The Ant Bug loves to help with house work. Wearing her own pair of yellow rubber gloves, she happily cleans the bathrooms with me–using the toilet brush is her favorite part. She likes to set the table, and after dinner she often stands at the sink with me to rinse the dishes. She gets offended if she doesn’t get to wash the tile floor with me. And she and the Sweet Bee joyfully run around screaming like banshees whenever I pull out the vacuum.
“It is a myth that children don’t want to work. Most children, especially young children, love to work and often offer to help. What most children resent and resist is being asked to work alone. “Go clean your room” sounds overwhelming. “Let’s go clean your room” says something quite different. This does not mean that efforts to train children to share in the family work will be easy or will always go smoothly. What it does mean is that we can reject the popular idea that children must be prodded, enticed, or supplied with some external motivation to participate in family chores” (Bahr, see below for citation).
To date, we haven’t sat down with the Ant Bug and given her specific chores for which she is responsible. At four years old, there are definitely age appropriate chores she could do. But I haven’t been exactly sure how to go about the process of starting. A part of me worries that by giving her a list of chores to do, she’ll lose her enthusiasm for working alongside me.
So I’ve been doing some research:
Simple Mom has a great chore chart for preschoolers. Being the compulsive list-maker that I am, a chore chart is a must for me.
Marie at Make and Takes recently tackled the issue of encouraging independence in children. Her comments struck a familiar chord with me, since the Ant Bug also likes to make her own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
I thought the following was excellent counsel, taken from Strengthening the Family: Resource Guide for Parents
Give Your Children Responsibilities
Many parents tend to overindulge their children and shield them from the responsibilities they once had to go through—experiences that helped them become capable adults. When parents dole out goods and services for their children while requiring little in return, their children lose the motivation to become self-reliant and responsible. Instead, they tend to become lazy, selfish, and self-indulgent. Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve taught: “Those who do too much for their children will soon find they can do nothing with their children.”
Teach your children to work alongside you, starting when they are young and have a natural desire to help. Assign your children routine chores according to their abilities. Family work activities “can become daily rituals of family love and belonging.”
Teach your children to serve others. Elder Derek A. Cuthbert of the Seventy taught, “Wise parents will provide service opportunities in the home for their children from an early age.” Teach them to do their best and to try again if they fail. (p. 34)
So…giving children opportunities to work is a good thing! (Duh). As I formulate my plans for instilling a work ethic in my children, I would love to hear from you. How do you teach your children to work?
Great Further Reading:
Kathleen Slaugh Bahr and others, “The Meaning and Blessings of Family Work,” in Strengthening Our Families: An In-Depth Look at the Proclamation on the Family, ed. David C. Dollahite (Salt Lake City:Bookcraft, 2000), 178.