by Anita DiGregory
Well, it’s that time of the year again! We made it through another winter. Spring has sprung. It is staying lighter later. The temperatures are slowing climbing, and the kids are just begging to get outside and break free from the cabin fever that set in over the winter. But it would not be spring without one other time-honored tradition: Spring Cleaning.
Do the mere words strike horror in the hearts of your family members? Would your kids, young and old, rather feign the flu than even imagine themselves spending a weekend cleaning out the garage? At times, does it seem more difficult to actually get the kids to help than it would be to just do it yourself?
If that’s the case, you aren’t alone. A 2014 study conducted by Braun Research, Inc., found that out of 1,001 U.S. adults surveyed, 82 percent of them had regular chores to do as a child; however, only 28 percent required their children to complete chores. And, who doesn’t get that? With all the homework, sports, and extracurricular activities, who has time for chores? But are we doing a disservice to our children?
Consistently, scientific research has proven that having even children as young as three help with chores is actually extremely beneficial to them (and, no, I am not making that up…even if the kids think I am). A paper published by the University of Minnesota states, “Research by Marty Rossmann, emeritus associate professor of family education, shows that involving children in household tasks at an early age can have a positive impact later in life. By involving children in tasks, parents teach their children a sense of responsibility, competence, self-reliance, and self-worth that stays with them throughout their lives.”
According to American Psychology Association (APA) Divisions Leanne Arsenault, “Within the family system, childhood chores have been shown to have a positive developmental impact on children of all ages…Chores and housework are linked to happiness in children as they feel they are making meaningful contributions to their families.” She further adds, “…one way to encourage children to want to do chores is to present chores as not only a contribution to the family but a way of showing that all the members of the family care for each other by expressing support through action.”
Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, author, psychologist, speaker, and mother of four, adds that chores are an essential life skill. Kennedy-Moore states that in addition to contributing to the good of the family, “Research tells us that children actually feel happier when they make a meaningful contribution to the family.”
Here are some tips from the experts on how to make spring cleaning and overall chores a success.
Make a Chart. Put some time and thought into age-appropriate tasks that the children can complete with minimal help. Have realistic expectations. “The tasks should not be too overwhelming,” states Rossmann. In order for children to gain a sense of accomplishment, the tasks should manageable. Making a chart makes it easier for children to grasp.
Be Specific. Give specific instructions. Instead of instructing your children to clean their room, it is more helpful (especially for younger children) to be specific as to what exactly they should do to clean their room. For example, it is easier for them to understand if you tell them to (1.) Make their bed, (2.) Put their toys away where they belong, and (3.) Put their dirty socks in the hamper.
Lead by Example. Work together as a family. Children learn best by observing. In the beginning, it is often helpful to show children how to perform certain tasks like folding the towels correctly or sweeping the floor.
Be Proud. Tell your children how much you appreciate their hard work. Thank them. Tell them what a huge help they have been to the family. Little ones love to help and take pride in a job well done.
Reward a Job Well Done. Motivation is key to helping children complete household tasks. However, studies have shown that monetary payment is not always the best motivator. Rossmann suggests, “They should not be made to do the tasks for an allowance.” When children are encouraged to help for altruistic reasons, such as positively contributing to the family, they receive more satisfaction and higher self-worth as a result. However, because everyone is working together for the benefit of the family, offering a fun family reward is both motivational and valuable. Some fun ideas include a family outing, a movie night, or homemade sundaes for everyone.
Unless you are Marie Kondo, spring cleaning isn’t usually a fun or easy task. But working together with your children to tidy up the house is not only beneficial to the family, it helps teach them life skills and gives them a strong and healthy sense of accomplishment.
So, as you sit there trying to resist the urge to refold all the towels so lovingly done by your six-year-old, just breathe, relax, and realize you are doing so much more than tidying up; you are raising healthy, happy little humans who are learning the importance of thinking of and helping others.