How Parents Can Help Their Children Get Organized and Learn to Be Productive Part 5

It’s important to instill the values of hard work and fairness in your children. As they gain responsibility and perform chores at home, they learn it’s important for everyone to pitch in and do his or her fair share to take the burden off one person. 

If you live here, you clean. Even my four- and five-year-old boys have chores. I went to the grocery store and bought a big poster board. In the left hand column, I listed a due date for chores. (Each chore may actually be completed any day during the week, but it must be done by Saturday.) Across the top row, I listed the chores. Each child has his or her own chores posted. When one gets completed, the boys put a sticker on the corresponding column (Meagan uses checkmarks; she’s much too cool for stickers). The last column is for “bonuses”: extra chores done that weren’t required. We pay one dollar for each year of a child’s life as an allowance. If something isn’t done or gets done incorrectly or with whining and complaining, the child’s allowance gets docked. 

Meagan completes one of the seven tasks required each week to earn her allowance. Whether it’s emptying the trash containers around the house, bagging up the newspapers, or gathering the laundry from the bedrooms, she performs one task. When Saturday arrives, she’s already finished her weekly chores and can enjoy the weekend. Adults should use the same logic with running errands throughout the week.

Pick age-appropriate chores. As the boys grew older, I let them start taking over some of Meagan’s chores. I’m sure she initially thought she’d have less work to do, until I explained that responsibilities shift, as people grow older. Fathers and mothers of other animal species only feed and shelter their babies, until they’re old enough to fend for themselves, at which point they deliberately stop helping them. Teach them to be self-sufficient, and you will give them important life skills, while at the same time, reducing your workload. Accept the fact that hard work and responsibility are actually good for a child. Allow them to complete the chore their way, as long as they achieve the result you want. Consider complaints a part of raising a child and, rest assured, parents across


are hearing: “Well my friend Boo-boo doesn’t have to do this.”

At ages four and five, we know from experience that boys can:

·        Put away silverware from the dishwasher.

·        Set and clear the table (put milk in small pitchers, so they can pour it themselves).

·        Empty small trashcans around the house into a big bag.

·        Put dirty laundry from the hamper into a black lawn bag and haul it downstairs into the laundry room.

·        Pick up the playroom (especially if you’ve made it easy for them to know where things go).

·        Keep their bedrooms clean.

·        Brush their teeth.

·        Get dressed on their own (you’d be amazed how many people still dress their four-year-olds). By the way, if you wet your child’s shoelaces before your child ties them, they won’t have to be re-tied all day. Better yet, get shoes without laces.

At age ten, children like Meagan can:

·        Clean the cat litter.

·        Gather Mom and Dad’s laundry.

·        Wash the dishes.

·        Load and unload the dishwasher.

·        Wipe off kitchen counters.

·        Pack lunches for school.

·        Tidy the living room.

·        Do homework without being asked.

·        Get out of bed and get ready for school while parents sleep in.

Make it easy for children to succeed. Keep a stepstool in the kitchen so they can reach the drawers and lower cupboards. Use paper plates so they don’t drop and break them and can throw them away at the end of the meal. The time saved is far worth the extra money spent on the paper plates. Ditto on plastic cups. (Of course, when we have company, we do use regular dishes.) We buy milk in gallons and pour a small amount into a small Tupperware container within easy reach, so the children can pour their milk themselves. 

Remember, parents are not servants; they are teachers. You won’t be around forever.  Being slaves to children when you can teach them independence undermines both your life and theirs. Stop it as soon as possible.