Clean your room. Take out the trash. Set the table.
This simple list of chores may seem easy for adults, but for kids it can be overwhelming, frustrating and torturous. Why?
"It is sort of like throwing a child in the pool and thinking they will swim," explains Dr. Susan Smith Kuczmarski, parent and author of The Family Bond. Kids aren’t born knowing how to clean the house and Kuczmarski says parents must take time out to teach even the most basic tasks when first assigning chores. "Even though your child has lived for 12 years, for example, don’t assume he/she knows how to boil tea water, make a salad or change sheets."
Follow these simple steps as you begin to match kids with chores:
Encourage responsibility. Start getting your family’s chore habits in check by making each member responsible for taking care of their own things—picking up toys, shoes, backpacks, sports equipment and trash. Even young children can tidy their beds, put dirty clothes in the hamper and clear their plate from the table.
Consider age. Divide large jobs (unloading the dishwasher) into smaller ones for younger kids (unload cups and put them on the counter).
Promote teamwork. Washing dishes, the dog or the car can be done much faster when two (or more) kids are doing the dirty work. Assign chores that encourage your kids to work together and reinforce cooperation.
Avoid gender stereotypes. "Be sure that all home chores transcend traditional gender boundaries. Young men need to cook, iron and do laundry. Young women need to handle tools, change car oil and maintain yards," Kuczmarski says. Encourage those chores that promote life skills and independent living.
Provide positive reinforcement. Praise a job well done and express pride when kids go the extra mile.
In addition to tending to their own rooms and possessions, here are suggestions for age-appropriate chores:
Ages 3-4: Put their clothes in the hamper, help wipe up spills, match socks from the laundry pile and dust the furniture with a feather duster.
Ages 5-6: Feed a family pet, collect the mail, sweep outside steps and empty waste baskets.
Ages 7-9: Load the dishwater, set and clear the table, dust and vacuum, weed the garden. Scrubbing the bathroom sink, tub and toilet are also good weekly chores.
10 and up: Cook simple meals, fold laundry, mop the floor, clean the bathroom and change sheets. Kids in this group may also have a chore outside the home such as watering plants for an elderly neighbor or walking a younger student home from school.