As 2011 comes to an end, we’re sharing helpful lists to help you save money, stay healthy, get organized, creatively repurpose, frugally gift-give, intentionally celebrate and more in our “11 Things for 2011” series throughout these holiday months.
Written by Beth Corcoran, Contributing Writer
About a year ago, I was exhausted by the amount of work I had to do to keep everything running smoothly with my ever growing family. (We’re at six kids now!) And I was feeling burdened that my kids needed to learn to help out more around the house—more than just brushing their teeth and making their beds. I set out to find ways to teach my children to be diligent workers and to have effective strategies to manage chores in my home.
So, this year has been a journey into teaching our children to help out in bigger or more meaningful ways around the house. Of course, I’m nowhere near done teaching them everything they need to know about housework and habits, but we have come a long way in just one year. And because my kids are taking care of more of the housework, I can focus more attention on other important duties such as homeschooling.
And I would like to share some of what I have learned as I seek to teach my kids to be diligent in their work. As a disclaimer, I’d like to add that I am definitely preaching to myself as I list all these ways to help children become diligent workers!
This is always the wisest starting point in whatever we do. Starting any new journey or routine is best done by acknowledging that we don’t know what to do. God grants wisdom to those who ask.
Lately, I’ve been seeing God’s faithfulness to answer my prayers for wisdom. We’ve had some trouble with certain aspects of habit training with some of my kids, and God has been very faithful to provide us with creative solutions each step of the way.
2. Model What You Teach
This is something that Lord has been showing me lately. Kids really need to see diligent, cheerful work modeled to them. If mom is grumpy while working, or waiting to get all her chores done after the kids' bedtime (guilty!), then the kids never get to see godly work in action. All they see is mom grumbling and complaining or procrastinating.
Try to do as many chores as possible in front of your children, and be very aware of your attitude as you do them. If you are being merry as you work, your children will see that and most likely do the same!
3. Read Proverbs
Our family has found that reading passages about work has been an invaluable tool. Each day, our family reads through a chapter of Proverbs and discusses it. There are so many great passages about what God expects as we work.
By reading Proverbs to the kids, they have started to understand the difference between being a diligent worker and a sluggard, and why it is far better to be a hard worker. These passages have given the kids a Biblical vocabulary concerning work.
4. Have a System
As a family, figure out what chores need to be done and who is going to do them. There are many different ways of helping children figure out what chores need to be done. There are chore charts, sticker charts and things of that nature. I’ve even seen ping pong balls with chores written on them and each child grabs a ball and does that chore. There are definitely some creative ideas out there!
Our family has found great benefit from using the chore pack system found in the Managers of their Chores book by Steve and Teri Maxwell. (I believe this is what Stephanie uses with her children as well.) We don’t follow the program exactly, but we do follow the basic concept and it has helped our children to understand what chores are expected of them. It also provides a great deal of accountability for the children to actually complete what they need to get done.
Whatever you choose, stick with your system for a while before tweaking it. Children thrive by routine, so don’t change things unless it just really isn’t working for your family.
5. Use Rewards and Consequences
As you teach your child how to work, it’s important to have predictable rewards and consequences. Our heart for our children is to teach them not just to do a job, but to do it for the glory of the Lord. To that end, my husband and I try to give rewards when we see our kids working thoroughly, diligently and with a cheerful attitude.
When I praise my children for working hard, I try not to merely praise them for a job completed. I try to praise them for their godly attitude or endurance. My kids also know that with more work comes more privileges. My 9 year old daughter has become quite responsible around the house and therefore enjoys a bedtime a full hour later than the rest of the children.
Grumbling and complaining, fit throwing (we see a great deal of fits at my house), incomplete jobs, and flat out disobedience are given consequences. If the kids do not do a complete job, then they are given an extra job to complete off of a list of chores that are reserved especially for consequences.
Image credit: jbrownell
6. Give Them the Tools They Need
It’s really hard to expect a little child with little hands to navigate the floors with a large broom. And it would be quite unsafe to give a bottle of bathroom cleaner to a young child and tell them to spray away.
Even very young children are capable of quite a lot if they are given the right cleaning tools. I’ve even noticed that when my kids have the proper tools, the work is much more enjoyable.
A good example of what I mean is sweeping the floor. We have a lot of tile in our house, so all my kids, at some point in the day, have to sweep a floor somewhere in my house. My oldest two are able to use a full size broom well, but the rest are too small. So we have a stockpile of small hand brooms and dust pans for the littles to use. This enables them to help just like the big kids. They even enjoy sweeping up piles that the older ones make.
7. Make It Fun!
Work is not always fun, but it doesn’t always have to be miserable either. We don’t want to teach our children that work has to be fun all the time, but sometimes it brings great joy to make chore time into a game or a play time.
Have some fun, make it a race against the clock, listen to some silly music while working or something along those lines. It will keep the joy in working.
8. Inspect What You Expect
I don’t even remember where I first heard the phrase “Inspect what you expect.” Those are wise words. Children quickly learn what you do and do not inspect.
And due to their sin natures, they will exploit where you do not inspect. Therefore, it is so important to regularly inspect their work in order to keep a high standard.
9. Practice, Practice, Practice
This is something I struggle with greatly! In my mind, it seems perfectly reasonable that I should be able to show my children how to do something a couple of times and then they can do it without error. Afterall, most adults can do it this way.
This is not so with children. Children need lots of practice to learn a skill. My son Joshua has been practicing wiping down the kitchen table properly for months now, and he is just now starting to do a really good job.
If you see that your child is struggling with a certain skill, try to find ways throughout the day to develop the skill. For instance, if your child struggles with wiping down the counters, you might have them practice at each meal and also practice wiping down the bathroom counters.
10. Use Resources
There are many high quality resources for families out there! If you find yourself getting stuck and are looking for creative ideas for your children, here are some great resources that our family uses. I hope they bless you as much as they have blessed us!
Managers of their Chores—This is the book that highlights how to use chore packs to help your children with chores. The Maxwell family at Titus2 Ministries has many other useful resources as well.
Doorposts Charts—Our family uses several of the charts from this ministry. The “Go to the Ant” chart teaches children about working diligently. We also use the “Blessings Chart” and the “If/Then Chart” to give our kids predictable rewards and consequences. We really like these because they focus on attitudes of the heart rather than just pure behavior modification. These are the rewards and consequence charts that I talked about earlier in this post.
Large Family Logistics—I feel like I’m constantly promoting this book to my friends. It has some great ideas for family management—no matter the size of your family. It’s like sitting down with an experienced mother and homemaker and picking her brain for fresh ideas.
11. Focus on the Heart
I’ve talked about this several times now, but I want to end with this because it is so important. In our kids’ chore and habit training, it is so important to focus on the heart above all else.
So many chore systems are simple behavior modification, but as Christians we should be teaching our children to do everything as an act of worship to the Lord.
Sometimes by focusing on the heart rather just on whether or not a chore was done exactly right slows things down. But it is worth the time because in the end, our children will not just have learned responsibility, but they will also have learned godliness.