While we were working hard to make meals and snacks for stocking up the freezer before the baby’s arrival, I was struck again by how cheerful Pumpkin is when she is helping with a project. There are so many reasons to have kids (little and big!) help with things, but most parents I know don’t seem to even think it’s possible, let alone important, to include the kids! Today, I want to share WHY we all need to have our kids help with… everything. Next week I’ll give ideas for HOW to have them help.
First off, I would like to shoot down those excuses. I know that some of you are thinking them, because some days I do, too!
- “It’s easier to do it by myself.” Okay, maybe at the moment it is, but remember that once you’ve spent a few extra minutes every day for a week teaching your toddler to put away the silverware, you can then delegate silverware duty to that kid for the next decade and a half! Talk about time well-invested! Besides, think about the goal of that statement…. the implication is that the best way is the easiest way. It isn’t best for your kids to be untrained and irresponsible. Period.
- “He is too young to help with anything.” If he is old enough to pull a toy out, he is old enough to put it back. Yes, you will need to help him for awhile, but before you know it, he will be able to help you! Be cheerful and encouraging, but be consistent. Kids are able to do things much earlier than our culture would have us believe.
- “I don’t know how to have them help.” Don’t worry, I’ll cover that in the next post!
Okay, if you have excuses I didn’t cover, please put them in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do about shooting them down, too! Now, as for WHY the kids need to help.
- Our job, as parents, is to teach our children. We are responsible for teaching them about God, right and wrong, morals, ethics, practical finances and other “big” things. Too often, we lose sight of the day-to-day things that they need to learn from us. How to brush their teeth, what foods are healthy and why, how to clean a bathroom, how to cook, how to garden, which herbs to use for illness and injury, how to make a bed. These things seem small, but consider the college student who needs his mom to write down instructions on how to do a load of laundry, because he was never taught. Sad.
- Children need to feel included. Most children are so isolated from their families (going off to school, spending all of their time with “friends”, extra-curricular activities, playing electronic games and watching TV/movies, spending their time at home alone in their rooms), that they feel like their parents and siblings are strangers. They don’t know them and they aren’t known by them. When a family is working together towards a common goal, the kids feel like a part of something bigger than themselves.
- Children need to feel needed. Our culture is obsessed with entertainment. It is considered a “right” for both children and adults that we be entertained. That topic will have to be addressed in another post, but I mention it here to point out that most parents try to entertain their children rather than make them feel needed. An entertained child gets bored and is discontent. (Have you ever noticed that the more tv a child watches, the more they want to watch?) A child that feels needed is eager to join in and learn new things. They need to feel like a vital part of the family, just like you or I. Look at my daughter’s face in these pictures (after hours of helping in the kitchen!) and compare it with the face of a three-year-old who has been sitting in front of the tv for hours. Also notice that these activities are physically challenging for a three-year-old!
- Children need to feel that they have accomplished something. As I mentioned above, these are physically challenging tasks for a three-year-old. We don’t give her meaningless and overly easy tasks. Turning the bowl without spilling the flour, stripping thyme off the stems and getting it in the bowl and using tongs to move meatballs from the plate into the jars all require hand-eye coordination and a measure of dexterity. Just look at her face and you can tell that she knows she is contributing to the projects! Kids don’t need more gold stars and 100%’s. They know when they are being patronized and given false praise. Let them really help, and they will want to help more. Yeah, you might have a meatball on the floor (although I’m the only one who lost a meatball on that day!), but it is well worth it!
This is not an exhaustive list, so please share with us in the comments if you have another motivation for letting your kiddos help!