As parents, we are so crammed with our workload around the house, and we may fail to take the time to delegate chores, to teach "helping" skills to our children. We find it easier to do the job ourselves rather than spare the time and energy it takes to teach our children to do it. But if we wait until we're pushed to the wall, i.e. those tense moments before guests are due to arrive, we end up barking out the order and demanding the kids help now.

It is important to teach our children to help and share the workload. It is our job to teach them to be givers. Not only will the child's sense of accomplishment do wonders for their self-image and give them confidence to build even more skills, they will also benefit by learning hakarat hatov, to return kindness. They will learn that they are not the center of the universe, that not everything is due to them, and it'll allow you the opportunity to spend quality time together. By training your kids to help, both parties benefit.

Try to curb perfectionist tendencies and be realistic with expectation… as the well-known adage goes, "Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing." Instead, focus on creating an environment where children are happy to cooperate and ready to help. Try these suggestions from parents and experts to work out a plan.

  • Involve them. If children feel involved, they care enough to want to help you. When we are involved in each other's lives, we become a team and move forward together. They care and respect your need that the home be organized. When they are asked for advice and throw in their two cents, they are self-motivated to take up their own ideas.
  • Start them young. Since young children are not so efficient, parents often tend to discourage them. Though it is never too late to begin teaching children household jobs, it's easiest when you can capitalize on their natural eagerness to imitate you. Keep a schedule. A regular job and a routine time to do chores avoid fresh arguments from arising each time they're asked to help.
  • Request their help rather than demanding by asking, "Who is available to help?" This way they experience the pleasure of giving, instead of feeling forced.
  • Give choices. Choices make most tasks more palatable. You pick one; I'll do the other. Keep choices simple and generally not more than two for very young children.
  • Decide exactly what you want done. Does "take out the trash" refer to every wastebasket in the house or just in the kitchen? Does it include lining the basket with a new bag? Demonstrate what you expect and watch while your child does it the first few times.
  • Shower them with encouragement. Children need lots of positive strokes. Remember that encouraging even their smallest accomplishment will go a long way in helping them hone their skills.
  • Don't take anything for granted. Don't assume a child knows how to do something, even if she watches you all the time. Likewise, don't assume that once you have explained the task the child is able to do it alone. Work nearby so you are available for consultation.
  • Do not redo a child's work. Resist the temptation to smooth out the wrinkles on your child's bed after she made it. They might learn to believe that it doesn't really matter what they do and how they do it. You will end up training them that if they do it wrong, you'll fix it.
  • Teach efficiency, i.e. making one trip to the bedroom carrying four items instead of four trips carrying one item.