We all love our kids. We want them to have fun and succeed in life. Allowing them to explore the world, learn new things and even fail at times, is all part of being a parent. Finding a balance between being a kid and learning the ways of the world can be difficult. There are only so many hours in the day. So finding the time to teach your child a valuable skill after school, before sports practice and during the weekends when they just want to play, is the challenge for all parents. However, taking the time to teach your kids these life skills is so important. The importance of teaching children responsibilities at a young age will add value to their lives overall.
Growing up, I was not taught many responsibilities. My mother did everything for me. She cooked, cleaned, did laundry and never really forced me to pick up after myself. In fact, I distinctly remember her not allowing me to clean, because I wouldn’t do a good enough job. This meant that when I moved out on my own for the first time, I have no life skills. Suddenly, I had to know how to pay bills and cook my own food, and I had never been taught even the basics of those things.
Certainly, it is important to allow kids to be kids. After all, they are only young once. But denying them those skills early on will only be a detriment. Adulthood is a long road, and being ready for it, will make life easier for everyone.
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When to begin
The earlier you can start teaching your children responsibilities the better. Even a toddler can be taught to pick up their toys. That is the first step. Pick a task that suits their age and ability. Once they have perfected that, then you can add another task.
As your children get older and they have more responsibilities, it would be wise to make or purchase a chore chart. This visual aid will not only help your child keep track of what they have to do and what they have accomplished already, but it will also keep you informed of their progress. If you have more than one child, you can do multiple chore charts or color code a single chart to save space. Displaying a chore chart in an easy to access area will increase its effectiveness.
The important thing to remember is that this will take time. Kids won’t always get things right the first time. Don’t be discouraged by their mistakes. This will lead to them not wanting to try again in the future.
What my son does
When we first started, we focused on simple tasks. These included picking up his toys, making sure he put his dirty clothes in the basket at the end of the night and put his plate by the sink after dinner. From there we expanded. It took time for him to master some skills, but overall he has been very good about it all.
He has a mix of chores, some are daily, while others are weekly.
His daily chores are fairly simple. He has to make his bed and open up the blinds in his room. He needs to make sure his breakfast items are rinsed and put in the dishwasher. Returning the cereal container to the cupboard is also important. Lastly, he has to gather up his school bag and get ready to go. After school, he has a few more tasks to complete. He has two learning books that he has to work in daily. He does at least thirty minutes of a math program on the computer and reads at least one chapter in a book as well. At dinner time, he knows to set the table and get out any condiments we might need. He is also in charge of getting everyone’s drinks ready.
Weekly, he cleans up his bedroom and the playroom. While he does pick up his toys regularly, he is expended to do a full cleaning of his toys once a week to make sure the rooms don’t get too chaotic. On Saturday morning’s he knows to gather up all his laundry. Then he brings it downstairs, loads it into the machine and turns it on. The only help he receives from me during this is opening the laundry machine door since it’s pretty hard to open.
He has also been learning how to cook. This is one of our newest tasks we are working with him on. At first, it started with his learning how to wash and peel potatoes. This has progressed to him now chopping then, placing them in the pot and getting the pot on the stove. He also cooked a full meal, potatoes, sausages, and vegetables, with his father watching over him. We still have plenty of work to do with him in the kitchen to get his cooking skills truly going, but at the age of eleven, he already knows more about cooking than I did at that age.
In the spring, he is given the task of picking up all of the small branches and pinecones that piled up over the winter. He also sometimes helps us rake the lawn.
During the summer, he tries to help with the gardening. I actually need to work on letting him help me more with this.
In the winter, he helps with shoveling the driveway. He may end up playing in the snow, but at least he gets some shoveling done.
Working on expanding a child’s skills is important as they grow. There are so many things to know before adulthood and my husband and I are working hard on teaching our son as much as we can. He has seen us do the taxes, although he doesn’t fully understand how they work just yet.
Expanding his skill in the kitchen is a big goal. We have a decent start, but there is so much more for him to learn here.
He needs to start learning how to dust and vacuum his own room. I currently do all of the vacuuming, so I would like him to at least be able to do his room.
Teaching him to be responsible with his money. Since he earns an allowance, we want to teach him the value of saving money and to not spend it just because you have it. We will also be teaching him how to pay bills, both online and with a check.
These are just a few of the skills we will be working on with him. Every day is a new opportunity to teach him a valuable skill and we are doing out best to make sure he is ready for the life that awaits him.