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A home shouldn’t be a luxury hotel in which one person does most of the routine work. If that is the case, then, more often than not, that one person will be Mum, even in this day and age. The children mostly play or, if teenagers, mostly use it as a restaurant and laundry and for free Wi-Fi access.
One of the ways in which we can build our youngsters’ self-worth is with an expectation that they contribute to the family in an age-appropriate way. Even very young children can gain a sense of pride and achievement out of their contribution to the team.
They’re quite capable of taking on some small tasks from around age 3. I’m against describing this as "helping Mummy" as that cements in the attitude that household duties are Mum’s and they’re just giving a bit of a hand.
"Helping to take care of our house and our family" would be a better attitude to develop. They learn that sharing and contributing is an important part of what family life is about and it sets them on the path of preparation for their life after they leave home.
The best time to get started is when they want to help, which usually happens when they’re 2 or 3.
A 3-year-old can tidy away toys, set the table and help with a variety of tasks such as planting and collecting vegetables, handing you pegs at the clothesline or ingredients in the kitchen, getting items off the supermarket shelf, taking weeds to the rubbish pile and feeding a pet.
By the time they’re 6 they’re able to distinguish between work and play. If we haven’t got them accepting that chores are an established part of the household routine by then, getting things done will become more of an uphill battle.
By their mid-teens they should be able to run a household on their own - from shopping and cooking, mending and cleaning, to growing and mowing, maintaining and basic repairing. They should also have gained an appreciation of the costs involved.
There’ll be chores they won't enjoy, just as we don’t. But running a household isn't all fun, so we shouldn’t pretend otherwise. It can be fun to have a fry-up and less pleasant cleaning up the mess, but they go hand-in-hand and that’s a fact of life.