When was the last time you laughed while doing or overseeing chores at home? “Chore” and “chortle" are two words we wouldn’t naturally put together—because we’ve all experienced the drudgery and the tantrums (I’m not even talking about the kids). But if we want successful children, and a happy loving family… well, we’re going there.
I’m a self-identified “word nerd,” so before we venture any further, what do I mean by “successful kids”? My definition may vary widely with a neighbor’s, but my ultimate desire is NOT for my kids to get into the BEST college and get the BEST grades and make the MOST money… none of those things is bad, per se, and I’d gladly welcome any one of them for my kids, but I’m ultimately shooting for something else. And my guess is that many of the intentional parents out there are with me.
We want kids who have a can-do attitude, are willing to pitch-in and think about others before themselves. We want kids who are well-adjusted with good work ethics who have compassion for those around them. We don’t want delicate flowers who shrivel at the first sign of strain or difficulty. We want hardy sunflowers that weather terrible storms and keep growing as they resolutely follow the sun. We want to raise humans that are happy and go on to have their own happy families. Sounds pretty nice.
So, how do we get there?
It’s simple—love & chores! Kids need to feel like valued members of a family, showered with unconditional love, and that their contribution is worthwhile and necessary. They need to know that they have what it takes to give of themselves in order to help others. This in turn cultivates flourishing relationships with their most important people—mom & dad, and siblings. Strong loving relationships are the key to love and happiness—so says the longest running Harvard study on happiness.
All of these things are abstract concepts that need to be put into practical terms. People who see a need in their midst and then offer a way to fill a need, foster better relationships with those around them, whether it’s their neighbors, colleagues, or family. This leads to people being more content and well-adjusted because they learn to love themselves for who they are—good & strong. Practically speaking, chores are a clear path to raising kids with strength of character. And part of the reason kids and we parents don’t laugh more during chores is that it’s just not second nature. Contributing to a family should be something that is part of every day—like breathing and brushing teeth. When we are at ease performing daily tasks, we can let our hair down and enjoy the moment. So bring on the chores and enjoy all that laughter!
Here are some tips to kick start the chores & chortles in your family!
Make a distinction between DAILY TASKS and CHORES. Daily tasks are small things children should be doing every single day. They should take 5-10 minutes and each kid should be doing at least 3 of these. It’s helpful to create a super long list of daily tasks and leave it up to the children to decide what they’d like to do. Some ideas include: sweep the kitchen, load/empty the dishwasher, fold and put away laundry, vacuum all the rugs, tidy a communal space. Set a time when tasks should be completed. Chores are projects that take 30 to 45 minutes. We require our kids 11 and older to do at least 1 of these per week—like raking the leaves, yard work, clean a bathroom, wash the car inside & out etc. Don’t be surprised if your younger kids want a piece of the action since it is positioned as something to work towards.
Emphasize the importance of not taking an approach of “what’s the least I need to do to get by?” Remind kids that we should all be asking, “What more can I do to pitch in?” Be sure to congratulate and reward kids when they take on extra tasks or put more time into something. Seek out opportunities to do this. “Wow, you spent 20 minutes on that daily task! Way to go. What a huge help to our whole family.” It’s also helpful to point out people in the world who are clearly doing the least in their jobs. For instance, if you encounter a sales clerk that has a “mailing it in” kind of attitude, point it out privately to your kids. They’ll understand and won’t want to model that kind of behavior.
Check your attitude, not theirs! Do your very best NOT to micromanage the tasks. It not only doesn’t work, it breeds real resentment. (This is soooo hard for me.) Ex: “You call this sweeping the kitchen?” A better approach is to quietly suggest they may have missed some spots and encourage them to take their time in the future. Also, don’t expect their attitudes to be great at the onset when you introduce the idea of helping out every day. Attitudes naturally will get better over time and should not be forced.
It’s never too late to start training kids to contribute to the family. If you’ve got wayward teens, lay down the new rules. Expect push back, but it’s not about the short game. We parents need to think about the LONG game. And if you have little ones, get them going now. Getting little ones to help feeds their self esteem and as they grow they will become even more confident and self-sufficient... and more likely to laugh!
Go ahead, chortle your way to a more happy family dynamic and a brighter future for your children with the Adventure into Character Subscription Box Series. Adventure into Character offers families everything they need to kick-start more cooperation. Families grow closer around a new character strength. Not only will they build on orderliness & organization, gratitude, responsibility, they’ll be pitching in more. The kits, delivered right to the door, provide parents with proven tools, fun activities and inspiration to become the family you’re meant to be. Growing character strength today means more joy for everyone down the road.
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