Teaching your children responsibility starts out with small tasks and chores. When your children are old enough to understand simple commands, start giving them a job or two. Now, that doesn't mean sending your 2-year-old out for a paper route. Rather, begin with simple tasks. Ask them to give the book to Grandma, take the paper to the trash, and put the spoon in the drawer. After they've completed the jobs, let them know what a terrific job they did. Give them lots of praise — and, of course, hugs and kisses. Your children will beam when they realize that they've completed a task that made you happy.
As your kids grow older, you can start adding to their responsibilities. Teach them how to make their beds and put their dirty clothes in the hamper. You're not only developing their sense of responsibility, but you're also starting good habits and teaching them valuable lessons about how important it is for everyone to help clean up around the house.
An important part of teaching chores to your children is to do the chores with them until they understand how you want the chores done. After they've learned how to do their chores, follow up by making sure that they don't start slacking off. They'll need your constant supervision for a long time — even though they may think they don't need it.
Avoid giving money for housework. Paying your child to make their bed leads down a path you don't want to go. Your kids need to know that all family members must work together as a family; therefore, everyone is expected to help with chores. When you want to pay your children for work, give them extra work like raking the yard or painting the doghouse or additional household chores that are not a part of their usual chore list, like washing windows.
Make tasks and responsibilities fun. Your kids will enjoy doing them more when you turn setting the table into a game, or picking up clothes into a race. When giving your children responsibilities, avoid the let-me-help-you-with-that syndrome. Your children need find out how to handle small tasks and may not want you to help.
Sometimes your younger kids may be too preoccupied with something to want to stop and help you. That's okay. You can't force a 2-year-old to do something if she doesn't want to (short of picking her up and physically moving her). And you really don't want to use force. Having responsibilities should be fun. As your kids get older, you can start using gentle persuasion when they decide they can't break away from Superman Saving the World.
Be aware that your kids may go through a stage when they don't want to handle their responsibilities. Don't let them whine their way out of their jobs. And don't let them put their jobs off until later. This behavior starts them down that road to procrastination.
Excerpted from Parenting For Dummies, 2nd Edition™, published by Wiley Publishing, Inc.
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