A Child Helping With Chores

March 12, 2021 by No Comments

Dear Dr. Ellen: I’m married and have a 3-year-old daughter. I’ve always been a very capable person for as long as I can remember. When I was working in an office I prided myself in getting everything done quickly and perfectly. Now that I am a mother I am very critical of my daughter when I see her doing things that are not up to my standards. My husband thinks I should back off but I feel that when she does something she should be taught to do it right or not at all.

It’s actually less work to do the household chores myself than to have her help. I’d rather wait until she’s older when she will be more capable of following directions. I’d really like your input on this. Thanks. – Jean

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Dear Jean: Everyone seems to understand the importance of practice when learning to play a musical instrument or participating in a sport. Many women, however, have a difficult time realizing that it also takes practice to become skilled at making beds, washing dishes, vacuuming or doing other household chores. If you take over a chore for a child because you know you can do it better and faster, then your child never gets the chance to practice. If you are the type of person who says, “I’ll pour the milk because you’ll spill it” or “I’ll make the bed because you’ll do a sloppy job” or I’ll clean your room because it will take you too long,” then you aren’t giving your child enough practice doing things for herself.

It’s important to realize that when a young child gives you help, it’s probably going to take more time to complete the job than if you were to do it yourself. Instead of getting frantic about what needs to be done today, try to take a longer range view, keeping in mind the big picture.

Children between the ages of two and four seem to have great interest in helping. This is the ideal time to encourage them. Don’t make the mistake of pushing your child aside or belittling her efforts because she is more trouble than help. Being patient and understanding while your child is still young will bring much better results than waiting until she’s older and then suddenly trying to force her to do chores. If children aren’t encouraged when they are interested, they can’t be expected to want to help when they are older. Praise is one of the most valuable teaching tools and motivators that you can use as a parent. Lavish her with praise for any little thing she does, such as carrying her plate to the kitchen sink. You’ll find that as you notice and praise your daughter, she will become more and more helpful. – Dr. Ellen.

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