For the past few Mondays we've looked at organizing and decorating children's rooms and belongings.
Truth is, though, children need to learn to take care of their own belongings and be a part of the family work team.
As parents, we are our children's first teachers. It is our responsibility to teach them the skills they need to be productive in the real world. And really, it's never to young to start.
As soon as children are aware of their surroundings, they are learning about life. If they watch their parents working around the house and their siblings helping out, then they learn that working is important. As they learn to toddle around, they can be shown how to pick up items and put them in a basket.
3-5 year olds can straighten the covers on their beds, pick up some of their toys, set a table, fold dish towels, or feed a pet, learn their phone number and address.
5-7 year olds can wash dishes, sweep a floor, empty waste baskets, put groceries away, make a better bed, set a better table, dust, clean out a sink, or scrub a tub, make phone calls, and order for themselves in a restaurant.
8-10 year olds can empty the dishwasher, fold laundry, clean a bathroom, wash a car, weed a garden, write a thank you note, vacuum and dust, write their activities on a calendar.
11-14 year olds can wash and dry laundry, iron, cut grass, wash cars, cook meals, start a savings account, and babysit.
15-18 year olds can make a budget, grocery shop, detail a car, clean the house - top to bottom, wash windows, make appointments, hold a part time job, and plan for their future.
Lest you think I'm all about child labor, it's really more than that. In our effort to keep "the peace" in our homes, sometimes we find it's easier to just do the work ourselves than go through the effort of teaching and supervising our children as they learn.
I've discovered a few ways to help the process along:
1. Work alongside your child - children learn their work ethic from you. Model and Coach well.
2. Never tell you child to "Go clean your room". That's too big of a job. Give them one job to do at a time.
3. Inspect what they do. If you never inspect their work and give them feedback, they'll never improve. Don't expect perfection at first, just expect the best they can do for their age. Whatever you do, don't let them see you redoing their work. If they have to redo their own work, then so be it.
4. Let your children know they are part of a team - your family team. Learning to work together as a family is good preparation for working outside of the home.
5. Praise your child for a job well done. Teach them to find their reward in working hard and getting things done.
6. Help your children pace themselves and set fun things to do after their hard work. Life is about balance.
Any ideas from parents out there? How do you teach your children life skills?