Parent's Resource Center

Family

Helping at Home Children helping - family relationships                                        
  • Having children pitch in can mean different things to parents and children. For you it could mean:

     

    • cleaning up
    • helping with the laundry
    • doing the dishes
    • less work for you
    • more work for you
    • shared responsibilities for the whole family
    • pocket money
    • something else?

       

  • Contributing to the smooth running of the family can teach children:

     

    • to value their own and other people's belongings
    • to look after things and other people
    • responsibility within a family
    • skills for living
    • independence
    • self control.

       

  • Helpers need:

     

    • a warning that it is time to change activities, eg 'Two minutes and then we have to pack up'
    • time to pack up so that packing up is also 'fun'
    • time as children often take longer to do a task
    • time limits for when the job should be done (by dinner time, before school)
    • your help to 'finish' the job
    • to know what standard is expected
    • someone to notice their efforts
    • someone to show them how to help
    • a partner rather than a sergeant
    • help to make the task more fun - singing, reading, talking helps to 'move the job along'.
    • thanks
    • a statement of appreciation
    • praise
    • a share in decision making and making rules
    • good role models.
Household chores
  • Expectations vary between families and cultures. You must decide the responsibilities your children will assume. Don't expect too much too early - but remember young children love helping. By encouraging this you are building up good habits for later on.
  • At about 18 months, children love to put things in other things. Make use of this instead of putting things in rubbish bins and toilets, encourage them to put toys, clothes and plastic containers in drawers or cupboards. They can have fun and begin helping. Don't be surprised if they tip everything out and want to do it all over again.
  • From age three to four years children will enjoy tidying up if they have a place to put away their belongings. Open shelves will help them see where things belong and makes it easier to put them things away. Children at this age like to do things 'like mum' or 'like dad' or other special people like grandparents, but are easily distracted and may forget what they are doing half way through a task.
  • From age five or six, children can help make sandwiches, dress themselves and are more successful at finishing jobs.
  • Seven, eight and nine year olds are thoughtful and understand reasons for asking them to do things. They may also give reasons why they shouldn't! Asking rather than demanding is the key.
  • Seven, eight and nine year olds can do most simple tasks like:
    • washing and drying dishes,
    • putting clothes away, hanging out clothes and
    • sweeping floors.
  • Children enjoy your help too! A task like cleaning a bedroom is enormous for a child. You can help by making the task smaller, getting them to first pick up all the animals or all the blocks. Matching and sorting is important learning. Talk with them while the job is being done. Give incentives such as time, activities, as encouragement to finish the job.
  • By 10, 11 and 12 years, children enjoy 'earning' money for small jobs and love the buying power money gives!

     

Getting children to help Children helping - family relationships
  • A good way to enlist help from children is to start small and gradually build up as they and their confidence and abilities grow.
  • What jobs are appropriate will vary between families and cultures.
  • Including your child in part of the decision making usually means they are more likely to finish the job.
  • Ideas which may help include the following

     

    • Try to live by the rule 'Don't put it down, put it away.'.
    • Make a 'cleaning time' each day or each week or according to your family's needs. Knowing it is coming can help you all put up with the mess at other times.
    • Have a place for dirty clothes in each bedroom or bathroom, preferably wherever the children are when taking off their clothes.
    • Have everyone in the family make a list of what jobs need to be done each day or each week. Change jobs from time to time - rotate jobs that aren't popular. A roster might help.
    • When possible give your children a choice of jobs to do.
    • Boys and girls can do the same number of jobs.
    • When children do a task, it is done. Don't do the job over again or it will make them feel bad.
    • Allow children to do a job their way. It won't hurt if they make patterns with the cleanser before cleaning the bath..
    • Give each child only as many jobs as they can handle.
    • Choose times when they are happy and not busy with their own things to ask them to help. None of us like doing chores when tired or doing something fun.
    • Try not to 'remind' them too much.
    • Write notes to remind children about jobs. Make them silly sometimes like writing a note saying 'Help! I'm lost!' and putting it on to a jacket which has been left on the floor.
    • Children are more likely to remember jobs if there is a good reason why they need to be done, clothes not put in the laundry don't get washed.
    • Call to give a warning if jobs are to be done by a set time and you are coming home earlier than expected.
    • Try hiding a surprise in the bottom of a pile of laundry or at the bottom of a box of toys to be put away.
    • Don't give your children too many chores.
    • Set an example by occasionally offering to help your children. For example 'Can I help you tidy your room, it looks like a lot of work today' shows that helping and caring for each other is part of a normal family.
  • When children do chores they are learning about consequences. For instance if their dirty clothes are not put in the dirty laundry basket they won't have anything clean to wear to school.
Pocket money Children helping - family relationships
  • Whether you give your children pocket money is a decision for your family.
  • Advantages of pocket money can be that children:

     

    • develop a sense of how much has to be done to earn money
    • learn that 'money doesn't grow on trees'
    • learn what money can buy - how much they need to buy what they want
    • can have their own money to spend - helping them develop self control and understanding the value of money
    • learn about saving
    • will know there is a set amount of money rather than asking for money all the time.

     

  • Disadvantages can be that:

     

    • children may think they will get paid for everything they do to help
    • you have to find the money to pay them regularly
    • it is hard to know what the pocket money is supposed to pay for - there always seems to be something more.

     

  • If you decide to give pocket money you need to work out:

     

    • how much is reasonable
    • whether the money will be paid for doing chores
    • how much must be done to earn it - and how much is simply because 'you are a member of the family'
    • how much each job is worth
    • whether all children get the same amount or the older child gets more
    • how much control parents will have over the use of pocket money - do they have to save some? What can they buy with it?
    • when you will pay - the children won't learn about the responsibility of money if you don't honor the agreement.

     

  • An idea might be to give your child a set amount each week, putting half in a savings account.

     

    • At the end of a time agreed on by you both - perhaps three months - the child can spend the saved money exactly as they wish.
    • If they choose to 'waste' it on candy they can do so.
    • However most children want something special and usually prefer to save for that particular thing and not waste it on a brief pleasure.
    • This helps teach them the value of saving.
How much pocket money? Children helping - family relationships
  • The value of money is its buying power. You need to work out how much things cost now, particularly the things your children will want to buy.
  • Be realistic and increase the amount as your child becomes ready for the responsibility. Keep track of their expenses by monitoring what they buy for a week or two. Give them enough for the basics and a little bit more but not enough that they could buy anything they wanted.
  • When children are little the basics might mean how much you spend on treats for them each week. Having to spend their own money for treats lets them learn that treats are special and limited.
  • By about age 10 or 11 you might give them enough to pay for their lunch at school and treats. By 13 they might be required to pay for treats, lunch and transport. You can then slowly add responsibility for clothes, entertainment and gifts for other people.
  • When children begin earning their own money you need to think about pocket money again. Should they get the pocket money as well?
  • What contributions should they now make to the family finances? Will they pay for food, for board? (Twenty percent of the income is a reasonable 'rent'.)

  Return To Home