February 16, 2012

Little Helpers, Big Lessons

Long before I even found out that I was pregnant with James, I decided that I wanted to be the type of parent that takes action rather than reacts to issues as they come up. Raising a human being doesn't just happen. It takes preparation, planning ahead, and thinking through how you are going to deal with and handle situations. There is no correct set of guidelines to follow. Each parent handles things differently, which is why every child is different.

One thing I have tried to be deliberate about from the beginning is having James help out around the house. I know it may sound crazy since James is only one and a half, but it's not like we wait until they understand language to speak to them, so why wait until they understand what chores are to ask them to help out?

I truly believe that if we make helping out fun, if we engage children as we help them do things around the house, and we step back to appreciate what we have accomplished, then maybe there will never be a need to bribe children into doing checklists of chores. If we fail to give children the positive outlook of chores being fun and productive activities we can do together, they will just do a quick and sloppy job at anything we force them to do down the road so that they can move on to what they really want to do. And who knows how this may affect their schooling and even their job performance in the future?... Do you see what I mean about being deliberate in my actions? Everything we do has a consequence!

The other benefit of allowing young children to "help" with chores is that you are interacting with them rather than trying to get something done quickly while they are playing by themselves (we all know that doesn't work anyway). Here's an example: I may be trying to make dinner, or throw some baked good in the oven for an event the next day, but James wants me to play with him. I could try to do everything by myself in the kitchen while repeating over and over "Hold on, sweetie, mommy will come play with you in a minute... why don't you go pick out a book and mommy will come read it in a minute?... Mommy just has to get this into the oven... James, hold on just a second..." on and on and on. This only results in a bite on the back of my leg. Not kidding. That's exactly what James does when he is frustrated that I am not paying attention to him. And guess what? He has learned that I will pay attention to him real fast if he bites me (not to mention, I will let out a pretty awesome sound!). Okay, now here is a different approach: I could not take myself or my schedule so seriously, put an apron on James, put on some fun music, plop him on the counter, and let him "help." The result: a huge mess, a 20 minute task takes an hour, the final product may suffer, but also a whole lot of giggling, dancing, and an important lesson learned: helping is fun and mommy cares more about spending time with you than making a perfect dinner.

Some other ways James "helps" out: putting toys or other items back into containers (I make this fun by having him stand back a little and throw them in, "Basket!"); switching laundry over from the washer to the dryer, or the dryer to a laundry basket (I hand him clothes, and he puts them where they go); carrying armloads of clothes or diapers down the hall to his bedroom and putting them away in the drawers (you have to let your perfectionism go on this one, the pjs will no longer be folded, or in the correct drawer!); taking recycle items out to the garage and putting them in the bins; emptying the dishwasher (he takes things out and hands them to me).... the list could go on, but I'm sure you get the point. Just remember: the things we teach them now will last their entire lives, so have fun, don't take yourself too seriously, and applaud them tremendously when they do help out, you will be surprised how much they will want to do.

(PS Could everyone please say a prayer/ light a candle/ send out good vibes/ whatever it is you do... We found a house we like and may be putting in our fourth -yes, fourth- offer on a house... more to come, and thanks!)

1 comment:

  1. house house house!!! I'm praying! And good for you sister for letting go and teaching James how to help. You will thank yourself down the road! Love you!