Ordinary Sara asked for tips on how to incorporate your children in housework. She offered up some tips that I guess I just took for granted as basic knowledge...but here's why I have given my children responsibilities from the tender age of 2 1/2 or so...
I have a neighbor whom I love dearly that has a 17 and 15 year old who are constantly at odds with each other and their parents. The biggest cause of their domestic discord? CHORES and RESPONSIBILITY. Seriously. No one in that house know how to use the washer, dryer, dishwasher or vacuum cleaner but her! YIKES! It is a constant battle just to get them to put away their shoes and backpacks after they come home from school...
Needless to say, Captain Chaos, Princess of Everything, and even Littlest One are responsible for things around the house. The big kids take turns feeding our cats, setting and clearing the table. They all help pick up and put away toys, the big kids help me by putting away their clean clothes. They even use the hand vac I have and vacuum the carpet on the stairs. They are responsible to put their shoes, jackets, backpacks away.
One thing we've done since they were each around 2 1/2 or so, is to add to their responsibilities according their abilities and passions. Princess LOVES to help cook, so she gets to help "measure" ingredients and stir things. Captain adores helping BB, so he gets to do things around the yard etc.
One other thing we started doing is along Dave Ramsey lines - we pay the kids commission for jobs and chores that are outside the norm.
My explanation to people who think I'm a slave drive or drill instructor (they say please, thank you, yes ma'am/sir and hold doors open while waiting for their elders too!)? Everyone lives in the house, everyone makes the messes so EVERYONE helps to clean it up!
Recent additions? They get a damp cloth and dust furniture. When I'm feeling particularly adventurous they get a disinfecting wipe and get see who can clean the most smears, smudges, grime and gook off doorknobs, handles, light switches and walls!
I try to make it fun as often as I can because I *don't* want them to see it negatively. I NEVER assign them a duty/task as a punishment.
As they get older, they'll be making up their beds, sorting dirty clothes, folding clean clothes, and assisting with meal preparations as well as taking turns cleaning their bathroom, emptying trash, and yes, even doing things like pulling weeds, mowing grass, raking leaves, and shoveling snow.
Growing up, I was responsible to help in and out of the house, top to bottom!
I was sorting dirty clothes, matching socks and then folding clothes, carrying the clean stuff to the appropriate room, helping to prep meals, then to cook them, clean up after them, clean the bathroom, feed the pets, clean up after the pets, help in the yard with weeding, raking, garden maintenance, and eventually mowing the grass, raking leaves and shoveling snow. By the time I was 13, I was doing my own laundry and ironing.
I made my bed each day, and eventually was responsible to change the bedding...
I can change a flat tire, change the fluids in my vehicle, perform basic maintenance on said vehicle, perform most basic maintenance tasks in my home, including using power tools...
I cannot imagine a life NOT knowing how be self-sufficient, and always marveled at my college mates and friends that were on their own that honestly and truly learned by "sink or swim" how to cook, clean, do laundry.
I had one friend who honestly didn't even know how to change a light bulb because her parents did EVERYTHING for her growing up. At first it was because they didn't want her to "grow up too quickly", and then it was because she didn't do it the way they wanted it done and it was easier for them to do it themselves. Finally, it was because she would whine and complain and fight so much they just did it...well, she was finally on her own at the age of 23, with no idea how to boil water to make ramen noodles, and certainly clueless as to how to do a load of laundry. She was 1000 miles away from home so she couldn't just take things to her parents...I remember teaching her, as a 19 year old, how to do everything including paint the rooms in her house...that her parents had purchased for her...
At any rate, my take is that in order to raise up my children with the idea of the grown-ups I'd like them to be in mind, I have to start NOW, when they are 5, 3, and 16 months.
What's your take?