Thursday, July 7, 2011

Growing our Children: Chores

"Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth."
Proverbs 10:4
When my then 22-month-old daughter sweetly asked if she could help me wash the dishes, I held my tongue. My mental response was: "No, thank you, honey. I'm in a hurry." But that day I thought, "This could be a good time to introduce her to chores. She's young, yes, but it can't hurt."

I expected the worst to happen:
  • My kitchen floors would be covered in water. (They were.)
  • The dishes would still be dirty but wet and covered in soap. (Yep!)
  • My bottle of dish soap would be half used. (Just a quarter.)
  • My water bill would skyrocket (Not really.)
  • My child would be soaked. (Uh, yeah. That was a no-brainer.)
But she was as happy as a lark because she was helping Mama. And while my blood pressure reached stroke-level, I silently prayed for patience, for calm, for peace, and I didn't lose my temper. (Praise God!)

Fast forward 10 months, and my now 32-month-old is still washing dishes. Now, though, with more clean dishes than dirty and less water on the floor. She still soaks her t-shirts and my dish soap is on E. But, hey, she's 2! And the wonderful thing is that I don't have to wash all the dishes anymore.

Here are some things I've learned that have helped me and I hope will help you as you (consider) start(ing) chores with your young child:

Prepare for Messes & Mistakes. I mean mentally and physically. You can only expect that someone learning a new skill--especially a toddler who lacks fine motor skills and dexterity--will mess up a time or two (hundred). So, be prepared and try not to stress. Physically prepare for the task. If your child will be washing dishes, lay down towels, hide the dish soap, and give her an apron to feel special (and keep her somewhat clean).

Model & Instruct. Give clear directions on how to (fill-in-the-blank) [wash dishes, match socks, empty trash cans, make the bed, etc.] Again, you've been doing it for years, but your child is brand new at it. Tell him exactly what to do and then show him step-by-step how to do it.

Encourage, Encourage, Encourage. Even as you anticipate a big mess, praise your child when she does something right. An "ataboy" never hurt anyone. Plus, you want her to want to keep washing dishes in the future, right? When all you hear is criticism, then you are much less likely to want to continue doing it.

Make chores fun. Find ways to incorporate play into chores. Then, your child will want to do them. For example, allow him to play in the soapy water while washing dishes. Turn on some upbeat music and sing and dance while folding laundry or cleaning up a room. You can also set up a rewards chart that your child can put stickers on each time she finishes a chore. Once she has so many stickers, she will get a special treat.

Teaching your young child to do chores can be a challenge, but in the long run, it will be worth it! Your child will be self-sufficient, responsible, and industrious. Start now, while they're young. You will be glad you did.

At what age did you start chores with your child? What advice would you give moms of young children?

This post is linked to Homemaking Link up Wednesdays.


  1. I started very young with my 4 girls. It started with them just picking up their toys and taking their clothes to the hamper at probably around a year old. I had a hard time relinquishing the responsibilities to them for other things, such as loading/unloading the dishwasher and things like that. It was just easier to do it myself. Then my hubby said that it was time for them to do it. I resisted...I felt like it was my job (they were just kids, after all) and it was quicker and easier for me to do it. I finally realized that if I don't let them, they aren't learning responsibility or how to keep a home. I have now learned to let them do chores and to patiently (most of the time :o) show them the proper way. It wasn't easy, but I'm getting better. I think the sooner, the better....they are used to doing things themselves so the 'pre teen' revolt isn't so bad.

  2. Good post! All our little ones do chores. (7, 4, and 3 yo)

    One big thing we've found this year is that they get sour doing the same thing over and over again. They get bored. We've talked about it and decided that once we're sure they've mastered it, we're willing to consider change-ups to the assignments to help with the encouraging part. I hate to "let them off" just because they don't like it (hey, who enjoys emptying the trash, anyway?) but we think developing a good work mindset is more important right now.

  3. Congratulations!!! You are a great mama and trainer of children! This is not easy, but you have chosen well:)
    Here is a link to a post I wrote describing how we taught our children to work, including what are some jobs they can do at what ages. (
    If you keep on this path, you will be blessed with incredible hard-working, helping children in your future. I have posted on this subject in my Timely Tips on Tuesdays Series, and Child-Training posts (I just happened upon the truth, and the Lord placed wonderful Godly counselors and examples in my path), and I love to pass it on to younger moms.
    Faith's Firm Foundation
    (Oh, and I found you through the Homemaking Linkup--I'm #20)

  4. va_grown, thanks for your comments. I agree with mixing things up a bit so the chore doesn't become "stale." My girl is still in that "I want to help you" stage, but when she grows out of it, I know we will need to give her some different chores to work on to add to what she has "mastered." I agree completely that it's really about developing a strong work ethic at an early age that is important. I don't want my kids to think I'm their maid and come to expect me to clean up after them. Thanks for stopping by! Oh, and like your website and will be following you! :)

  5. Wendy, thanks for your sweet comments. I have so much to learn to be the mom God wants me to be, but I always appreciate some encouragement! Thanks for your link, too. You have some great ideas; I especially like your morning routine and getting boys to clean bathrooms too! :) Thanks for stopping by. FYI: I subscribed to your site via email.

  6. I think these are wonderful tips for training our children in helping with chores around the house!

    I started having our two daughters do simple household tasks at young ages as well and now that they are ten and eight, they are a tremendous help to me! They fold laundry, vacuum, clean their bathroom, and dust, as well as set the table and load and unload the dishwasher.

    I think linking some fun with chores is a great concept as well. Folding laundry has occasionally turned into an interesting playtime when my girls don their dad's socks and t-shirts and parade around the living all dressed up! :)

    Hope you have a nice day!

  7. Tracey, I love the image of little girls wearing Daddy's socks and t-shirts. I will need to try that some time. I know my daughter will love it! Thanks for stopping by. Blessings to you and your family!