Friday, May 4, 2012

Little Helper

Let me preface this by saying that I am not the perfect parent. But every so often I am pleasantly surprised to learn that my effort has paid off and I am doing something correctly.

I am a big proponent of having children be responsible for a growing list of chores as they get older. When I was a child I was always helping fold laundry, attempting to clean my room (typically not well) and I traded off with my sister on responsibility for sweeping the floor and doing the dishes after dinner each night. All of this was before the days of high school when we were forever gone from the house involved in various activities.

I've heard many parents say that they struggle to get things done around the house after working all day because they have to entertain their children. On the other side of things (and I've been guilty of this myself, especially during baseball season) you put your child, whom you have not seen all day, in front of the television so that you can put in a load of laundry, go to the bathroom and get dinner started. The few times I've fallen back on this strategy is has just hurt my heart so I try to avoid it at all costs.

The solution? Create a little helper. Children are helpers by nature. They are imitators and strive to please their parents. If you praise your child rather than scold them when they "help" and unfold rather than fold the laundry you will begin to build something in them. You will make them more prone to help. You will encourage them to try and not be afraid of failure. Over the last year I've spent quite a lot of time cleaning up Whit's messes when he has been "helping." There was the flour incident when our pizza making became 6 cups of flour all over the kitchen floor (some of which is still hanging around).

There were a few months this winter when folding laundry became throw Daddy's folded shirts all over the living room and dirty laundry rather than clean was winding up in the dryer.
Currently sweeping involves running a broom as fast as possible through Mama's dirt pile so that she has to start all over and washing dishes typically puts more water on the floor than in the sink (hey, at least I don't have to mop!)
We are still working on the concept that weeding the garden involves digging up the weeds, not climbing on the flowers.

Sometimes Whit's helping is easier to accept. It's adorable to watch as Whit follows Daddy around the yard with his toy mower every weekend or pretends to help vacuum (complete with whirring noises). He has quickly figured out how to water the "peppa" plants (even if he misses as many times as he hits the plants).

Throughout all of this I continue to tell Whit what a good helper he is to reinforce this behavior. Consequently, I am not surprised when I am unloading the dishwasher and he grabs a handful of silverware and tosses it haphazardly into the silverware drawer. I simply say "Thank you Whit, you are such a good helper!" And he beams at me and toddles right on about his business. It is my hope that we can continue this trend of helping. I love that Whit puts his books back on the shelf when he is finished reading them and that he brings me Daddy's empty glasses and dirty plates from the living room. Yes, it requires a little more effort now, but when Whit is 10 and I put "unload the dishwasher" on his chore list he should do it quickly, correctly, and with little or no complaint. Why? Because helping is FUN! And helping gets you praise and kisses!

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