When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. ~1 Corinthians 13:11These days we're constantly reading about "adults" who have not put away childish things. In fact, some sources (this one, for example) say that the term adolescence ought now to apply to those up to age 25. It's the age by which the brain is fully developed (for more information on the teenage brain, visit here and here). But try telling that to your young adult.
Anyway, my point is that if you hope that your child will put away childish things at the proper time and be well over "fool's hill" before they are 30, you'll need to parent intentionally.
I mentioned the importance of chores in a previous parenting post, and will emphasize it again now. We have windows of opportunity to teach our children certain things, and it is much harder for them to learn these things later.
Children are competent beings. They are capable of performing tasks at their level, beginning with obviously simple tasks, like taking the clothing out of the dryer and putting it in a laundry basket. Start them early (I'm going way back in my mind, but as young as two years old seems reasonable). Very young children want to help; don't neglect to involve and encourage them or you may well rue the day you said, "it's okay, honey, you just go ahead and play." When they're young, helping mom and dad is fun for them, and they want to mimic what you are doing.
Doing chores together is also bonding. As you work, you talk, and you teach the importance of being in a team. You also teach that each person bears a responsibility for the state of the home. "Many hands make light work" and benefit the whole family. When the tasks are done, you can all enjoy life. "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy," so ensure that your children make the connection between taking care of the necessities and then being rewarded. Of course, there is reward in a job well done, so point out that they've done a task well and give them a pat on the back, verbally and literally. Don't go over their work and do it again yourself. As they practice, their results will improve.
Other rewards? I'm not a big fan of attaching pay to housework. Moms and dads don't get paid to do it, so why should anyone else? Household chores are part of living in a home. Everyone contributes to the dirt and any disorganization, so everyone should participate in cleaning up. But you can tell your children that after the work is done, they can go play with their friends or you can all go to a movie, the beach, on a picnic, or have a board games night. Give them something to look forward to and follow through. My mom always used to say that she didn't have fun until the work had been completed. The problem is I don't remember her having fun very often as there always seemed to be work to do.
Chores don't have to be boring. Play music while you work, make a competition of it (who can do something the fastest?), set a timer for ten minutes and see how much can be put away in that time. If you have other ideas, please share them in the comments below. I'm sure there are readers who can use them!
Of course there's more to setting aside childish things than learning to do chores. Stay tuned; I'm getting to that!
If you missed the earlier parts of the series, please click on the following links: