No better time than today to begin giving your children greater responsibility. Not only does responsibility breed character and integrity, it gives your children a chance to grow in an environment where it is safe to make mistakes, learn, and do better. But what exactly does “greater responsibility” look like for you and your household? For some it may mean to take the younger siblings to school or pick them up from daycare, or it may mean to clean up the common areas and, of course, the very least, their own room.
First consider how much you would like to pay them for cleaning up the common areas and helping with mutually shared benefits. Money is the energy exchange of work. Your children will not be as motivated to clean and help if there is no reward. They are motivated by gifts, rewards, and often money (I will use the term money to refer to whatever is used to motivate your child). This is okay and completely normal. You are not “bribing” your child, but simply offering the rightful exchange for the labor of their hands. Think about the opposite, if you do not pay them and offer only “room and board” as their payment, this is not fair in their eyes because they are dependent. Offering a reasonable amount of money in exchange will be enough for them to pique their interests and get them more and more motivated to pick things up around the house.
Next, discuss what type of chores should children be required to complete. When thinking about responsibility from the context of expansion of one’s growth, your children have to start somewhere –themselves. Think from their perspective. If they are not using the den downstairs, why should they clean it? So consider what they use in the house. Their room, the dishes, the shower, etc.? It wouldn’t be the best choice to heap a ton of household duties on them all at once especially if they have been accustomed to not doing anything at all. However, begin with the basic things they use. They will “see” themselves in the things they use. Choose chores with which they have a direct relationship.
Let’s put this idea of expansion together. Starting with their bedroom –the most direct relationship, an undeniable use of space that is completely their own. Expanding out to be responsible for the dishes that they use. More specifically, cleaning up after oneself in the kitchen. After they begin to develop self-awareness and become responsible for the immediate messes they make, then you may think about expanding their awareness in the “global” sense. They shouldn’t be paid to clean up after themselves or their own messes. No one in life gets paid to do his or her own laundry.
However, once they get a handle on cleaning up after themselves and are ready for the next level of responsibility (global community of the household), which would entail cleaning up the common areas even if they didn’t make the mess, consider payment at this point. Expanding their awareness of their relationship to their environment they begin to assume personal responsibility. Offering payment to help around the house would give them greater confidence and connection with their immediate environment and reap the rewards in character and longevity.
Lets discuss how much money. For 4-6 year olds, if they want to help with the dishes or laundry (many do) loose change or one dollar is enough to get them excited to participate in the fun of cleaning. Also, for this age number games is a great way to get them to participate. Example: Every body needs to find at least 15 pieces of trash, 5 marbles, 10 Lego pieces and 2 racecars. For the little ones, it becomes more of a scavenger hunt. For older kids, gauge their level of awareness and begin to implement the above techniques.
It may seem difficult at first to begin to implement and establish the idea that everyone does household chores, and consistency is the key tot get out of the rut that it can get stuck in. Be consistent and allow the fun for the little once to be enticing, the money to be motivating, and watch how your family grows with self-awareness and responsibility for not only themselves but for others as well.