By Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC
If you were told about a method of increasing your children’s self-esteem, you’d probably be interested. If you were told this same method helped your family to feel more like a team, and helped your kids contribute to family chores, you’d probably be thrilled.
This method is available to all of us. All it takes is a little teaching, and a little patience. Then, you get to sit back and wait for the investment to pay off.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota studied a group of young men and women from the time they were young children. The results of the study were startling. The study showed that young adults, who had participated in household chores when they were age 3 and 4, were more successful as adults than those who didn't.
Specifically, these young adults were more likely to complete their education, get a good start on a career, develop adult relationships, and avoid the use of drugs. The early participation in household chores was deemed more important in their success than any other factor, including IQ! On the other hand, if children did not begin participating in household chores until they were teenagers, the experience seemed to backfire, and had a negative effect on their success as young adults, using those same measures.
So what does all of this mean for parents?
Kids have a strong desire for a sense of belonging and community in their family. They want to be a productive member of the family, and to contribute in some meaningful way. Starting young kids out with simple chores gives them a sense of belonging. Not only does it help them contribute, it provides them with a huge boost in self-confidence. It says loudly, “Dad believes I’m capable of doing this!”
This message is powerful fuel for your child’s confidence. It strengthens their esteem while bolstering their desire to help with future chores. You can start out with small chores when they’re younger, like setting the table, or emptying the wastebasket. As they get older, increase the number of chores, as well as the level of difficulty. As a general rule, kids can do much more than you think. All they need is a chance. I was amazed to see that my daughter could make scrambled eggs at age three!
Fathers often want to do things by themselves. Letting the kids help will often result in a bigger mess, and more time to clean up. But this is an investment in a future work force around your house, and family time together. Taking a bit longer with the job, and having a little more clean-up time, is a small price to pay for an increase in your child’s self esteem.
And when you get complaints from your kids about the chores, you can simply say, “This is what we do in our house.” Chores around the house should be expected from your kids. These aren’t paid jobs, and they’re done in a timely manner. That’s just the way it is. And it’s always helpful to define the chores clearly. Posting them on the refrigerator can be an effective way to keep them on everyone’s mind. It’s also a good idea to rotate the chores every month or so. This way, people don’t get stuck for long periods with chores they dislike.
You can help the “buy in” of chores in your household by your own attitude towards household chores. Parents who show their kids that chores are hard and/or boring won’t have willing helpers in the future. Chores can bring with them an opportunity to have fun together, and to spend valuable time with each other. When you show your kids how fun chores can be, they’ll see them as a chance to spend time together, not as drudgery that nobody else wants to do.
Starting your kids with chores when they’re young is one of the best things you can do for your family. If you didn’t start early on, you have some “selling” to do. But providing a sense of community and belonging in your family should always be a strong priority. It almost seems too good to be true. Increase your kids’ self-esteem, and get more things done around the house at the same time!
You may find that a few slow, messy projects aren’t so bad. A little extra clean up time never hurts too much.
Especially when measured against your children’s future.
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