Getting Kids to Work

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Here’s a perfect loaf of sourdough bread from my recipe here that my 12 year old daughter just made! I finally turned over the breadmaking to her. My 12 year old son does the family’s laundry. My four older kids all had their turn being the family launderer. It’s fulfilling to see my kids grow in their skills. My 16 year old has grown by leaps and bounds in his helpfulness around the home skills this past year. I love watching this happen!

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I did not grow up with the mindset that kids should do most of the housework in a home, that’s something I’ve had to learn from books and seeing it in others’ homes. Then I’ve chosen to be home full-time in order to have the time to teach my children and follow through on their jobs. With the shift from a farming-based society to a factory-based one, our society lost this expectation of kids helping with family work. But never fear! As a mother/homemaker, you can get to the point where your children clean the bathrooms, help prepare the meals, water the plants, tend the garden, clean their rooms, do the laundry, including puting the clean clothes away, and whatever else you want them to do. Here at my home, I’ve been off doing the laundry and the dishes for years. Those are jobs the kids do. I recently left the 16 yr old in charge while my husband and I had a two day getaway. It was great to come home and have the house cleaner than when I left, haha. I even got him to get the kids to dejunk their closet.

So how do you get kids to work?

It’s best when you start when they are as young as toddlers. Capitalize on their natural desire to help, like crack an egg and sweep. Then be OK with messes. NPR did a recent show about that here. If you didn’t do that, don’t fret. It’s not too late. Basically, make a list of the jobs you want your kids to do, teach them what you expect for the job, and let them know that they don’t get free time (TV, phone, games, reading books, Internet, trips outside the home, playtime with friends and/or toys, etc.) until that work is done, inspected by you. Teach them how to do the jobs, then watch them do it, then turn it over to them. Then be there to enforce. If they won’t do the job, they go back to bed (with no toys or books of course!) and stay there until the work is done. Remember, kids respect what you inspect.

If you need help on getting a backbone to enforce kid cooperation and self-discipline, the long book to read is Nicholeen Peck’s book, Teaching Self Government. It’s thick though so it might take you months or even a year to get through if you have a lot of little ones that interrupt. And it’s hard to hold if you are reading while nursing a baby. Definitely get it in Kindle if you are doing that. So if you need the shortcut knowledge in a day, of Getting Kids to Work, I highly recommend Elizabeth Pantley’s book, Kid Cooperation. You could read it in a day with a huge chunk of time or a week in spurts and get your backbone and a simple plan to administer consequences.

My awesome wonderful friend Becky Edwards agrees with me on that. She has this super nifty handout she created to give you all the details on what I just laid out. I like that her handout has a checklist for the kids to sing, to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb, to help them remember the order of their jobs. Music definitely helps kids remember! She gave me permission years ago to post her homemaking handouts on my site. Click here for a handout on how to get kids to help. This handout here also has a simple checklist for the kids to follow that I mentioned above, to the little lamb tune. Then go to my “Homemaking Helps” page and scroll down to see more of her resources. (You can catch more of Becky here at her blog. She’s one of my fabulous Veggie Gal friends!)

Then, I would read this book by Debbie Bowen, pictured below. She’s an experienced mom of a grundel of kids. This book is the Advanced Class of Getting Kids to Work. All three of these books mentiond in this blog post helped me immensely in teaching my kids to work. I am so grateful for them!

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