Dr Richard C. Woolfson
Children usually don’t like doing basic chores, it’s as simple as that. Maybe you are lucky because your six-year-old happily sets the table for the evening meal and willingly tidies her room – if she does, then she is in the minority. The fact is that most children aged five or six years expect basic chores to be completed by Mum and Dad, or by brothers and sisters – they imagine that they themselves are excluded from all household tasks!
Trying to change this perspective may end up causing trouble. A request directed at your five-year-old to pour you a glass of lemonade may be treated with so much huffing, puffing and complaining that you decide to get the drink yourself. After all, you think to yourself, that’s the best way to avoid a full-scale battle. But don’t fall into this trap. Your child should learn that family life involves caring about everyone, not just about herself. If you decide to avoid all potential conflict by not asking her, she will never change.
GETTING HER TO PITCH IN
The first step is to identify your expectations. How much do you really want her to do around the house? Draw up a list of reasonable domestic duties, which might including taking her clothes from the floor and putting them into her cupboard, tidying her toys each night, and perhaps even emptying the garbage at the weekend, and so on. Specify each task on your list very clearly, both in terms of what has to be done and the frequency.
It’s important that your expectations are reasonable. Just because she is older does not mean, for example, that she should do twice as many chores as her younger brother or sister. Certainly, she can manage more complicated tasks than her three-year-old sister, but she shouldn’t be spending all her free time on these activities.
FACING THE CHALLENGE
Once your list is complete, it is time to talk to your five-year-old about it. Be optimistic when you start your discussion. Tell her that everyone in the house needs to play a part and that you would like her to complete a few household chores each week. Then pick a day when you want her to start her basic chores.
Try to anticipate the range of possible responses she might make, and have your replies already prepared:
1. Why are you picking on me?“I’m not picking on you. I’ve asked your sister as well, so that both of you have chores to do. And remember that Dad and I also do plenty around the house for you.”
2. Why can’t you do these yourself?“I have lots of chores to do round the house already every day, although you may not realise this. There’s a limit to how much I can do.”
3. What’s the point of doing these chores?“It will be a great help to me personally because it means I will be less tired than usual. I also think it’s good for each of us to do something for the others.”
4. What if I’m too busy with my homework? “I’ll help you plan very carefully so that you can manage your homework and the chores as well.”
You may be pleasantly surprised by your child’s positive reaction. More realistically, however, she is likely to resist your suggestions. Persist anyway, no matter what objections she raises. Continually remind yourself that your request is reasonable, that it has been well thought out, and that everyone else in your family has a similar list of domestic duties. Your five-year-old or six-year-old will come round to your point of view eventually.
(Photo: Nagy-Bagoly Ilona/123RF.com)