The benefits of delegating your to-do list to your kids
How to delegate your to-do list to your kids.
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In today’s conversation, we’re going to talk about delegating your to-do list to your kids. I recently experienced an “A-ha” full circle…about delegating MY to-do list that I cannot wait to tell you about.
Delegating your to-do list to your kids, I know what you’re all saying right now, “NO WAY…my kids couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do it.” But, hear me out; if we want to raise our kids to be thriving adults, then we will need to start teaching them key responsibilities. And chores can be a perfect way to do it.
Responsibilities Strengthen Connections
The following question was recently asked – Should parents require their kids to do chores? That question was asked and answered in our current article “Why chores are good for your kids — And how to get them to do them?” Obviously, the answer was a resounding “Yes.”
Experts agree that by asking your kids to help out with household chores, not only does it enhance their self-esteem and sense of responsibility towards others, but it also strengthens your internal family bonds.
Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson, a professor of early childhood education, says, “By assigning chores, you let your child feel confident, capable and valued.”
Or, as I like to tell my kids when they asked me why they have to do chores, I say, “Because you’re part of the family; we all live in this house together, so it’s all of our of responsibility to stay on top of the household chores.”
Here is a story to help illustrate the point…just for those parents that are thinking, “No, I don’t want my kids to do chores, let them have fun, school and homework are enough.”
Think about yourself for a moment, if you belonged to the PTA, for example, and you just go to the meetings and don’t sign up for anything…you don’t really feel very committed to that PTA/ group, right? But, if you’re part of the PTA team chairing “The Fall Festival” or “Spring Carnival” you’re going to be a lot more involved and feel connected to the group and responsible for the outcome of the event.
This also works with our kids when we delegate responsibilities to them; if they help with the laundry, setting the table, or helping with the making a meal. Not only does this help them build skills, it keeps them to feel more connected to the family and helps them gain confidence as well as competence.
I started having my kids do chores when they were little, not because I knew chores would make them more confident and capable, but because I needed to keep them busy while I was trying to get my own to-do list done. So, even as young as two years of age, I remember giving Kailee (my youngest daughter with special needs) a chore. Her chore was to wipe the baseboards in the house with a wet rag while her older sister did another chore. I didn’t really care about the baseboards being cleaned; it was safe, she could reach them, there were baseboards in every room so she could go with me, and the wet/damp rag would keep her calm.
It worked out that everyone was participating in chores, and they never knew any different. As she grew, I gave her more tasks that I felt she could do: I also starting using this opportunity as a time to “fit in” therapy practice as well as building skills. For example, when we were working on strengthening her hands and arm for pencil grip and writing, she got the chore of doing all the mirrors and windows in the house. I taught her how to use the Windex bottle and squeeze it and then wipe it before it ran or dripped on the floor or counter (she thought it was fun to spray our mirrors and windows … I never put pressure on her to do it perfectly). It was helping her practice her therapy, it strengthened her hand, and I was getting two chores on my to-do list done!
Don’t expect perfection, it’s “practice makes perfect”
Now let’s be honest, she wasn’t doing a perfect job of wiping baseboards or cleaning the mirrors. You have to remember your kids won’t be great for a while (and may never achieve total task accomplishment….that’s not the point) but this leaves room for them to practice and get better.
Dr. Kennedy-Moore says it’s important not to scold your kids, but to encourage and praise them for their efforts. If you scold your child’s efforts, you’re likely to get more resistance on their part, and it won’t help them to embrace their role as a valuable contributor to the family and household.
Beware of missing key steps when teaching your child how to do a chore.
I say “beware” because that exact point recently hit me “upside the head” (as they say) and made me realize that while I was teaching her to do a task, like the simple task of wiping down the kitchen table, I wasn’t necessarily teaching her all of the steps of the chore. I wasn’t being specific about what the chore actually entailed, I might not have demonstrated exactly how to do it or how she could tell when the chore is properly done.
I thought I had told her how to wipe down the table until it was pointed out to me, from a teacher in a cooking class she participates in, that she needed more guidance. I was like “WHAT…She can wipe down the table, she has been for years.” But, she doesn’t actually clean the table or get the crumbs off. She just wipes in a large letter “Z “ across the table, letting the crumbs fall on the floor. Then it dawned on me (!) that I had never explained to her WHY we are wiping down the table. I just said, “Wipe down the table.”
So, I had to go back and teach and guide her as to why we wipe down the table and specifically that we’re wiping down the table for germs and crumbs. I then explained why we don’t want crumbs to go on the floor; because then we have to sweep up the floor, or we can get bugs, etc…
Remember to do the following when you teach your children to do chores:
- What exactly the chore entails
- Demonstrate how to do it
- The proper steps to follow
- How to tell when the chore is done
Remind them (and yourself) that they won’t be good at it the first time, but as they keep doing it they’ll get better with practice.
My A-HA Game Changer…
I mentioned earlier that I had a really big A-HA moment and I couldn’t wait to share this one with you, well, earlier this year I attended the Positive Parenting Conference (online) and listened to Dr. Deborah Gilboa speak on the topic of “Teaching Our Kids Key Responsibilities.” At the end of her talk, she challenged us to pick one thing you do for your child and teach them how to do it for themselves.
I thought to myself, “Yeah… right… that looks good on paper, but she doesn’t have a special needs kid so what does she know about teaching them…”
But, I have to tell you, I tried it and it has been a GAME CHANGER in our household for my daughter with “different abilities” (EVERYONE has different abilities, not just disabilities, as I like to say).
My example doesn’t happen to be with chores, but it has to do with responsibilities and something that my daughter couldn’t really do for herself.
My daughter does not like for her hands to be dirty and she cannot stand any dirt under her fingernails. Well, she was participating in a camp and was coming home every day with dirt underneath her fingernails. She couldn’t get it all out with the nail scrub-brush in the shower, a little bit might be left that she just couldn’t get to. So, every night after her shower, she constantly asks me to clean her nails. And, of course, this would be at the exact time every night when my husband and I had finally got a chance to sit down and watch our favorite show on Netflix! GEE, no one can relate to THAT, can they?? Haha.
So, every night becomes the same routine…we would have to stop the show, get up, and go take care of it for her (let me remind you she perseverates so she wants it done on HER time frame). I found myself getting upset and I recalled hearing “Dr. G’s” challenge; I thought, “What would it take to teach her to this for herself?” So, I used the advice above and explain to her precisely how to do it, along with teaching her all the steps and demonstrating it. I also warned her to be careful and not to go too deep under her fingernail to get the dirt out because she could hurt herself. At first, she wasn’t good at getting out the dirt from underneath her fingernails, but, she has persisted in her efforts and I can now say she is able to clean underneath all of her fingers on both hands without my help!!!!
This made me so excited. I’m now using this approach anytime she asks me to do something for her. I stop and think, “Can I teach her to do it for herself?”
AND, just in time for back-to-school: I hate making school lunches, so this year I delegated the task to her. It is a life skill after all. I am still working on teaching her how to make healthy lunches for school, and teaching her about portion sizes, but, it is off my to-do- list and I can’t tell you how happy I am.
In Conclusion: Final Message
So, when you’re successful in delegating and teaching your kids key responsibilities they can do for themselves, not only are you helping them to thrive and be independent adults but, you are also actually taking tasks off of your own to do list!!
Dr. G’s challenge
I want to pass on Dr. Gibola’s challenge to each of you: Pick one thing you do for your child and teach them how to do it for themselves.
Links mentioned in this episode:
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