What do your children do other than go to school? Do they participate in dance classes, swimming lessons, sports, music practice, or some other variety of extracurricular activity? If so, that’s fantastic—the friendships and learning opportunities those activities provide are invaluable. But as a Professional Organizer, I can tell you there’s one thing missing from many households that’s starting to worry me.
Many families don’t have jobs for their children or a real expectation that they will do them. Because our children are so busy, we forgive them slacking off around the home. They’re too tired, too overscheduled, or too burdened by homework. But if we don’t address our children’s participation in household maintenance, we’re going to end up with a long-term problem—one that impacts families, communities, and future job prospects.
What can we do to help our children grow up into well-rounded adults who are ready to leave the nest, make their own homes, and feel confident that their ready to face life challenges?
Assign daily jobs
If you want your children to grow up and move out you have to teach them to organize themselves. Organization starts with learning some simple tasks around the home.
My hairdresser recently told me that he was looking to employ an assistant at his salon— someone to sweep, make tea and coffee, and dust. He interviewed a number of young women for the position. After narrowing his choices he employed one young woman and realized that she didn’t know how to perform basic household chores. After his staff trained her, he sent her home with more skills than what she’d started with.
There are certain tasks around the house that will help your children live a well-balanced adult life. Learning how to wash dishes, use a washing machine, mow the lawn, and make the bed will make it a lot easier for your child to manage when they finally do leave home.
For some reason we think routines stifle creativity, but the opposite is actually true. Routines allow us to structure our day, providing us with the opportunity to find moments for fun and creativity. Creating routines will help you and your child get things done and learn exactly what can fit into a day.
Try establishing three daily routines:
- Morning: wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed for school, pack bag, assigned chores
- After School: extracurricular activities, homework, relaxation, assigned chores
- Weekend: extracurricular activities, assigned chores
Think about how your family works at the moment. Where do you need to improve your routine to make it easier for everyone?
Expect your children to help out
Though our children seem to be busier than we were at the same age, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t contribute to the household. As parents, we’re busy too. When everyone pitches in, we’re all happier!
Where do you start? If you need to, have a family meeting. Discuss how you’re feeling about the help your children offer in your home (politely and respectfully—we all enjoy praise for our efforts) and then talk about what you’d like to see happen. Have an open discussion and, at the end of it, decide what chores your children will do, how often they will do them, and what (if any) reward they’ll receive. Remember, it doesn’t have to be money: you decide what your children’s currency is. Work with it. Create chore charts with your children so that everyone knows what’s expected of them.
Next? Change your mindset. This is particularly important if you’ve had no previous expectations or often resorted to nagging, yelling, or complaining to get things done. Be gentle with yourself and your family—change can be hard for some people. Chances are good that your children may not like to help. Keep at it. Eventually your children will become self-sufficient, capable of moving out and making you proud.
Do you already have chores and routines for your children? Do you expect them to help around the home, or is this something you hadn’t thought about before?