Give Chores to Your Kids

Some working moms feel that because they are away from their kids so many hours during the day, they don't want their precious time together to be spent fighting about chores. Consequently, very little is expected of the children with respect to pitching in around the house.

Anna, one of my mentors, set me straight about kids and chores with the following advice: "You've got to remember you're raising future adults, and childhood is when they learn responsibility. When you have 'your reasons' for not setting and enforcing realistic expectations, the kids will grow up to be poorly equipped to meet their own families' expectations in the future. It would be a disservice to their future spouses and children."

Put simply, all kids (even the kids of working moms) should be required to do unpaid work around the house regularly. It's for their good, and it's for your good!

At the risk of stating the obvious, once they're able to walk and talk, every child can pitch in. Even a two-year-old can be taught to put away toys. Three- and four-year-olds can be taught to fold washcloths and dish-towels. Once they have learned their colors, they can easily sort laundry into dark colors, light colors and whites.

As kids get older, they have the ability to handle more work around the house. The first step in assigning household tasks is to know what they are capable of. If you are unsure what chores your kids can reasonably handle, the Working Mom™ Household Job Chart delineates typical household chores children can do at various ages. You'll find a free, easy-to-print version

This leads to the recurring question: "How on earth will I get them to do it?" There are multiple answers to this dilemma. To a great extent, your success will depend upon the relationship you have with your children, their personalities and your personality. Let me make a suggestion: Remember to answer the WIIFM question. (What's In It For Me?)

Back when my brother and I were young children, the WIIFM was usually that we could avoid a spanking, lecture and/or being grounded if we complied. For my brother, that was usually enough motivation to elicit his compliance. For me, those methods induced a sense of trepidation as I consciously chose to disobey despite the warning.

There are no quick and easy, one-size-fits-all formulas for getting every child to do what he's told. However, a consequence coupled with an incentive substantially increases the likelihood of compliance in almost every managerial situation, including motherhood.

Going back to my own situation, when I was growing up, my parents discovered they could gain remarkable compliance from their headstrong daughter when they used car privileges as an incentive. "Sabrina, I'll let you take my car out to get some ice cream if you can finish cleaning up before dark." This really motivated me.

But my parents used more than just incentives. One of their often used consequences hit me where it hurt me the most: "If this room is not cleaned up by the time I get home from work, I'm unplugging your telephone, and you won't get it back until I'm ready for you to have it!" For a very social child, this served as the hammer of punishments, the one I sought to avoid with all of my being.

However, those same tactics were completely ineffective when used on my brother. His personality is different from mine, and he fairly shrugged at either gaining car privileges or losing his telephone.

But he couldn't do without his video games; thus, the loss of those served as the hammer of all consequences for him. He could be motivated by the promise of getting new basketball cards. Each child is different. Study your children carefully and it will become clear how to best motivate, as well as how to administer the most effective consequences.

What If They Get Mad at Me for This?

Some mothers describe their still-at-home children as their best friends. On the surface, this sounds idyllic, but these mothers are at a serious disadvantage in disciplinary situations. Every time discipline or correction is called for, such a mom runs the risk of losing her best friend. This creates a situation no child is mature enough to handle. For a best friend, look to your prayer partners and mentors. You will find a frequent need for them.

Excerpted from Moms on the Job by Sabrina O'Malone, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2006, Sabrina O'Malone. All rights reserved.

Next in this Series: How to Get Things Done With Teens