09 Oct Teach Your Children to Work!
Oct 9, 2012
From the Desk of Carol Soelberg:
This week’s alert comes to us from Kelli Houghton our Vice President of Family Strengthening. Kelli is a clinical social worker who has been married for 22 years and has four children. She is well positioned both personally and professionally to share important insights into ways we can build stronger families. As we strengthen our families from within and contribute to protecting families around the world we are each doing our part to secure a future for families—and for civilization!
Help yourself, your children, and your community:
Teach them to work!
The beginning of Autumn brings back wonderful childhood memories of harvesting pumpkins, squash, and the final batches of tomatoes and peas out of our large family garden. I vividly remember the feelings of joy and pride as we cooked up our homegrown vegetables. As is with most family projects, it wasn’t all warm and fuzzy. Even though as youth we loved to gather the produce and eat it, we were not big fans of tilling, planting, and definitely not weeding! Usually during these activities it took my parents some nagging, coercion, and threats of grounding to motivate us kids to get the garden chores completed.
After parenting now for over twenty-one years, I appreciate the effort that takes place when motivating children to do chores. As parents we want our children to be producers and contributors to society – it is our job to teach them those critical and valuable skills. These concerns become even more critical as the global economic climate is becoming intensely competitive and finding employment is more difficult.
In my travels to Africa and at United Nations conferences, I have found quite a contrast in the conditions children live in throughout the world. In some parts of the world, child labor and slavery is epidemic and of grave concern. In Africa, orphaned children as young as nine years old are raising and providing for younger siblings, and in many countries, such as Nepal and Zaire, children under two years of age help collect wood and water and are even taught to use sharp tools. The contribution of these children to the welfare of their family is essential to its survival.
That is quite a contrast to the more industrialized countries, such as the United States, where according to the Maryland Population Research Center:
“[T]oday’s 6-12 year-old child spends only about 24 minutes a day doing chores. This represents a 25% drop even since 1981.” The last century has produced a steep decline in family responsibilities with fewer families living on farms, more children attending school, participating in a variety of after school activities, and basic household chores such as cleaning the home, childcare, yard work, and washing cars are being outsourced to companies. It is reported that, “children have increasingly little chance to practice basic skills like cooking and care giving.”
There are many benefits for having children participate in chores. Not the least of which is that it is a hedge against children developing an entitlement attitude. Studies show that, “chores not only teach children important life skills that will prepare them for living on their own, and impart a pull-your-own-weight work ethic, but that starting chores at an early age gives children an enormous leg-up in other areas of their life as well.” A sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that “doing chores as a child was a major independent predictor of whether that child would do volunteer work as an adult.” “Children who performed household chores showed more compassion for their siblings and other family members than other children who did not share in family responsibility…”
So do the types of chores your children participate in make a difference?
Yes! Canadian and Australian scholars, “compared children who did “self-care tasks” such as cleaning up their own rooms or doing their own laundry, with children who participated in “family-care tasks” such as setting the table or cleaning up a space that is shared with others. They found that it is the work one does “for others” that leads to the development of concern for others, while “work that focuses on what is one’s own does not.”
It is important to find opportunities to work side by side with family members to instill values, develop character, and strengthen relationships. “When you involve your child in chores that help the family as a whole, he becomes more compassionate and caring toward others. So whenever you assign chores to your child, make sure they are chores that benefit the family, not just the child.”
Of course this is easier said than done! I have personally found what many research articles have noted to be true – that it is beneficial to offer praise and to make chores a game. My kids remember fondly the “laundry war” game and “superman” game that I incorporated into our chores when they were younger to make them fun. The superman game consisted of a bowl of chores that needed to be done, mixed in with fun activities such as playing a quick game, doing ten jumping jacks, running around the outside of the house, eating a treat, etc. The kids were anxious to do the chore so they could pick again to see what activity was next. It was fun because we would pick the chore then quickly run together as a family to accomplish the task and then rush back to pick again from the bowl. There was an element of surprise that the kids loved. It worked well for my kids and they enjoyed the tasks.
United Families International is pleased to refer you to an exceptional website called, MyJobChart.com The site is free, easy to use, has an online chore chart and reward system for organizing and motivating your kids to work as they learn, firsthand, how to “Save, Share and Spend” money responsibly. The My Job Chart motto is: “Teaching kids to work: fun for kids – easy for parents.” Take a minute and see how this type of system might benefit your family.
As an extra benefit, for every family that signs up on My Job Chart, the site will donate $1 to United Families to help defend and protect families around the world. We hope you will consider this opportunity to strengthen and protect your family by promoting positive work experiences and money management. Help us spread the word by forwarding this information on to other parents.
Being an effective and loving parent is one of life’s greatest challenges, but it is the most worthwhile and impactful thing that we can do. You, as a parent, are on the frontline of “securing a future for families” and we at United Families International are honored to join you in that effort!
Kelli Houghton has been an active member of United Families International since 2000 and currently serves as a member of the UFI board and VP of Family Strengthening. Mrs. Houghton has served as the Director of International Voice for Youth and Director of International AIDS program, Stay Alive.