Around the House: How we can Get our Children to Help Us with Chores
By Yehudit Garmaise
After spending three or four hours cleaning up, cooking, and doing other household chores, we sometimes wonder why our children don’t undertake smaller and necessary tasks.
What can we do to better motivate our children to want to help us quickly and with good attitudes?
Model the attitudes we want to see: We have to remember that our children are always absorbing and repeating our attitudes about doing housework, cooking, and preparing for Shabbos and Yom Tov.
The best way to get children to clean up with enthusiasm, Sarah told BoroPark24, “is to make sure they see you cleaning up b’simcha.”
"Children who hear their mothers kvetching about Pesach cleaning, loads of laundry, or cooking for three-day Yom Tovs are unfortunately learning to replicate those negative attitudes".
Esti makes efforts to express the pleasure and honor she feels when she cooks and takes care of her family’s home.
Make small, clear, and polite requests, but not commands: Esther makes sure to ask her children to help out, but she does not insist, so that her children are helping of their own free wills.
Hearing, “Shefale, can you please take out the garbage?” is much more likely to be received nicely than a gruff command said in a grumpy tone.
Also, parents should make sure to give children small and manageable tasks, and only one at a time.
“Can you please pick up the wet towels off the bathroom floor?” is more easily done and understood than, “Clean up the bathroom."
Make household chores fun: “Music helps,” said Michal.
Chaya adds that children should pick the music, to “get everyone pumped and energized.”
Make housework a team effort: “Most importantly, we all work together: parents and kids,” said Blimy, who said kids want to participate when everyone in the family is working together, and the time is special and pleasant.
Michal said that when she needs to rest, like when she is expecting, she stays nearby on the couch to watch the clean-up efforts of her children, who “are happier to clean up,” when their Mommy is close.
Use the time working together to let your kids alternate talking and sharing: One Tattie who does dishes every night gives the child who dries dishes, “Dryer’s Privilege” and he or she gets to tell two stories in a row.
Assign daily regular jobs so family members know what are expected of them every day: While teens can get regular jobs they are expected to do every day, such as unload dishwashers, wipe down tables, or take out the garbage, parents can work together with little ones, who can do things like hand dishes to parents, who then put the dishes away.
Provide lots of praise, encouragement, positivity, and thanks: No one wants to be micromanaged or criticized while working. Anything that has to be redone should be done without comment and not in the presence of the kids.
At the Shabbos table, parents should ask children to share their efforts before genuinely thanking them.
Divide and conquer: When toys need to be cleaned up, Yehudit P. said that she assigns each young child a color of which to be a “captain.” So one child picks up all the yellow toys, and another child picks up all the blue toys.
Another way to make jobs less overwhelming is to assign each child a number a items, such as 10, to put away, which can be fun to count.
One gannet provides an element of competition to motivate her little ones by asking, “Who will be the first to finish putting away their 10 things?”
As the children work, she provides cheerful and encouraging commentary on whom is working well, fast, carefully, and well with others.
Make a list of jobs that need to get done over Shabbos and post on the refrigerator: Each family member can sign up on Friday to take care of the following jobs for each meal: set the table, clear the table, put the food away, wash dishes, dry dishes, wipe down the table, and sweep.
A child can make the list colorful and include the candle-lighting time, the parsha, and include a fun picture.
Provide rewards: Not for every job, of course, but when kids do many Shabbos jobs on Thursday nights, for instance, Michal tells her children that they can bake a cake, have ices, or the family will play a fun game.
Accept, “No” without a fuss: When Esti’s kids say, “No,” she accepts their choice because she always wants her children to help on their own free will, and she doesn’t want conflict around helping.
“Ask them nicely, thank them kindly, and don’t force them to do it,” said Mordechai, whose children always run to help.