Lots of parents look forward to the moment their child is old enough to be of genuine assistance around the house. No one is expecting a professional job of course, but a little help can go a long way! Not only do preschool-aged kids often enjoy being given tasks - it’s great for self-esteem - this is also an opportunity for you to bond with each other. Sometimes, however, your little one might need some encouragement. There will be times when your child would rather be playing with their toys or watching their favorite TV show, for example, and they’re now at an age where they understand that making their own choices is a thing. So, how do you get your preschool-aged child to help with household chores?
Every parent has used bribery and rewards with their kids at some stage, and it is an incredibly useful tool, especially in the toddler years. The problem is, once your child reaches preschool age and is now capable of feeling internal accomplishment for a job well done, the reward system detracts from the job in hand. If your child is only ever helping you with tasks after the promise of a snack, or a sticker, or even pocket money, then you’ll have trouble getting them to graduate to the point where they’re completing tasks because they understand the benefit of doing so.
This is essentially a clever, more positive reworking of the reward system. Using sequential statements, such as ‘After you tidy your plate away, then we can go to the park with your scooter’, or ‘When your train set is put away, then we can have ice cream together’, is an effective way for your preschooler to learn that completing tasks together is a great way of looking after each other.
As adults, we know that chores aren’t exactly something to look forward to. But don’t let that negative attitude creep into any tasks that you’re completing with your preschooler. They haven’t yet reached an age where chores have become something to dread - as far as they’re concerned, these are fun daily jobs to do with mummy and daddy. Long may that continue!
You shouldn’t expect too much from your little one when it comes to chores - don’t let them clean the entire car, for example. Reasonable, realistic responsibilities can include things like laying the table, watering plants, tidying their toys, and putting their dirty clothes into a laundry basket. You might find there are specific tasks your child especially enjoys, so keep an eye out for what these might be, and praise their enthusiasm. You can also help your child achieve success by setting up ‘away areas’ throughout your home - clothes hooks low enough for them to hang a coat, space on your lowest bookshelves for them to organize bits and bobs, and perhaps a mini dustpan and brush underneath the sink for when something needs to be swept up.
Tempting as it might be, always resist the urge to redo or complete the chore your child has tasked with, just because they are refusing to do it, or because you’re in a rush. By doing this, you’re essentially teaching your child that either they aren’t capable of doing what was asked of them, or that there’s no accountability for their lack of action, because the job always gets done in the end either way. Neither of these reactions is positive, and could definitely lead to problems further down the line.
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