We’re talking about empowering kids and letting them be in charge! Maybe you’re thinking “are you crazy?!?” If so, we get where you’re coming from.
But studies show that letting kids make decisions and do stuff for themselves (rather than us doing stuff for them) helps them feel empowered and positive.
To help us explore this idea, we reached out to four very empowered people – bloggers Angella Dykstra, Shannon Mischuck and Rebecca Brown, and child psychologist Alyson Schafer.
All Good Blog: Studies show that when we give kids responsibility and control, it helps them grow to be more responsible and happy. For example, involving kids in maintaining your house and giving them jobs makes them feel capable and empowered.
So, tell us: Do your kids have chores? And is it a constant struggle to get them to do their chores?
Alyson Schafer: It’s a hugely important concept…When kids take charge of their lives it develops a sense that they control their world and have skills to manage. This sense of agency separates kids into “can do” mindset kids and “can’t do” mindset kids.
Shannon Mischuck: I am raising 4 very independent children/people…Yes; right from the time they start walking they’re involved one way or another. Each year brings new responsibility.
Angella Dykstra: They’re expected to set the table, clean up their dishes, etc. We have a chore chart, so they have their list, and we don’t have to nag.
SM: They do everything from the dishes to making a meal once a week. My youngest is 7 and makes a mean ham and cheese omelette! My daughter is 13; she does a fantastic job of cleaning the bathrooms! She’s meticulous!
AS: My kids moaned about chores as kids but in their tweens and teens they really appreciated how much independence they had compared to their friends – because they proved they could do things.
Rebecca Brown: Confession: My kids don’t have chores. My kids are 8 and 5 and it’s a struggle to get them to clear their own plates. They just expect us to do stuff and I guess we’ve sort of agreed. Any thoughts on how we can turn it around?
SM: Don’t let them leave the table without a dish! Ask them to come back and clear their plate, then add another dish to the ask the following meal. Keep it up. It takes 21 days to form a habit!
AD: Rebecca, we started by simply explaining how much work their Dad and I did when it came to dinner… They had no idea!
AS: Clearing the table can be taught in a week. Simply refuse to nag, remind or do it for them. When the plate is left at the table but they make some other request of you, simply say “yes, when your job is done” Even if that means leaving breakfast dishes on the table until after school. Consistency and neutral attitude is key.
AD: We have “cleaning parties” where we’ll clean for fifteen minutes, then have a “dance party” for a few minutes to break it up.
RB: I actually can’t wait to go home and give that a shot!
AGB: Do you think that if kids aren’t receptive to certain chores it’s worth assigning different ones? Is it important for them to have some control over the work they’re doing?
SM: My younger kids did not like having chores assigned to them without say. They wanted to be part of that decision process. They wanted to be heard.
AS: I think we really mess up chores by thinking all “chores” are the typical jobs for kids (loading the dishwasher or cleaning cat litter boxes). No wonder they can feel like indentured servants! It should be more about the team asking every member to use their talents for the betterment of the group. Divide the labor so no one person is burdened. It can look a million different ways – what ever works for your family!
SM: That’s the important part, whatever works for your family!
AGB: Do your kids help prepare family meals? Do they ever get to choose meal plans?
AD: I meal plan every week and will ask for their input. It’s hard for me to let it go, because I’m a foodie, but I want them to be better equipped than I was when I moved away from home.
AS: It’s really interesting that for all the sharing of cooking and teaching food prep I tried in the earlier years the rubber REALLY hit the road when they left to go to university. NOW they are scrambling to cook independently and they’re really, really motivated.
SM: Thursdays is my kids day to prepare dinner, they use the days leading up to it to research what they want to eat, what they’ll need to make it and then we do a shop together. Everything from appetizer to dessert. They divide up the chores for this among themselves.
AGB: What if your kids were allowed to plan all meals for a month? What would their meal plan look like?
AD: For a month? Only if we wanted to eat nothing but hotdogs, spaghetti and wraps!
AGB: Ha! Thanks for all the fantastic input guys!
To sum up: Believe it or not, in the long run kids actually like chores, and might develop an aptitude for cleaning the bathroom! Even very little kids are capable of helping around the house and with meals. Shannon’s kid makes a mean omelette and if Angella’s kids planned all the meals they’d be eating a steady diet of dogs, skettie and wraps.
So tell us readers, do your kids have chores? Plan meals? What are your tips and tricks for helping your kids learn responsibility?