As a single parent there are already a number of things on your plate that you have to cope with. One of the top problems that single parents report when it comes to conflictual situations with their children is the issue of single parenting and chores. Convincing children of any age to do chores can be difficult, but it must be done as chores teach important life skills.
Tips For Single Parenting And Chores
The first tip is to involve your children in the decision making processes that surround chores and to communicate to them that their efforts are vitally important to the overall functioning of the household. When you are at the stage of assigning chores, involve your children in this process, but maintain the upper hand. This may need to be redone each time the seasons change as different seasons involve different shores. When your child does not do a chore, don’t do it for him or her because this will allow them to see the consequences of an incomplete chore.
Another single parenting and chores tip that we have for you is to not limit your child to doing the same tasks all the time. This will make the job far more boring than it needs to be and increases the chances of rebellion against chores from your child. The main reasons for giving your child different jobs each day are:
- To keep them from becoming bored, and
- To teach them a variety of lasting and valuable skills
A weekly program with different chores scheduled for each day could achieve this end, with fewer chores on, say, Saturdays, could achieve this goal.
You need to be careful about criticizing your children. The chances are high that they will not do the job exactly as an adult would, especially if you have younger children. The trick here is to praise them simply for completing the job. If you get annoyed because the job is not done perfectly, your child will be less willing to do it again in the future. Praise and rewards are required, as is patience. Young children especially will need to be taught over and over again how to do a chore properly before they will get it 100% ‘right’.
Keep your children motivated by putting work before fun. If they know that, after completing the chore, they will be allowed to play outside or watch television, they will be more inclined to do the work put before them. It is important that you:
- Give advance notice of upcoming work periods
- Teach them to plan other activities around home responsibilities
Teaching your children that they will enjoy their leisure time more if they do all of their chores and other work first will be a valuable lesson that will serve them well as adults.
It is important that you teach proper work methods to your children in order to improve the efficiency of their work. This includes:
- Keeping any unsafe supplies in another location
- Not bringing up past mistakes
- Using yourself as a model
- Being patient
Remember that the more your child does something, the easier it will become and the less like hard work it will seem. If a chore is part of the daily routine it is not complained about as much as when you attempt to suddenly and without warning shove a task onto your child.
What many single parents faced with the issues of chores do not realize is that encouraging your children to do chores is way to lessen your own burden as a single parent. Remember that most children are capable of doing more than you think, and the older your children are, the more tasks you can assign to them. In addition it is a good idea to increase the complexity of the tasks your children are required to do as they age. Many of the simpler tasks they are taught as toddlers should become automatic and ‘chores’ should take on a whole new meaning.
Children work differently based on their personality and preferences. Knowing your child’s style will help you present tasks in a way that appeals to your child:
- Does he work better alone or with others? This will help you determine whether to assign individual or group cores.
- Is he a reader or a listener? This will determine whether written or verbal instructions are better.
- Does he like step-by-step instructions or does he like to discover the best way to do something on his own? This will help you determine the style of task assigned to each child.
The style of your child may be age-dependant. For example younger children prefer to do family tasks that involve their parent, so it is important that you make time for completing chores with toddlers. At this age you are not really expecting them to do the work alone. The point of chores at this age is to instill a sense of duty and responsibility in your child as early as possible and not necessarily to ease your own burden by assigning work to your child. Chores need to be age appropriate and not too easy or too difficult for the specific child in question.
When assigning chores, and especially when teaching them, you may need to break the chore down into smaller segments. Doing the laundry is an example of this. You should teach your child separately how to do each of the following tasks:
- Sort the clothes
- Operate the washer
- Select the proper drying procedure
- Fold the laundry
The first few times you will need to talk them through the step by step procedure, but they will soon get used to it. Do not expect children to intuitively understand the best way to do something.
Getting Chores Done Quickly
One very useful idea is that tag-teaming can get your household chores done more quickly. This involves you and your children all doing different tasks around the house at the same time. This can make a big difference in the single parenting and chores issue, especially when your children are old enough to realize the efficiency of the procedure and can see the benefit of cooperating. Step 1 is deciding which chores need to be completed weekly, such as:
- Cleaning the bathrooms
- Cleaning the mirrors
- Wiping down kitchen counters
- Mopping the kitchen floor
- Changing sheets on all the beds
Before you assign the above tasks to specific children you need to first determine what things have to be done before the above tasks can be completed. For example, in the case of vacuuming all furniture needs to be moved aside. In addition it is probably wise to go around the house with your children and clear away or books and toys before beginning with the main tasks. This will negate the need to stop every few minutes to move things and will speed up the process.
The next step is to determine the best order in which to complete the tasks that you have listed above. We recommend that you begin with basic packing away and straightening to give you space to everything else. A good order in which to do things is:
Put away anything that has been left out in each room (toys, books, etc.)
- Wipe down surfaces
- Clean mirrors
- Change sheets on all the beds
This will vary depending on what needs to be done in your house and what your priorities are.
Most of the above can be done on your own as a single parent. Once you have completed the steps 1 through 3 it is time to begin assigning tasks to yourself and your children. It is important to assign tasks in the order that you have determined they should be completed. In addition you should assign tasks to each child that will take approximately the same time to complete so none of them feel that they have been given an unfair portion of the work. In addition you must assign chores to each child that are age appropriate.
Age Appropriate Chores
This is the only age at which your children are going to be excited about doing chores and helping (even though their ‘helping may be far from helpful!). It is important that you use this interest to your advantage and that you try to keep the excitement about doing chores alive. There are a number of things that children at this age can help with (although they may need your constant guidance):
- They can help make the bed
- They can pick up toys and books
- They can take laundry to the laundry room
- They can help feed pets
- They can help wipe up messes
- They can dust with socks on their hands
- They can mop areas with help
Ages 4 And 5
At this age the excitement will still be there for doing chores, especially new ones, but rewards may be required in order to keep the excitement alive. At this point chores, such as setting the table, dusting, helping with the cooking, and carrying groceries, can be done almost entirely without supervision. This will make your child feel ‘grown-up’ and will keep their interest in helping you out around the house alive for much longer.
At this age children are no longer excited about doing chores, and this is the start of the real single parenting and chores issue. However there is a new drive at this age, and that is the drive to be as independent as possible. By fostering a home environment in which doing chores is closely linked to being independent you will be able to get your children to help around the house. They can do the following:
- They can take care of pets
- They can vacuum and mop
- They can take out trash
- They can fold and put away laundry
At this age your child will be capable of increased responsibility and can help wash the car, learn to wash dishes, help prepare simple meals, clean the bathroom, rake leaves, and operate the washer and dryer. In order to keep their interest in doing chores a reward system should be in place, as well as a punishment system for not completing a necessary chore. In addition it is important to keep continuity going. Children at this age will best be able to complete all the chores required if there is a set pattern that is not broken.
Teenagers can do practically all chores around the house and can be motivated with a similar reward/punishment system as pre-teens. However their schedules tend to be busier at school, and so on, so it is important that the chore schedule you create for them is manageable. Tasks which they can do include the following:
- They can replace light bulbs and vacuum cleaner bags
- They can complete all parts of the laundry process
- They can wash windows
- They can clean out the refrigerator and other kitchen appliances
- They can prepare meals
- They can prepare grocery lists
The benefit of teaching your children to value chores is undisputed. They will learn practical skills as well as responsibility, all of which will help them once they have reached adulthood. In addition they will thank you for pushing them in this regard when they are older. The issue of single parenting and chores can be a difficult one to face, especially as you are alone, but there are ways to enforce chores in your children.