School is over and the new summer routine is beginning.  “Whenever there is a significant change in routine, it is a great time to start a new habit” states Gretchen Rubin in her book, Better than BeforeWhat better habit to initiate than getting your child to help with household chores?!  Even small children delight in contributing.  Give a toddler a spray bottle of water and a towel and they will happily “clean” anything in his/her path.   An “important human need is to contribute to something larger than ourselves” Gloria DeGateano, Parenting Well in a Media Age, it contributes to a sense of belonging.  Participating in family chores, with each person supporting the whole by contributing in some way, makes everyone feel invested in the family.  Research shows that problem behaviors decline and resiliency grows the more children participate and contribute.  Humans need social connection and are hard wired to interact and work with others.  When parents create a supportive family in which members connect and help one another, children will be inspired to carry that out into the world.

Motivating your kid to “like” chores

I have referred to the work of Carol Tuttle, The Child Whisperer, in other blogs and the following tips for motivating your child are based on her work.   “The goal really isn’t simply to get your child to do chores more willingly. That’s just the by-product. The goal is understanding that these are opportunities to develop your child’s natural gifts. And in doing that, you’re going to experience more cooperation with your child in every way.”

Here are Carol’s description of 4 types of children and tips to take the struggle out of chores for each type of child.

Fun-Loving Child:

  1. Teach your child that the activity isn’t over until the mess is cleaned up.

You can teach your Type 1 child good follow-through by instilling in them the idea that the game or creative project they’re working on isn’t done until everything they used for it is put away.  This will encourage creativity, while also reinforcing the importance of picking up.

Consider walking through the process with them and be sure to give them lots of praise when they follow-through! It will motivate them and make them excited to follow-through the next time.

  1. Be willing to overlook some things.

Consider choosing a few things to overlook to support your Type 1 child’s tendency to see the big picture rather than the little details.

  1. Include your child in making chores fun.

Your child’s gift is to make things fun. Simply encourage them to tap into it. Use phrases like:

  • “How can you make loading the dishwasher more light and fun? Give me two ideas.”
  • “I’d love to hear two of your ideas that would make cleaning your room a game.”
  • “I know you prefer to have someone to do things with so what’s your idea that would include mom, dad or a sibling to get the bathroom clean?”

After they’ve shared their ideas, ask:

  • “Which idea do you want to use?”
  • “Can you get that chore done without stopping? Or would you like to do a portion of it, take a short break, then finish it?”

After everything has been decided, agree to a timeline. This way you’re using time to create structure and accountability, which will help your Type 1 child to follow through. You’re also setting them up for a positive lifelong habit of finishing important tasks they begin.

The Sensitive Child:

  1. Help them create a plan.

If you’re setting the table, come up with three steps based on their age and ability and invite them to make a plan around it. When you do this, you’re giving them tools to employ their own natural gift for planning.

For example: Step 1: Put the plates on the table. Step 2: Put the utensils on the table. Step 3: Put the glasses on the table. All done!

  1. Show them how they’re creating more comfort when they tidy a space.

Your Type 2 child is naturally sensitive to comfort; their own, but also the comfort of others.  Phrases like “Let’s make your room more comfortable by picking it up” will help them learn how to appreciate their space and create more comfort which is very supportive to them.

  1. Reward and praise them when the chore is completed.

I want to highlight that you’re not just praising them for doing a good job with the chore, you’re focusing your praise on the child’s ability to use their gifts successfully. This is very important as you’re training your child to not only keep a tidy space, but also to learn to trust and use their natural gifts!

Bonus: 3 Reasons your sensitive child resists chores:

  1. They don’t understand the steps
  2. If they don’t understand the steps, they can’t make a plan.
  3. There’s too much to do and they’re overwhelmed.

 The Determined Child

These children are naturally more hands-on and have a preference for activities that engage their swift and determined nature.

  1. Challenge.

Type 3 children love a challenge! You can make chores into a challenge by using a timer and encouraging them to beat the timer, or consider encouraging them to beat their last time doing that chore. Another idea is to challenge them to beat you. Any of these are effective as your Type 3 child is naturally competitive.

  1. Swift.

Engage your child in something that doesn’t require a lot of focus. For example, don’t start a young child on cleaning baseboards. It’s too tedious and repetitive for them. Instead think about things that have more moving parts — like unloading the dishwasher. What can your child move through quickly and check off their “list?”

Keep in mind that initially your child might overlook the details of the task. Be sure to praise them for a chore successfully completed and on time; include feedback about how to be more thorough.

  1. Reward. 

Since the chore itself is not really a reward, set up a rewards system that allows your child to experience quick results. The younger the child, the more quickly they need to experience the results of their hard work in order to stay motivated. Some ideas are using a points system, or offering a special experience with Mom or Dad as a reward.

The Serious Child

  1. Invite your child to choose what to be responsible for. 

Explain to your child that chores are a part of the ongoing maintenance that comes with having a home and everyone in the family contributes to taking care of the home.  Give them a list of chores and ask them if they’d like to pick a certain number of chores from the list. Remember to also ask them if there’s anything they’d like to be responsible for that’s not on the list. Offer to give them time to decide which chores they want to be responsible for.

  1. Ask your child to come up with an efficient strategy to get their chores done.

Set a date and time with them to discuss the strategy they’ve come up with.  Does this process feel business-like? It is! Your Type 4 child will thrive with such a matter-of-fact approach.

  1. Discuss what needs to happen if your child doesn’t complete the chores.

Use this phrasing “I prefer not to remind you, and you’re very good at follow through on what you agree to do. But in case you choose not to do your chores, what would you like your consequences to be?”

It’s very important to remember that discipline to a Type 4 person is a private thing. How do you know something is considered private?  If it’s personal (about them), then it’s private!  Remember to praise them for a chore well done and for learning to use their natural gifts!

Here’s a list of verbal rewards to get you started:

  • You’re very responsible.
  • I love how you independently manage your chores without having to be reminded.
  • You’re an expert at (name the chore).
  • I appreciate your commitment to follow through.
  • Thanks for being so committed to what you’ve agreed to do.

Although this seems like a lot of detail, understanding your child’s temperament and helping them learn how to accomplish tasks using their particular strengths is how you can love your child for his/her uniqueness.  Remember, you’re not just praising them for doing a good job with the chore, you’re focusing your praise on your child’s ability to use their gifts successfully. If you would like to learn more about your child’s temperament, I am happy to help!  Contact me, mention this article and get a free 50 minute consultation!

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