On any given day, if I had to name the most frequent sentence to leave my almost-3-year-old’s mouth, it just might be this:
“I want to help you!”
And if I had to name the most frequent response, it would be:
You moms of teenagers are probably wishing that was what you were hearing all the time, and you probably wouldn’t be saying no!
The truth is, I shouldn’t be saying no so often. My mom always told me that moms who don’t make their kids help clean are the lazy ones, because it takes more work to have a child help than to just do it yourself.
Here I have two young children literally begging to help me, and I tell them no. How sad! I realize that it isn’t practical to let little children help with every task, every day, and some things are too unsafe for them to participate in (like putting chemicals in the washing machine, for instance.) Too often though, I give in to the temptation to just be efficient and do everything myself—the dish washing, the laundry, washing the counters, the floors, and picking things up after bedtime. I’ll wrack my brain to come up with some new toy or activity to keep them entertained for a few more minutes while I prep dinner or dive into the mayhem of mess.
When I get too entrenched in this bad habit though, I get a reminder. From who?
Occasionally when I return from running errands, dreading all the chores that will surely have piled up in my absence, I find things like this:
A toddler in the sink.
Everyone on one chair washing dishes (and water everywhere!)
And a little boy meeting me at the door holding a washcloth, mopping everything in sight.
I can’t help but smile as my boy tells me how he “washed the windows and the dishes and the floor with Daddy!” Everyone is happy—Mom’s chores have been taken on (if not yet completed), the children are having a blast helping out now that Mom wasn’t around to stop them, and Dad is happy because Mom is pleased.
It’s easy enough to see why I’m reluctant to get the kiddos involved in my work. It means moving clothes from washer to dryer one article at a time, folding the same laundry more than once, mopping up dishwater from the kitchen floor, and wiping up spilled flour and salt from the counters (and eating bread with a little less flour and salt sometimes). It means re-sweeping the same crumbs that were just enthusiastically catapulted out of my pile by someone else’s sweeping. It means wiping away the “help” from the windows that appear as soon as I finish a pane.
With all the extra work it takes, why is it worth the effort for the kids to be involved in household chores?
- It encourages a good attitude about taking care of each other and our home.
- It teaches the kids necessary life skills—I won’t be showing up to sort their socks when they’re 20!
- It creates awareness of how a home works—they come to realize that groceries must be purchased and put away, food must be prepared before it gets to their plates, clothes must be washed or there will be nothing to wear (not that they ever complain about that, haha).
- It teaches sequences and processes—first carry the dish to the sink, then scrub the dish with soap, then rinse it, next dry it, last put it away. 1-2-3-4-5…
- It forces me to spend quality, interactive time with my children as I supervise and instruct their efforts.
- It prompts thinking and many questions—particularly WHY questions. And mom has to think to come up with the answers! Why can’t yellow duck (a pillow pet and beloved friend) swim in the sink and help us wash? Ducks like the water…
- It’s a great energy outlet for the kids, especially in the winter when it’s hard to play outside. And let’s face it, the extra exertion isn’t so bad for mom either.
- Their cheerful enthusiasm brightens up tasks that I normally find mundane and repetitive, helping me to see the joy in what I do as a mom and homemaker. It makes the kids feel good to be mom and dad’s “helpers.” I think it gives them a sense of importance in the home. My son likes to remind me that he is my “big helper.”
So the hard truth of the matter is, I need to take a leaf out of Daddy’s Book of Daring Parenting. I need to put aside my laziness and my desire to accomplish too many things more often, for the benefit of my children (and myself). And when I forget, I’m glad I’ve got their dad to remind me!
How do you involve your kids around the house? Is it a battle to get them to help? Or like me, do you find yourself just wanting to do things your way? What strategies work best for you?