Making more out of chores

Imperial Valley Press - - Front Page - BY MELISSA ERICK­SON

“Re­fram­ing chores as re­spon­si­bil­i­ties will show kids ... that chores are just life skills. ... Not only are they learn­ing to be more in­de­pen­dent, which will ob­vi­ously help when they grow up, it gives them op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn some­thing and per­fect it for use later in life.”

Dr. Gene Beresin

Telling your chil­dren it’s fun to be pro­duc­tive prob­a­bly won’t con­vince them that do­ing house­hold chores is a great way to spend a Sat­ur­day morn­ing.

It’s worth the strug­gle, though, be­cause do­ing chores is good for kids in many ways.

“Chores are in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant for de­vel­op­ing chil­dren and teenagers,” said Dr. Gene Beresin, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Clay Cen­ter for Young Healthy Minds at Mas­sachusetts Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal. “By mas­ter­ing new skills in daily life, they will build pos­i­tive self-es­teem and es­sen­tial life skills. In short, chores will make them feel like they are grow­ing up.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, chores are nec­es­sary to pre­pare kids and teens to be more in­de­pen­dent, re­spon­si­ble in­di­vid­u­als.

“Even if they don’t rec­og­nize it at first, they will en­joy be­ing able to take care of them­selves and oth­ers,” Beresin said. “It is valu­able for them to feel and be rec­og­nized that they are making im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tions to the fam­ily.”

Choose a mo­ti­vat­ing re­ward

As­sign­ing chores will likely be met with re­sis­tance and eye rolls.

“The stigma of chores as bor­ing ac­tiv­i­ties does still ex­ist, so it’s im­por­tant par­ents stand their ground in en­forc­ing them, as they will be ben­e­fi­cial to ev­ery­one down the road,” Beresin said.

Par­ents may have to be cre­ative to get chil­dren to co­op­er­ate.

“Re­ward­ing kids and teens for com­plet­ing chores is a great way to mo­ti­vate them. One of these ways is by giv­ing them more free­dom. For ex­am­ple, al­low school- age kids to choose how to spend their dow­time af­ter com­plet­ing their chores, such as us­ing their iPad or watch­ing TV. For teenagers, al­low them a later cur­few or more use of the car if they have a li­cense,” Beresin said.

Sup­ply­ing child- sized clean­ing tools may help chil­dren get in on the fun, but role mod­el­ing good be­hav­ior helps set the right tone.

“Do­ing chores along­side kids is also a way that you could make it more fun. Kids love spend­ing time with their par­ents, so help­ing them do things like putting toys away or clean­ing up af­ter din­ner will give them that op­por­tu­nity,” Beresin said. “You could also put on some music while you do the chores, which will brighten the mood.”

Help­ing kids suc­ceed

Par­ents should gear a task to­ward a child’s ma­tu­rity and abil­ity to per­form to help them suc­ceed, Beresin said.

“Re­fram­ing chores as re­spon­si­bil­i­ties will show kids and teens that chores are just life skills that have a great pay­off,” he said. “Not only are they learn­ing to be more in­de­pen­dent, which will ob­vi­ously help when they grow up, it gives them op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn some­thing and per­fect it for use later in life.”

Chores help teach kids and teens that they have a re­spon­si­bil­ity for them­selves, but also to care for other peo­ple.

“This will later help them with re­la­tion­ships and work­ing in a group to ac­com­plish a com­mon goal,” Beresin said. “Be­cause our brains are wired for giv­ing, per­form­ing acts that help oth­ers re­lease pow­er­ful neu­ro­chem­i­cals that make us feel good.”

Avoid over­load­ing kids and teens with too many fam­ily chores, be­cause that can af­fect their school­work or abil­ity to just be a kid.

“Chil­dren re­quire time to play, learn so­cial skills and pur­sue their own hob­bies and in­ter­ests,” Beresin said.

Age- ap­pro­pri­ate tasks

As­sign­ing age- ap­pro­pri­ate chores helps to cut down on frus­tra­tion at kids’ and teens’ in­abil­ity to com­plete them, Beresin said

Preschool­ers are learn­ing the ba­sics of tak­ing care of them­selves, so keep things very sim­ple.

“Things like car­ry­ing their plate to the sink af­ter din­ner or feed­ing the cat will make them feel im­por­tant and ac­com­plished,” he said. “They may also help in putting their toys away or tuck­ing their stuffed an­i­mals away and putting them to bed.”

School- age kids will suc­ceed with more re­spon­si­bil­ity, such as set­ting the ta­ble for din­ner or tak­ing the dog for a walk.

“They also are old enough to help in cook­ing meals with older sib­lings or par­ents. This age group might be more likely to push back and com­plain about be­ing as­signed chores, so re­mem­ber­ing to ex­press praise and grat­i­tude will go a long way,” Beresin said.

As they’re get­ting ready for adult­hood, teenagers’ chores should re­volve around pre­par­ing them to be in­de­pen­dent.

“Babysit­ting, cook­ing meals on their own or clean­ing the bath­room are great things they can do for the fam­ily, and skills they will even­tu­ally need later in life. Teens, in par­tic­u­lar will be mo­ti­vated with more free­dom, so con­sider that as a re­ward for com­plet­ing chores,” Beresin said.

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