Toddlers and chores: Teaching responsibility

Children are meant to be loved greatly, and a good parent knows how easy it is to spoil a child, even if a little, in an effort to show that love.

The problem is every parent wants to give their child a sound foundation to be strong, happy, productive adults and it’s not very empowering when a parent does everything for the child. That is why teaching them responsibility through things like chores is so important.

As soon as a child starts crawling, they’re eager to learn about everything. They watch their parents; what their parents do and how they do it, and they mimic. Why not allow them to?

An important step to encouraging your children to do chores is to start young, make it fun, but also make it clear that each task is important.

How do you integrate chores into your toddlers’ lives to teach them responsibility?

-Let them know that their tasks are important, that everyone in the family does their part to keep things running smoothly. Explain to them how everyone pitches in.

-When you decide which chores are suitable for your toddler, show them how to do that chore. The easiest (and most common) “first chore” is having them clean their room.

Depending on how much stuff they have, you probably already have a system that you use to clean their room, so teach it to them, one step at a time, and try to make it fun. You may need to help them the first couple of times, but cleaning a room is usually fairly easy and most little ones pick up on it quickly.

-Only teach them one chore at a time, at least to begin with. If you throw too much at them at once, they can either get confused or discouraged, so it’s better to keep it simple. You can add more chores as they get older and master the ones they already do proficiently.

-Set up a reward system. This can be a tricky one. You don’t really want to bribe them, but always make sure they get a positive reaction for doing their chore. This may be a good time to introduce an allowance, or reward them with extra play time or their choice of a family game. The sky is the limit on rewards, be creative!

-Don’t nag them to do the chore. The point is to teach them responsibility, and you take the responsibility away from them and put it on yourself if you’re constantly reminding them.

Instead, remind them gently once or twice. especially if they are very young, and come up with suitable “consequences” for them not doing their chore. For instance, if they leave a toy in the floor that was supposed to be put away, put that toy away for a day or two. Explain to them that since they didn’t put it away and you had to, they don’t get to play with it for a couple days.

-Don’t do the chore if they forget or won’t do it. If you do it for them, they don’t learn anything from the situation except that if they don’t do their chore, someone else will. Instead, apply the “consequences”.

Above all, praise them. Even if they’ve mastered the chore and have been doing it for a while, let them know they’ve done a good job and that you appreciate their effort. After a while, they’ll get the idea that each task in a household is important, and you may not even have to assign certain tasks for them to do. 

When an entire household works together, everyone wins.