Lisa Skinner believes that getting her children to help around the house gives them a great start in life and suggests you try it too.
I’m a mum of four, I’m also a professional organiser, I admit the latter role may have come about largely because of the former one. In the course of my work, I frequently encourage parents to involve their children in the decluttering and organising process, the reason being that when children are given ownership over a task they usually continue to feel some sort of responsibility for that job/space.
I believe that when it comes to our children our role as parents is to try, as best we can, to equip them for life and life involves work. Even before the fall humans had work to do (Genesis 2:15) so work is not a result of sin and as such it should not be viewed in a negative way. Humans were created to work. Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful, to multiply and to subdue the earth – they were to produce offspring and in turn teach them to work and subdue all creation. Just as God had done in his week of creation, his image bearers were to work at turning chaos into order. If this is the mandate of our heavenly Father, that we are to engage in work, then surely that is what we should desire for and encourage in our own children.
The book of Proverbs also tells us that we should train up a child in the way they should go and even when they are old they will not depart from it (22:6). Part of that wisdom involves teaching them to work, at whatever they’re doing, as though they are working for the Lord rather than for people (Colossians 3:23).
When we invite children to partner with us in the work we do around the house, we are not only arming them with life skills but we’re also cultivating a servant heart in them. We are helping them to understand, from a young age, what it means to serve others. God in the flesh, Jesus, took on the role of a servant, he fed thousands of people, he healed the sick, he washed his disciples’ feet, he died on a cross in our place. Jesus also said that after loving God the second greatest commandment was to love our neighbour as ourselves and loving others is often demonstrated through service. Countless times in the New Testament we are told by the Apostles that believers should serve one another - this is part of what it means to be a Christian, we are to reflect Christ in this way.
Making it fun
We can start to teach our children how to help about the house from a young age, setting age-appropriate tasks for them and creating fun ways of fulfilling those tasks. One suggestion is to play a game of snap with the socks from the laundry bin that need to be sorted. Alternatively, you could set timed clutter challenges, do a scavenger hunt for items to be returned to bedrooms, create a personalised cleaning caddy for each child or play their favourite tunes while tidying/cleaning together.
Have some fun, make it the positive thing it was intended to be and build it in to the quality time you spend together. You may want to create a reward chart for the chores to be done, including a bonus if all of the tasks are completed within a set time. Our oldest child is now in Secondary School and the amount of pocket money required has somewhat increased, so we now pay her for certain chores that require more effort.
Remember to praise your children when they do well with helping you in the house, and exercise patience when it takes them a while to get the hang of the task you’ve asked them to do. As a self-confessed perfectionist it took me a while to relinquish some of the ironing duties to my 12-year-old daughter. Despite her desire to help and earn some extra pocket money I worried that the job wouldn’t be done to my standards. I knew I had to get over my unrealistic expectations and so I started her off with the small, basic items and from there she has graduated to shirts and trousers. It still may not be the way I would do it but the pile of ironing is shared, she is improving with each job and she knows that her contribution is valued which in turn is good for her self-esteem.
It does us all good to remember that work, whatever it may be, can be an act of worship to God and so in teaching our children to work we present them with another means of praising and glorifying our God.