Well, what good are our kids if they’re not going to help around the house? Fetch the remote, throw away the empty ice cream carton, take off your shoes when you get home are all things you wish your kids should do but when is the right age to start meaningful chores that help with the ebb and flow of a household? Growing up in a family of four children and strict Asian parents, we had our share of household duties as young as I can remember, which included care for a brother with special needs. Chores were done because they “said so” not because we wanted to help with how our house was run.
For the first time in my entire life (26 years!) and Humnoy’s short 14 months, we actually have a dishwasher (and a washer and dryer, but that’s another post) in our home and, of course, he has shown obsessive interest in our new gratefully-used appliance. Before, I would get frustrated when he would interrupt my dish loading because I just wanted to get it done and turn it on and walk away. I would also get upset and drag him out of the kitchen mumbling not-so-peaceful things under my breath. It took a while for me to realize that each of those moments were teachable moments and small children can help with chores!
Here’s what I do when Humnoy wants to help with the dishwasher:
Play off the child’s interest.
Humnoy likes the silverware rack in the dishwasher and instead of yanking it away from him, I give him the silverware to put it in. I even tried to see if he would like to do an actual dish but didn’t give it a second glance because he preferred spoons and forks so I didn’t push it. Pick your battles. If baby likes putting it all in one slot in the silverware rack or the wrong head up or down (my OCD prefers it down so it gets to the water first, personally), it’s fine – just go along with it.
Be positive and praise often.
Instead of saying “No!” or “Nope, that’s wrong,” be positive and encourage with praise. Specific praise is even better to associate the action with words (vocabulary building) like, “I really like you helping mama with putting the dirty spoons and forks in the dishwasher” or “Such good helping with the dirty dishes!” Humnoy doesn’t always get the fork/spoon into the rack and it falls down below so I say, “Good try; let’s try that again” or or “Let mama show you,” which leads to…
Model what you want done.
It’s important to always mind your actions anyway, right? Kids are so smart and their little sponge-brains see what you’re doing! I once slapped Gym Hottie’s arm and Humnoy saw it and kept hitting his Dada all night. It was a bad call on Mama’s part. When Humnoy doesn’t quite know where the detergent packet goes, I show him by sticking it in the capsule, hand it to him and then letting him try, which always gets done correctly with modeling.
Did I mention how praise is good? When it was all said and done, we clapped together and high-fived excitedly. I also told him he was such a good helper and thanked him (modeling manners here)! I was so proud of him and he was so excited Mama didn’t
Interesting related reading and studies: