About a year ago I started to gradually give my older two kids basic house chores and responsibilities to perform at home, which ranged from self-care and picking up after themselves, assisting with their younger sister, to helping out in the daily tasks. It was not immediate, we started with simple tasks and we increased the complexity of the tasks in accordance with our kids’ abilities as they grew older. Below are some of the benefits of giving the kids more responsibilities at home.
1. It Encourages Independence
By giving them a set of tasks to do from young it gives the kids a sense of independence and autonomy over some aspects of their daily lives. It shows that as parents we trust them and have confidence in them to perform these tasks by themselves. After meals for example, we used to ask the kids to take their own plates, cups and utensils from the dining table and put it into the kitchen sink for washing (adults still do the washing at this point). Eventually our oldest boy who is now 5 years old started to perform the clearing up of his own dishes and plates by himself without us asking him, and his 3 year old sister follows as well. At current now my son wants to do many things by himself include brushing his own teeth , going to potty (he sets up his potty seat cover is extra happy when he can do the flushing afterwards) , hand washing , helping us put away the groceries, turning on the lights and fans at home etc.. The key point is at one stage we see the kids wanting to do things by themselves on their own volition and this was part of the end goal, to encourage their own independence and this also gives mummy and daddy a bit of a break at home.
2. It provides Hands on Learning
Apart from the independence gain explained in point one, another benefit is that giving them chores provides opportunities for them to have hands on learning while performing these tasks. This will also aid the development of fine motor and gross motor skills , and also encourage their problem solving capabilities. Some examples below on tasks and the specific cognitive , emotional or physical benefits to be gained from each task:
a) Peeling garlic skin (meal preparation) – + points for fine motor skill , patience, focus and attention
b) Carrying plates, cups and utensils to the sink – + points for balance and coordination
c) Tooth brushing and face washing – + points for attention to detail
d) Undress themselves and throw their clothes into the laundry basket – + points for empathy and responsibility over their things
d) Keeping baby sister’s diapers into the diaper shelf – + points for and problem solving and orderly-ness
e) Throwing baby sister’s poopie diaper into the trash – + points for bravery and endurance of the stink
f) Keeping groceries in the fridge/pantry – + points for learning new words and gaining new skills in handling different objects (exp. glass bottles, crumbly oat, wet objects like thawed oranges)
The list goes on, but you get the picture.
3. It Gives the kids Confidence in their own Abilities and Encourages Perseverance
When we let the kid’s do these tasks on their own, they learn from their initial ‘failures’ and they try again, and as they get to do these tasks better and better each time they gain confidence in their own ability to learn and do things well. This also indirectly encourages perseverance in themselves to try again if the first time was not done well.
One check point for parents here is to praise the kid for the determination and effort, and not so much on tge outcome. We do not want the kids to feel that we are only approving when they get things done ‘correctly’ but to feel instead that we appreciate their effort , and to keep trying when the outcome is not what they expected.
4. Cultivate a Love for Learning New Skills and take on Challenges
I think this part here borderlines the Montessori method of teaching children, where by encouraging independence and self-driven learning in young children and it is found that these children are more open and motivated to learn new skills by themselves. They become naturally curious and willing to take on new challenges for the act of learning becomes fun. In turn they keep learning from these experiences , and in the long term they develop a love for live long learning aka having a growth mindset. In this aspect the kids will benefit from these as they grow into adults.
5. It gives a Sense of Responsibility and Trust from a Young age
Apart from doing some house chores, I also get the kids to help with their 15 month old ‘baby’ (as the youngest, she will always be the baby from now on) at home. They keep her diapers and stack them into her closet, they throw her diapers in the bin after I clean her up, and they are also my ears and eyes over her when I am not in close to her but the older kids are. I’d instruct them to keep an eye on her and make sure she doesn’t put random small things into her mouth, or to take away books she can tear from her. How does this make them feel? I hope, that they would feel:
i) Mummy and daddy trust me with my baby sister, I must take care of her
ii) I am a big boy / girl since I have responsibilities to help with my sister
I am always encourage when I see them always very willing help with above tasks and to watch her , and when they sometimes tell me they do above because they love her. I hope we showed them the love they should have for each other as siblings.
I will share in a another post on some useful tips to encourage the kids to be more independent at home and to want to do more tasks by themselves. Some simple examples I can say are to place a short stool at bathroom sinks, and another around the toilet seats. The kids then are able to reach the sink and toilet bowl by themselves. Lower the bathroom mirror so that it is eye level for the kids, for independent tooth brushing and face washing.
Some tips to encourage your kids towards being more independent and gain confidence in themselves below:
Do not try to immediately assist the kids, let them try on their own at first, give them some time to figure things out , and step in when they get discouraged or they request for assistance.
Another point, is to ‘show some struggle’ when you are doing the task in front of them, insinuating that this task is not so simple, and even mummy and daddy need to take some time to master it. Remember, you are the teacher and the adult trying to teach your kids, and one important thing that they should learn is that not everything will be easy, some things require effort and failure before mastery, and that it is okay to struggle.
Finally , be patient and give some time for each kids to learn and master the self care steps or chores. Let me tell you first, some kids may be more challenging than the other ( my 3 year old takes more effort ), so manage your expectations accordingly. Progress takes time, but in the end it will be worth it.
Happy parenting, and thanks for reading.