First, let’s troubleshoot…
- Have you been expecting your kids to know things that you’ve never taught them? I babysat a girl, once, who was told by her mother to clean up her room while I was there. The girl (about 6 years old) led me upstairs to one of the biggest messes I had ever seen. Clothing, trash, food, toys, books… everywhere. Even all over her bed. I have no idea how she slept at night! This girl looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Mommy always yells at me to clean my room, but she never taught me how. I don’t know what to do.” I was pretty overwhelmed by the job ahead, so I could imagine a six-year-old was completely lost. I spent the entire day, not just helping her clean her room, but really teaching her HOW. I explained what to do, how to do it and why we were doing it that way. She was so thankful. Be sure that anything you expect of a child has been explained and demonstrated in a way they can understand.
- Have you taught them to hate doing whatever it is you want them to help with? Even the most eager little helper can be convinced by a grumbling mother that their favorite “chore” isn’t really fun. If you are saying things like, “I hate washing the dishes” or “I guess I have to get that laundry done” you are going to teach them to hate it, too. Try to find some vision for your day to day life, and be cheerful as you live it.
- Have you forgotten that you are the parent? Say “do this and do it with a good attitude” and tell them the consequences of not doing it. If they fail to do it with a good attitude, follow through with the consequences immediately and do it every single time. It may be a shock to them if you haven’t done it before, but if you are consistent, they will learn to simply obey cheerfully. If they know that every single time they pout while doing the dishes you will respond by calmly having them start over from the beginning, they will learn not to pout pretty quickly. Kids are smart. Wash dishes once, with a smile, or do it three times with a pout. Who wants to rewash dishes? 😉 Now, if you are pouting and frowning at them, it won’t work very well. Have the pleasant expression on your face that you want to see on their faces.
So, if none of those things are the problem (or if they were, but you have fixed them), then what?
- Make it FUN! This works with any age, not just really small children. If you walk into a soup kitchen full of pouting volunteers, you’re probably not going to enjoy yourself. If you walk in and everybody is smiling and happy and energetic, you will most likely jump right in and join in the fun, right? It works for kids and teens, too. Turn on some music, tell funny stories, talk about something your kids love… do these things while folding laundry or chopping veggies and you’ll all have a great time!
- Lower your standards. Not too low, but don’t expect more out of a child than they are able to give. My mom always said, “If you’re willing to do it, you can do it however you want!” She taught us how to do things, but if we liked to fold a towel a little differently or something, she was flexible. I once folded an entire basket of towels and washcloths when I was a guest at a friend’s house for a couple of weeks. The mother told me I had done it “wrong” and made me redo the entire load her way before she took them to the most disorganized linen closet I had ever seen and shoved them in where ever they would fit. By the time she was done, they weren’t even folded anymore!
- Be sincerely appreciative. Don’t forget to say “thanks” with a smile and eye contact. If they do something without being asked, don’t make a huge deal out of it, but let them know you are impressed with their maturity in that situation.
- Play as a family, too. Don’t just spend time with them when there is work to be done. They will feel used… which might not be too far off the mark. Let them know that you really want to spend time with them and come up with some family fun that doesn’t have any strings attached.
The older your kids are, the longer it may take, but keep smiling and “be the parent” and I think you’ll get through to them… eventually. 🙂
Have you been able to get your less-than-enthusiastic kiddos to enjoy helping?
Tell us how!