Contribution and Chores by Age

African girl with folded laundry

Contribution is giving children small ways to be helpful throughout the day. If you are folding laundry, they can match socks, carry stacks of washcloths or put underwear in drawers. If you are getting dinner ready, they can color placemats, butter rolls, serve greenbeans, fold napkins or take drink orders. You might also ask children to water plants, pour dog food in the dog’s bowl or help get things ready for bathtime. These jobs are typically smaller than chores but are still helpful. It’s good to start contribution as early as two or three years old and continue through childhood.

Chores children do because they are part of the family can easily start by four or five years old. Chores at this age are daily and should be things the child can do independently. Family chores are not paid but are expected. It’s helpful to have a chore chart so children can track their efforts. This is also laying foundation for tracking chores for allowance later on. Chores as part of the family for younger children might include; simple pet care, putting clothes in the hamper, putting towels on hooks or carrying plates to the sink. For older children, family chores might include making their bed, walking the dog or picking up their play space.

Keeping contribution and family chores, you might add chores for allowance by six or seven years old. In the beginning, these chores should also be daily. As children get to be nine or ten years old, the schedule of chores can be more flexible. There might be a chore on the chart that happens once or twice a week. Paid chores for younger children might include setting the table, dusting a room or washing windows and mirrors. For older children paid chores might include loading and unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming a room or level of the house or cleaning a bathroom. As they are older, you might also offer a list of bigger, one time chores like cleaning out the garage or raking the yard to earn extra money.

For motivation’s sake, it may be helpful to keep school work and any musical instrument practice off chore charts. It’s also good to keep pet care on the contribution or family chore list and not be paid.

Encouraging a Sense of Responsibility

One beautiful middle eastern little girl with pink dress and long dark brown hair and eyes on white kitchen,helping parents to wash dishes and drinking water and smiling looking at camera studio.

Responsibility is best taught in small doses across childhood. Think of gradually increasing expectations, ownership and chores overtime.

Responsible for belongings – A way to build a sense of responsibility is to have them gradually be responsible for their belongings. This means teaching them to keep their toys clean and all the pieces together, keep their floor reasonably clean and keep matching gloves throughout the winter.

This also means they are gradually responsible for their sports and activity supplies. At four and five years old, they should be helping you to pack their ballet or soccer supplies. By six and seven, you should be helping them pack their supplies. By eight and nine years old, they should be packing their own supplies. You might make them a checklist or a picture chart, but it’s important to encourage independence here.

In kindergarten and 1st grade, you can help pack up their school supplies and be sure they have what they need. By 2nd grade, they should be packing and you can check after. By 3rd grade, check every other day. By 4th grade, it’s theirs to do but check in occasionally, and offer more checking if they struggle.

Avoid rescuing them – If they lie to someone, have them talk to that person and fess up. If they take something from a store, even a small something have them return it and apologize. If they get a bad grade, focus the follow up on how they can improve and do better, and check in more as they go. Avoid working to get them out of it – speaking to the person about the lie for them, letting them keep the small thing or taking it back yourself, calling to ask to excuse the grade.

Avoid creating work for other people – This has been a mild mantra in our house. When the girls were little, we’d all spend a few minutes cleaning our mess before we left a restaurant. If you decide you don’t want something when you’re shopping, it has to go back to where it belongs.

Model and encourage work before play – Clean bedrooms before friends come over, and do chores before going out to a matinee.

Model and encourage helping others, even small acts of kindness – This may be shoveling a neighbor’s driveway, helping someone carry groceries or just checking in with a friend who’s been sick or is elderly.

Teach responsibility with volunteering and community efforts – This can be participating as a family with your school’s charity efforts, your church’s outreach programs or finding places and ways to volunteer together. The website our-kids.com has a resource list of places to volunteer as a family in the Northern Virginia and D.C.

Teach responsibility through chores – I like the idea of starting contribution, children being helpful throughout the day, by 18 months to two years old. They can carry small things to be helpful. By two-and-a-half they can match socks, they can set out spoons and napkins. By three-and-a-half, they can pour dog food and water plants.

By four or five years old, I like the idea of adding chores because they are part of the family. This is daily things like putting clothes in the hamper, putting plates in the sink or even helping make the bed, that are just expected and maybe charted, but not paid for. I particularly like pet care as a chore they do as part of the family. It encourages care for a living creature and responsibility to a relationship.

If you start there, by six or seven years old, I like the idea of adding paid chores. Keep contribution and a few chores they do to be part of the family, then, when you are ready, consider chores for allowance. Again, these are daily, otherwise they are things you keep track of and kids get paid weekly. If you lose the contribution and chores for family, it’s hard to get them to be helpful unless you pay them – and that’s not the goal.

As they get older, by nine or ten years old, you might be more flexible about chores. Maybe there’s a chore to do twice a week or a list of chores to pick from. It’s fine to get creative as long as everyone is aware of the new rules.

Prioritize school work, attendance and deadlines – It’s good to put homework or study time on the calendar daily, so kids see it’s importance. Encourage regular attendance. Help children to plan for and meet deadlines for projects and tests.

Encourage self care – Once your child can tie their own shoes, you are done tying their shoes. Have goals for self care. This may be getting dressed by five years old and taking showers independently by eight years old.

Be sure to set a good example – This includes keeping promises, showing up on time, taking care of your own belongings and keeping the house reasonably clean.

Steps of Positive Discipline : A Grocery Store Example

Mother and daughter shopping in supermarket

Before the discipline, here’s a link to a previous post about ways to enjoy grocery shopping with your kids by age: https://parentingbydrrene.com/2013/06/02/successful-grocery-shopping-with-children/

Discipline Scenario: Your three-year-old wants to walk at the grocery store, but repeatedly pulls things off the shelf onto the floor.

Proactive discipline techniques:

  • Positive directions – This is a reminder to tell your children what you want them to do rather than telling them what you want them to stop doing. In other words, avoid giving directions that start with “no,” “don’t,” and “stop.” Instead of saying, “don’t take that off the shelf,” or, “stop taking food off the shelves,” you should say, “leave that on the shelf,” or, “the food stays on the shelf.” Even, “keep your hands down by your sides,” would work better than, “don’t do that.”
  • Descriptive praise – When the child follows your directions even down the length of one aisle, say something like, “you left everything on the shelf, that was helpful,” or, “you are really listening to directions, that can be tough to do.”

Steps of positive discipline

  • I messages – I messages are for sharing your emotions as needed, and then lay blame on the situation or the behavior, not the child. In this case it might sound like, “I am upset, this is a mess,” or, “I am worried something, might break,” or, “I am frustrated, this is taking too long.”
  • Empathy – Empathy is validating the child’s emotions in the moment, even if you disagree with the emotion itself. This might sound like, “I know you’re bored being at the store,” or, “I know you’re excited to be at the store!”
  • Positive Intent – Positive Intent is recognizing the good reason behind the behavior. For the grocery store, this could be, “I know you want to help with the shopping.”
  • Choices – Choices offer the child two positive ways to do the thing you want them to do. If you want your child to leave things on the shelf at the grocery store, this might sound like, “do you want to ride on the cart or help push the cart?” or, “do you want to carry the cereal or the crackers while we walk?”  **Choices, challenges and contribution are interchangeable at this step of the discipline process.
  • Challenges – Challenges attempt to change behaviors by making it a game, a race or  just by making it fun. On one aisle this might be, “can you walk heel-toe, heel-toe all the ways to the end?” and on the next aisle, “can you find three cereals that start with the letter C?”
  • Contribution – Contribution is giving children jobs to engage them in a positive way. In the grocery store this might be, “I need a cart pusher,” or, “would you be in charge of crossing things off the list?”
  • Natural Consequence – Natural consequences are what might happen if the child continues the behavior. In this case, “if you are pulling things off the shelf, something might break,” or, “you might get hurt.”
  • Logical Positive Consequence – Logical positive consequences are the good related outcome for finding the good behavior. In the grocery store, “if you can leave things on the shelf while we walk, you can pick the cereal,” or, “you can help with the scanner.”
  • Logical Negative Consequence – Logical negative consequences are the bad related outcome for continuing the bad behavior. In the grocery store, “if you pull things off the shelf, you will have to hold my hand,” or, “you will have to ride in the cart.”

For more examples of the steps of positive discipline, here’s a link to similar previous posts: https://parentingbydrrene.com/?s=steps

 

Difficult Diaper Changes?

Dear Dr. Rene,

I am the mother of twin (Boy and Girl) 20-month-olds. Since about the age of eight months, changing diapers and clothes has been very difficult. Both children move about during this process, which is normal, but they really scream and fight, and they are really strong, and I have a really difficult time changing diapers and clothes. I have tried giving them toys and little things as distractions, but that works for one day and then they are no longer interested. This also affects their childcare provider and she complains to me about how difficult it is.

Help!

I remember these difficult moments well.

There are lots of ideas for things to try. The answer is to try each, see how it goes, and use it as long as it lasts.

  • Before you start, be sure you have all your supplies gathered and ready to go.
  • When you know they need a change, set a timer for one minute and say, “when the timer rings, it is time to change your diaper.” For some children, this works surprisingly well. It takes you out of the argument.
  • In calm, firm language remind them to, “lay down,” and, “stay still.”
  • Some parents suggest that if laying down is the difficult part, try changing them standing up. I have heard of parents that have them stand in the bathtub or just on the outside of it holding onto the edge. Others suggest that the child leans against a wall. I did this just once and thought it was a nightmare, but others swear by it. My guess is this is a controversial approach. Maybe we needed more practice.
  • Provide distractions such as small toys or books. Better yet take a small bag and gather interesting objects from around the house. Go for things that your child doesn’t often see or have access to such as a kitchen whisk, a sand timer, small calculator, clean sponge or toe separators. Stash this bag next to your diaper changing area. When it’s time to change a diaper, hand the child one thing from the bag, lay them down and change them as fast as you can. When the change is over, the object goes right back in the bag. Rotate through items overtime.
  • You might give them related jobs as a distraction. This means making them the wipe holder or the diaper folder.
  • You might spend a few minutes before each diaper change giving a doll baby a diaper change together. Talk about how the baby is still and lays down. After each time, thank the doll baby for being cooperative.
  • You might distract them by singing a familiar song with lots of expression or a song with movements. Once you start the song, continue to sing as you change their diaper.
  • You might distract them with interactive word play like, “where’s your nose?” and, “where’s your ears?”
  • When they do cooperate, even if it’s only through distraction, be sure to give descriptive praise. This means to describe their behavior and label such as, “you were so still for a diaper, that was helpful!” To learn more about descriptive praise view: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rn2Ddh16xIY.

I hope something on this list is helpful.

Please comment below if you have other helpful ideas!

Sincerely, Dr. Rene

Introducing Chores

If you are thinking about introducing chores to your children, it is best to start with the idea of contribution. Contribution is giving kids jobs throughout the day and expecting them to help just because they are part of the family. For two year olds, this may be helping find socks when you do laundry. For five year olds, this may be folding napkins and buttering rolls when you are making dinner. For a full description of contribution, please visit https://parentingbydrrene.com/2012/10/12/contribution-getting-kids-to-help/.

Once contribution is well established, you can introduce chores children do because they are part of the family. These are daily chores, and things they are capable of doing. For a three year old, this might be getting their clothes in the hamper. For a five year old, this might be carrying plates to the sink after dinner. When you start daily chores, it is helpful to introduce a chart for them to track their progress. Be sure you also occasionally give descriptive praise, saying things like, “you cleared the table, that was helpful!”

Once the family chores are being consistently taken care of, you can introduce chores for allowance. If and when you do this, be sure to continue with contribution and chores they do because they are part of the family. If you only have them doing chores for allowance, you won’t be able to get their help in other ways unless you pay them. In the beginning, these should also be things they can do independently, and things that are done daily. It’s good to continue the chart that has a chore or two because they are family, and add the chore or two they do to earn allowance. In the beginning, help them to get through and be sure they earn their allowance.

From the beginning, it is good to help them divide their money into spending, saving and charity money. The spending is money they can carry with them to the store and spend on little things, or they can put it towards the bigger things they are saving for. In the beginning, saving money is for something big they’d like to buy. As they are older this money can be towards a car or towards college expenses. The charity money is to set aside for the penny drive at school or for the Sunday school offering plate.

As they get older, you can introduce optional chores or a list of ways they can earn additional money. They can also start to do small jobs for trusted neighbors such as walking their dogs or carrying in their mail.

You might also read: https://parentingbydrrene.com/2011/12/05/chores-by-age/ or https://parentingbydrrene.com/2011/12/04/chores-for-earning-allowance/

Other ideas? Please suggest them below!

Tips to Enjoy Eating Out with Children

Family eating together in a restaurant

I have always loved eating out with the kids. Yes, there have been stressful times as Alicen threw up a LOT when she was two and three years old. And yes, occasionally we’ve had to cut things short over behavior or exhaustion. That said, eating out can be a very pleasant experience with children at any age.

There are several basic things to consider when choosing a restaurant with young children.

  • Kid friendly – Some children need more practice than others at learning to speak quietly and sit at a table. The idea is to start at very kid friendly restaurants. With little ones, we go to restaurants like Chili’s where it is okay if they are occasionally loud.
  • Kids’ menu – It may be helpful to check out menus online or to call ahead and ask about menu options. The best kid’s menus we’ve seen are at Legal Seafood and Firefly. Other times we just order them extra plates, and then split off our own.
  • Things to do – It can be so helpful when a restaurant offers some activities. Bertucci’s offers kids dough to play with, Macaroni Grill lets them draw on the paper table cloth and Cracker Barrel has the peg game and five page coloring book menus.
  • Things to look at –  In our area, Mango Mikes has a huge fish tank that children can see from the dining room or up close if their parents walk them near the bar. The National Gallery of Art Cascade Café has a waterfall outside a picture window to look at and moving walkway for something to do. The Rainforest Café has an amazing amount to look at.
  • Kids’ area –  Some restaurants go as far as having a kids’ area. This can be a play area like at IKEA or Generous George’s, or a seating area like at Paradiso. Paradiso has a kids’ room where children sit at small picnic table and eat while watching Disney movies on a big screen TV while parents have a nice meal in the next room. While this defeats the social piece and learning to sit with parents, it’s another fun option.
  • Kids’ trinkets – Mango Mikes has a wall full of party favor type toys for children to pick from. Stardust gave little plastic figures on their drinks. We grew a collection of their mermaids and elephants.
  • Plan to walk around – Sitting through the meal itself can be a long stretch for little ones. If you go in planning to walk around the restaurant or even outside with them once before and once after the meal, it may help them to sit longer and make the experience less frustrating.

Activity bag – It can be helpful to carry a “restaurant bag” in your car at all times. This is a bag that has small notebooks and pencils, stickers, small Playdoh and a few party-favor toys. This bag only comes out once menu items have been chosen, goes away when the food comes and can be available again once they eat. The trick is to not have it available at other times like when you are stuck in traffic. If they get to play with it other times, it likely won’t hold their attention in the restaurant.

Conversation WITH them – This is probably the most important point, spend your time speaking with your children. At any age, include them in the conversation. Ask them questions and share your time. Teach them that meals are a pleasant and social time.

Contribution during – Contribution in general is giving children jobs related to a transition or other daily function. At home, this includes them matching cups to lids or taking drink orders when you are making dinner. At a restaurant, this might include them folding and refolding napkins, buttering rolls, passing food or putting food on a fork for you.

Sit at a booth – If your kids are often up and down from the table, a booth might be helpful so you can box them in.

Sit outside – If it’s available, sitting outside tends to give kids lots to look at and others may be more forgiving of noise.

Plan dinner on the early side – Eating late, children are more likely to be tired and hungry which is a recipe for disaster. It’s better to go early when everyone is fresh.

Successful Grocery Shopping with Children

Grocery shopping with children can be quite a task. It takes a while to get through the store, there are lots of temptations and distractions at their level and most times, not a lot of fun. There are several ways to increase the likelihood of a successful shopping trip.

The first line of defense is getting organized. Shop at the same store each time and build your list around the store layout. You might bring a snack along for your child or open a box of cereal or crackers that you plan to buy. An available snack might curb repeatedly asking for other foods.

The second is to have a way to contain them as needed. Of course this is for the little ones and includes a baby seat, a seat belt, space in the big cart or a drivers seat in the car carts.

The third way is to engage your children. Give them jobs and include them in the shopping process. Here is a list of several ways they can help by age:

One and Two Year Olds

  • Okay, this age is probably too young to really be helpful, but for sure the grocery store provides a wealth of conversation starters and chances to encourage early speech. You can label the fruits and vegetables, discuss colors, and talk about cold vs. hot in various areas.

Three and Four Years Olds

  • Children this age can start to make choices about which cereal or ice cream to pick.  At this little age, it’s best to give them a choice of two per decision.
  • They can count (with you and then independently) the number of apples into the bag or soup cans into the cart.
  • They can find rhymes such as a fruit that rhymes with “bapples.”
  • They can find flavors of yogurt based on the pictures.

Five, Six and Seven Year Olds

  • As they are learning to read and write, children may be excited to help write, find and cross off the items on the list.
  • They can weigh fruits and vegetables.
  • They can help load and unload the cart.
  • They can play Eye Spy to find foods on the list. You might describe, “I spy a fruit that is round and crispy, red, shiny and has a stem,” for apples or, “I spy a blue box with a happy tiger on the front,” for Frosted Flakes.

Eight, Nine and Ten Year Olds

  • As they are a bit older, children might be interested in learning about nutrition labels.
  • As math skills increase, they may be able to calculate the cost of fruits and vegetables by weight.
  • They can manage the hand-held scanner if it’s available.
  • They can push the cart.
  • They can manage the coupons.

Older Kids

  • To practice additional math skills, children can learn to comparison shop by comparing price per weight of different sizes. They can keep a tally of the total and calculate coupons and taxes.
  • As you are comfortable, they can find items scattered across the store and bring them one at a time to the cart, OR take half the list and a second cart and meet you in the middle.
  • Older kids might bring recipes they’d like to make and shop for them along side you.

At any age, give descriptive praise when they are successful. Say things like, “you got the apples in the bag, that was helpful!” or, “thanks for pushing the cart.” Please add your own ideas for getting through the grocery store below!

The “No” Phase

Dear Dr. Rene,

My daughter -who is three years old- has displayed a strong character since her first months. Now we are in the ‘no’ phase, anything whatsoever gets the ‘no’ response even if a few minutes later she decides to do/say what I’ve asked of her. How do I get her to become more cooperative, without threatening the independence of her character?

Sincerely, Jessica

Dear Jessica,

Believe it or not, this is a typical and healthy phase. Two and young three year olds often go through a phase of saying “no” all day long. I remember Claire saying “no” to ice cream because I picked the flavor, and a minute later she reached happily for the bowl. Often around this time they are also driven to do the opposite, you say “up” so they say “down,” and often test your commitment to it being up. The “no” and the push for the opposite are a part of her developing a sense of self. She is realizing self is separate from others, that she can form and share her own opinion, and that there is a bit of power in testing limits. This is also a good thing, I want children to find their voice and learn to speak their opinion.

Only ask yes/no questions if “no” is an acceptable response. Avoid saying, “are you ready for dinner?” when you really mean, “it is dinnertime, come to the table now please.” If you ask a yes/no question, be ready to live with either answer. If “no” is unacceptable, rephrase your question.

If “no” is an acceptable answer, let her know this. If you ask, “would you like to sit here?” and she says “no.” I would say “okay, where would you like to sit.” If “no” is unacceptable, you might rephrase this as a choice, “would you like to sit here or here for lunch,” or you might offer a contribution, “I need someone to put a napkin on each plate,” as you hand them or offer a challenge, “let’s race to the table,” or just a distraction, “I am an elephant stomping to the table, are you a big elephant too?” Sounds silly, I know but remember you are talking to a three-year-old.

Let’s take a harder one, say you are making a request but not asking. You say, “it’s time to clean up now, come help me,” and you get a, “no.” I would start by hearing her, “I know you don’t want to right now, it’s time to clean.” or, “you really are having fun playing, it’s hard to put it away and it’s time.” Then you might offer a choice, a challenge or a contribution.

There is also great benefit in not repeating yourself when you ask her to do something.  Here is a link to our blog post on not repeating yourself: https://parentingbydrrene.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/want-kids-to-listen-stop-repeating-yourself/

Here is a link to our blog post on choices: https://parentingbydrrene.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/how-choices-work-in-positive-discipline/

And a link to our blog post on contribution: https://parentingbydrrene.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/contribution-getting-kids-to-help/

Contribution – Getting Kids to Help

Contribution is getting children involved in the process of daily living. It is giving them jobs, so they can be productively engaged. When children are participating in family function, there is less need for discipline. This is very much in line with the Montessori philosophy. In a Montessori classroom, children are preparing snack, serving snack and cleaning up the snack area, even at two years old. There is little misbehavior around snacktime because it is their job, they take pride in it. The are fully engaged in positive behavior, so there is less time for the negative.

Starting at two years old, I think children should be contributing at home throughout the day. If you are folding laundry, they can be matching socks. If you are preparing a meal, they can be matching cups to lids or taking drink orders. Older children, who are buttering rolls or serving green beans, bypass the time for arguing, video games and to complain about what’s for dinner. You avoid the need for discipline by making them part of the process.

In the classroom, if my teachers are getting art supplies ready for the next day, there should be children helping them. They might be helping pour paint or matching papers. Yes, this takes longer and can be more of a mess, but the next day those helper children are a little more excited to be there.

Go wide with how they help. Setting the table every night for dinner sounds like more of a chore (I like chores and chores for allowance, but this is something different). Contribution includes drawing placemats, writing menus, folding napkins and serving food. Shake it up by suggesting different ways to contribute each day.

When they do contribute, take the help however it comes. Resist the urge to correct their helpfulness. Let’s say you have been working for a week with your six-year-old on how to make their bed. One morning they come to you excitedly and say, “mommy, I made my bed without you!” When you go to see it, find something nice to say about that bed. Even if it’s not what you’d hoped for, say something like, “this corner is so straight!” and leave the bed. If you take this moment to correct, or you wait til they go to school to remake the bed, you are squashing their contribution. It’s better to wait until the next morning and catch them before they make it to reteach.

Contribution teaches life skills, builds intrinsic motivation, and creates a sense of belonging and community.

For more on chores and allowance please read: https://parentingbydrrene.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/chores-by-age/ and https://parentingbydrrene.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/chores-for-earning-allowance/.

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