with strict working conditions in a non-hazardous workplace with limited hours.

However, when it comes to agriculture, the rules are again different. Rural families, especially those living on farms will often have their children pitch in due to the importance of agricultural work i.e. gathering hay before it rains, making sure animals have been fed and taking care of any maintenance that needs to be done. This is clearly reflected in both federal, and state laws regarding child employment as the rules in an agricultural setting are much more relaxed. Children who are twelve and over have no set limit, although it does state parents should use their common sense and the child ‘should not work unreasonable hours’ however, this is left entirely to their parents discretion.

Why Children Need To Do Chores

Teaching children to do chores isn't just so that you can have some extra help around the house because chances are early on you’ll end up doing it for them. Kids need to learn from a very young age that housework doesn’t magically take care of itself and there are certain things that they need to master before leaving their parent’s care. Chores also teach children responsibility for a particular task as well as helping them feel good about themselves in that they are making a contribution to the family dynamic, however, small it may be. Don’t fret about them getting it perfect every single time as it takes time and practice to learn even the simplest things, such as making your bed, setting the table, and sorting dirty laundry.

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Chores Can Be Fun Too!

Please don’t be tempted to rush in and do it for them even though they may be making a right pig’s ear of it. If you’re always there to save the day they'll learn not to bother ‘because mom will do it anyway’ and it’ll make them feel disheartened, or that they can’t do anything right because all you do is yell at them. Turn quick, easy and straightforward chores into a variety of games, such as races to tidy their bedroom and who can collect the most dishes, safely and carefully, then put them in the sink.

If you’re more relaxed about the idea of housework they will be too. Consider how old your kids are before you draw up a chore list, as well as what tasks might be appropriate for them but don’t hold back either. Lots of parents put off assigning younger children things to do because in their eyes their just babies’. Actually no, a five-year-old child is not a baby, and in some cultures children are sent to collect water, attend to smaller siblings and even look after young livestock at that age.

Tell Them How Proud You Are

We’re not saying you should load them up like pack mules and ask them to fetch the week’s shopping, but you will be surprised what young children are capable of if you let them. Don’t be stingy with praise either! Even if they’ve only done a half-hearted job of washing their plate, it doesn't matter you still tell them well done! Give them a hug while they’re doing it, as this will reinforce the idea that doing chores have a positive outcome and will give them the impetus to do better next time.

Be Consistent

Be consistent with chores, don’t let a week go by where you don’t ask them to do anything at all, followed by one where they can barely move for all the tasks you’re throwing at them. Allocating a small job every couple of days for younger children is fine, while older kids should be expected to perform simple household tasks every day. The idea of a ‘chore chart’ is incredibly useful as it shows everyone clearly what they have to do, or even better what they've already done. But don’t let kids pick the chores! One, they’ll always pick their favorite, folding warm piles laundry or picking up a fluffy comforter, or they'll end up fighting with siblings over which tasks they wanted to do. Worse, they’ll try to be a grown up, pick something that may be too hard for them and end up making a mess.

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Create Your Chore Chart

When writing out your family chore chart make sure that the descriptions aren’t too vague, as 'clean your room' can be interpreted in many different ways. Instead, writing ‘put books away, pop toys back in the toybox, hang clothes in wardrobe’ tells the child what you’re expecting of them, so you don’t find them flitting around with a feather duster or worse with a bucket of water and a wet carpet. Yes, chores need to be done but there are other important things like schoolwork, friends, and even exercise which comes first. Assign deadlines to tasks but don’t be too harsh about them  and don’t swoop in at the first sign of trouble, or worse spend the entire time micromanaging them which, in turn, will make your kids awkward, uncomfortable and far more likely to make mistakes.

The best way to approach deadlines is to weave them into your children's natural routine. For instance, the dinner table must be set before you all have dinner or, for older kids, the dog should be walked before bedtime. Parenting experts recommend a ‘When / Then’ approach so that children understand that A, there's a time factor involved but don’t feel too intimidated and B, are aware of what treat or reward they’ll get once they’ve completed something.

Use Dollars Carefully

Avoid bribing or giving cash to kids for doing their chores correctly because, while teenagers could have extra duties for money, younger ones need to learn why tasks are done first. Teens who are saving up for concert tickets, a new games console or some designer makeup might want to negotiate with you on their chores which is fine as long as you, and they aren’t unreasonable. Not only is assigning extra tasks, like sorting out old clothes, watering the plants, or washing the kitchen floor an excellent way to get these odd jobs done you can also attach a dollar value to each one and give your teen a choice.

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Chores should be broken down into age appropriate segments so that each child has a list of tasks that they need to accomplish. For example a typical household chore chart with three children aged five, eleven and fifteen could look like this:

Lucy: Five

  • Put her toys away.
  • Make sure the dog always has food and water.
  • Pop clothes in the laundry basket.
  • Wipe down any soft surfaces, and clean up any sticky patches.
  • Pile books and magazines together and dust tables.
  • Make her bed, pulling the duvet up and making sure pillowcases are on the right way.
  • Bring in the morning mail to Mom and Dad.
  • Wash some plastic dishes.
  • Make her own cereal.

John: Eleven

  • Sort out the family laundry.
  • Sweep and mop the floor.
  • Set and clear the table after meals.
  • Keep his bedroom tidy and dish free.
  • Put away supermarket groceries.
  • Help to make dinner in the evenings.
  • Take the dog for a walk.
  • Peel vegetables like potatoes, carrots and parsnips.
  • Clean up the kitchen.
  • Wash the family car and hoover inside.
  • Fold clean laundry and put it away.
  • Iron any clothes that need it. Make sure there’s an adult nearby.

Katie: Fifteen

  • All of the above.
  • Cleaning the bathroom.
  • Raking leaves.
  • Doing the grocery shopping.
  • Babysitting younger siblings.
  • Doing the laundry.
  • Washing the lower windows.
  • Painting a wall.
  • Repairing clothes or organizing trips to buy new ones.

Progress Means Pets ( Maybe)

This way each child knows what they are expected to do as well as any chores their siblings have been assigned as well. While these lists initially may look like quite a lot, they really aren’t. Many children naturally tidy their bedrooms or pile laundry into a basket while cleaning and chores such as feeding and walking a dog are necessary parts of pet ownership. In fact, one of the best ways children can prove to their parents that they may be ready for a pet is by making sure that their chores are done on time.Tasks that have been performed to a high standard show that they are capable of taking on extra responsibility, working hard and can complete what has been allocated.

Chores may not be as fun as playing outside, chatting with friends or riding your bike. Still, if everyone pulls their weight, you'll find they don’t take nearly as long and can actually be fun if you approach them the right way. Not to mention the daily management of the household will run so much more smoothly!

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