Friday, July 31, 2009

Teaching Children to Help

"After the verb "To Love,' 'To Help' is the most beautiful verb in the world," says Bertha Von Suttner.

We have been discussing teaching children to respect their material possessions. A great way to teach children to value money and their possessions is to give children chores and an allowance to earn for doing chores. More importantly, the work will lead to a sense of pride for being helpful as well.

In March 2009 nannies and au pairs shared what chores their charges are responsible for, click here to see the results.

In her book 365 Way to Raise Great Kids, Sheila Ellison recommends using chores as a way to teach children respect of belongings and to create an attitude of helpfulness in children. She explains, "Each day the list of things to be done to keep the household functioning is endless. An attitude of helpfulness creates a feeling of togetherness within the family as everyone works toward common goals."

Here are some of Ms. Ellison's activities to help teach children to respect valuables and earn an attitude of helpfulness:

Children need to be taught new responsibilities when ready and able. A two-year-old may not be able to make her bed, but a 10-year-old certainly can be expected to make his bed. Observe the children taking notice what they are capable of and who well they accomplish tasks. For each child, think of a new responsibility they are to learn, or a chore they are already doing consistently. Be willing to be patient and commit time each day to help teach children the new task. Then reward with the allowance agreed upon by the parents. Don't forget that praise is the best reward.

Rather than telling the children each day what chores you would like them to do, make a chore chart. The chart should have the days of the week across the top of the paper, and the chores to be done down the side. On each day, put the first initial of the person's name who will be doing that chore. This is a good way to make sure that chores are equally distributed. It also puts the responsibility on the child to look at the chart and make sure they have done their jobs. You may want to have a check-off system at the end of each day to make sure all the chores were done.

A fun way to make children feel they are choosing their chores is to put up a "Help Wanted" bulletin board in the house. Write advertisements for the jobs you need done: "Looking for someone strong to help me move some books," "If you have a green thumb, answer this ad for weed pulling," "Window washer needed, apply to nanny." You can either write the amount to be paid for each job wanted advertisement or you could require each child to answer a certain number of ads each week.

Sometimes we should reward children without using money. Check out our article from February 4, 2009 where we list great ways to reward children without using money.

In January 2009 we posted a creative idea about using poker chips instead of money to reward children. Click here to see that article.

What chores are your charges responsible for? Do you use a system to reward children for being helpful?


Anonymous said...

We use a sticker chart. Parents reward the kids with money after they add up the stars.

Jake said...

I've been working really hard over the past few months on a website called called PowrHouse ( If your kids are old enough to use e-mail, you should check it out.

It's currently in beta, but it works well (we're using it in our household). You add everyone you live with (kids, spouses, roommates, etc.), add your chores (names and how often they should be done), and PowrHouse keeps track of whose turn it is to do each chore (and sends email reminders every night, with links to click to signal that you've done the chores).

If you do end up using it, please contact me (my info is on the site) and let me know what you think, as I'm trying to make it as useful to all types of households as possible. If not, thanks at least for reading this far :)