Some children always want to help. Whether they’re watching Mommy clean the car, and they’d like to have a go with the hose, or if Daddy’s baking some cakes and they want to try out the blender for themselves, they’re always keen to lend an extra hand around the home. Whether you allow your child to help out or not, should depend on the child’s maturity and ability to cope with the task. At first, you will usually have to teach and supervise them, which makes things more difficult for you, takes up your time and potentially costs money when things go wrong. However, that’s what good parenting is about. If you let your child sit on the couch all day, playing with their games console while you wait on the hand and foot, everyone loses. Investment in your child now will pay off for you at a later time, and more importantly, will pay of significantly more for your child.
So, what kind of jobs can children do around the house? Of course, the younger the child, the fewer jobs they can do, but you might be able to delegate tasks to them as part of a bigger job – that way you work as a team. For example, if your child isn’t ready to handle dangerous appliances such as an oven yet, they won’t be able to bake cakes. But you can allow them do master certain parts of the task, for example, getting the ingredients ready, breaking the eggs, whisking the eggs, beating the mixture, decorating the cake and so on.
Children may require some kind of incentive to do the work and you should compensate them accordingly. Rather than paying them for their time, which encourages them to believe that there is an exchange rate between time and money (a belief which will do nothing to keep them away from wage slavery in adult life), reward them for the standard of work done, effort, ingenuity, art and so on. If your child finds a way to mow the lawn in half the time you expected, you’re cheating the if you only reward them with half as much as you intended.
Rewards don’t have to be monetary, although this is useful if you want to start teaching them how money works, allowing them to make choices about what they do with their money and so on. Always be sure to agree upon how the work will be compensated. Some jobs might be rewarded with activities (if you do this, you can go to Johnny’s birthday party), while others might be compensated with gifts (if you really want Mommy’s old dress, you’ll have to earn it).
Very young children can be taught to tidy up after themselves and others, to organize and fold freshly cleaned and pressed clothes and to wash and dress themselves without parental assistance or supervision (but subject to occasional parental inspection). An example might be “Wade, you can watch TV when your bedroom is tidy.”
As they get slightly older, kids can do jobs in more detail – tidying and cleaning, for example. Don’t allow them, however, to use dangerous cleaning chemicals until they are older. The same applies for using dangerous utensils or dealing with extreme temperatures. A simple task such as filling the dishwasher can be hazardous to a child when dealing with sharp knives, scissors and brittle glass. Similarly, emptying the dishwasher could cause injury due to the heat still in the washer. One example that might work could be “DeShawn, rinse off the plates and put them in the washer, but leave the knives. Do that every day and we’ll take you to Disneyworld this summer.”
As children grow up, they can be given more difficult tasks –washing the car, clearing the snow from the driveway, etc. You may even want to include them in the planning of these tasks, for example, by browsing http://snowshifts.com/ with them and allowing them to choose which snow blower they want to use. This might lead to you saying something along the lines of “Mackenzie, see which of these snow blowers you’d like to get acquainted with over the winter, and when spring comes you can choose a car.”