7 Tips for Teaching Gratitude and Thankfulness During the Holidays

What better time to discuss thankfulness and gratitude than during the holidays? With four young ones to raise, I’m constantly worried that I’m raising unappreciative brats! Not that my kids aren’t well-behaved and courteous in public, because they are. But at home, it’s another story. There is a streak of entitlement running rampant and I want to nip that in the bud!

Thankfulness During the Holidays

My mom’s group at church recently discussed how to raise grateful children and it got my wheels turning. Am I doing enough with my four kids to teach them gratitude and thankfulness? And what about good manners? Don’t those go hand in hand? Of course saying, “Thank you” is important, but I think that true gratitude goes beyond good manners. And with the season of giving, there are so many beautiful ways to foster a feeling of gratitude. Here are a few key thoughts I have about teaching gratitude and thankfulness, especially during the holidays.

Please note that I use affiliate links in my post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

1. Age Matters

Naturally I expect the best manners from my teenagers. And of course, my six year old knows how to properly behave…for his age. But I wouldn’t expect the same behavior from my toddler that I do from my kindergartner! Discuss with your partner ahead of time what behaviors you each expect from your children, with consideration for their ages.

This starts with teaching “please” and “thank you” from a young age. If your toddler receives a treat from someone, you can speak on their behalf to offer the “thank you”. Or if they are able to speak, remind them to say it themselves.

Elementary aged children can be expected to offer thanks without prompting. That doesn’t mean they don’t sometimes get wrapped up in the moment and forget though! Elementary aged kids do love to give, so make sure they have the opportunity to create something special for someone over the holiday (like a hand-drawn card).

Older children can show their gratitude in larger ways, both verbally and in physical action. Older kids and teens are able to think outside of their own small world and will often come up with their own ideas during the holidays. This may include donating their time volunteering.


2. Laying Out Expectations

Before we head out for a holiday-themed event, I run through my expectations for each child. When kids know what is expected of them, it’s easier for them to know their boundaries. I tailor topics to each specific child, depending upon their age and abilities.

Discussions might include:

  • Encouraging them to remember their manners during a holiday dinner when they are a guest (not wiggling at the table, using a napkin, etc.)
  • Chatting with the adult party hosts for a few minutes to say thank you for the invitation before running off to play.
  • Not whining about what foods they don’t like at the party.
  • Helping to clear their plate.
  • Offering to help the host to clean up.
  • Not asking for seconds of dessert, at least not until everyone else has had a first serving.
  • Saying “Thank you for inviting me” when leaving.

3. “I Want”

I told my mom’s group that I was having some issues with my six year old acting entitled to certain things around our house. Seems like the holidays brings out the sassy attitude even more! And what can we expect, when we ask our kids, “What do you want for Christmas?” With the focus on getting stuff so heavy during the holidays, young children can really get wrapped up in what they “want” and not what they can do for others.

Instead of asking the kids what THEY want to receive for Christmas, I’m twisting things a bit. I’ve been asking them what they think their siblings would like to receive. Instead of focusing on what they’re going to get, I can see that my kids are more excited to be involved in making decisions and helping choose gifts for others. We’re taking it one step further by making gifts instead of buying (easy things, like laminated bookmarks).

4. Role-Playing

What’s more cringe-worthy than a kid who receives a gift and says, “I hate this”. How embarrassing. And of course, hurtful to the person who gave the gift.

In our house, we do a lot of role-playing before parties and gatherings. It’s good practice for kids and a reminder of your expectations. Ideas for role-play is to ask, “What would you say if you received a gift that you didn’t like?” or “What if you received a gift that you already have?”

My son celebrated his sixth birthday recently and we did some role-play on the way to his play date birthday party. I asked him, “What if someone gives you underwear?!” His response was, “Thanks for the undies!”

So yes, the correct and easiest answer is always, “Thank you for the _____!” Even if you don’t like it. Even if you already have it. Even if it’s a weird present. Thank you is always the right comment to make.

5. Volunteer and Give

There are always going to be a lot of ways to volunteer your time during the holidays. Places like churches need extra help in the kid care area, which is usually something that teens can help with. Younger kids can assist with bagging up canned goods in a food bank.

There are also organizations that accept special items for donation during this season. When we donated food to our local food bank, I made sure that my 6 year old knew we were giving and explained where the food was going. He was so excited to tell everyone how many items he’d donated! We also made up boxes for Samaritan’s Purse this year. He helped me choose the items for the two boxes we filled and went with me when we dropped them off. He was able to see how grateful the volunteers were when we came with our donations and they prayed with us over the boxes. It was something he’s not forgotten and I know that it had a big impact on him.

6. Take the Focus Off Stuff

If you sense your kids are too focused on the stuff this holiday season, find ways to move the focus on experiences rather than things. That’s really what the holiday is, spending time with family and making memories. Things like baking and decorating cookies, watching a Christmas movie on TV, walking through the neighborhood to see decorations and singing along to songs on the radio are favorite ways to celebrate without spending a lot!

7. Keep It Simple

Figure out what things are most important to you and your family. From there you can decide what to do and what to skip this holiday. I find that when I try to cram too much good stuff into the season, it becomes not only stressful for me, it’s hard on the kids. And when the kids are having a rough time, it tends to come out in crabby behavior. And then we start to think, “Ungrateful brats!”

Be sure to work in plenty of downtime between holiday celebrations. Pick and choose only what you most love about the holidays and do those things. Don’t feel guilty about skipping over other things. Perhaps you can alternate years? Do what brings you and your family the most joy, incorporating gratefulness and thankfulness about being together!

Fed up with "ungrateful brats" during the holidays? These 7 practical tips can help teach you children about thankfulness during the holidays.


The Day I Gave Up Caring What My Kids Looked Like

Since day one with my eldest boy, I’ve cared about appearance. If he spit up on his onesie, it didn’t matter if there was nobody else home – I’d change his clothes. I didn’t spend a fortune on outfits or anything, but I always wanted him to look cute. Fortunately he’d wear whatever I bought for him and enjoyed being stylish. He rocked newsboy caps and coordinating Chuck Taylors. He had style and I loved showing him off.

Then my second son came and it was more of the same. Precious coordinating outfits down to the matching underwear and socks. Such a cutie-pie and a personality to match. I loved getting compliments on my boys, especially when they wore matching outfits. Weren’t they adorable?!

Ahhh, coordinating outfits! This makes my Type-A heart sing 🙂

I also have a stepdaughter. Up until about 2 years ago, I chose her outfits for her, buying the cutest things with coordinating accessories. Each morning without fail I’d do up her hair in elaborate styles with braids and bows. I loved seeing her dolled up and hearing the compliments on how pretty she looked.

Enter my baby daughter. She’s currently 19 months old and I’ve been so fortunate to receive a plethora of cuter-then-cute hand-me-downs. She loves to dress up too. After I’ve gotten her dressed in the morning and fixed her hair up into a bow, she checks herself out in the mirror and squeals with delight! She never pulls her bows out, not since she was a tiny baby. Naturally I absolutely adore dressing her up in sweet outfits and hearing all the buzz from passersby about how adorable she is.

I mean, come on…this outfit and that pose!! She’s a natural!

Letting Them Pick

Okay, so my eldest is now almost 14. My stepdaughter is 13. And my middle son is about to turn 6. Of course, though I’m still in charge of purchasing their clothes I’m beyond the point of being able to pick and choose their daily outfits (maybe Christmas outfits, being the exception!) These three big kids choose what they’re going to wear. And that’s both a good and bad thing. And I had the HARDEST time letting it go.

I started getting push back from my eldest, wanting to wear only basketball shorts and everything in black. He’s since added in more color to his wardrobe, but it’s still all pretty much basketball clothes. And the shirt that he wore on his kindergarten t-ball team? He only stopped wearing it last year – people, he was 12!! He has finally passed it down to his little brother (despite that it has older brother’s name silk screened on the back)..

Stepdaughter started asking if she could choose her own outfits and I obliged. At first it was cringe-worthy, the patterns and styles that came out of the bedroom in the morning. I sent her back to her room a lot to swap out either the top or the pants, because I just couldn’t let her walk out of the house wearing an orange striped shirt with red jeans, could I? I still did up her hair for a while though, until she took that over too, not wanting braids or bows any longer. Hair is usually pulled back sloppily into a regular ponytail.

Second son is probably the most eclectic of all. He’s incredibly creative and at 4, started resisting to the outfits I’d chosen. He now regularly walks out for the day wearing sweatpants, a tank top and knee socks pulled over the hem of the pants.

The Day I Gave Up Caring

I was going through a drawer filled with pictures at my mom’s house. The kids and I were giggling over the old photos, in particular the ones with the 1980s version of mommy. I was rockin’ copious amounts of blue eye shadow behind my enormous pink glasses. Permed hair with wild bangs that I never could get ratted up quite right. And the outfits. What’s funny is I know that I dressed even more wildly, there is just no photographic evidence. My wise mother didn’t capture those over-the-top moments when I was wearing four ponytails, layered socks and two skirts (yes, I remember layering a short skirt over a long one!) I certainly did dress funky, even though my excuse is that it was the 80s. Each outfit was my own personal style.

Not terrible but I am wearing a white sailor hat (why?!)

And then it hit me – I was stifling my kids from having their own personal style.

In not letting my kids wear what was their personal style, I was really putting a damper on letting them grow and develop into the unique person that God wants them to be.

I’d asked my mom about those wild outfits years ago, cringing at a particular photo of me with both blue eye shadow AND blue mascara. She told me that she’d always admired my fashion gusto as a child. She wanted to foster my creativity. And that if I wanted to wear three ponytails on my head or a half dozen hair clips, she’d let me. She said her only suggestion was that I not mix plaids, even if my kindergarten reasoning was that they had the same colors.

Letting Them Grow By Letting It Go

And so I stopped making suggestions on what my kids should or shouldn’t wear. I started turning a blind eye (literally) to what I was seeing them wear at the breakfast table. I changed my commentary to say things like, “That’s a cute top on you” or “What a colorful outfit today!” The self-confidence is rising.

If I don’t want my kids to wear a particular item anymore, I unceremoniously remove it from their closet and put it in the donation bin. If it’s not in the closet, they can’t wear it anymore.

People aren’t complimenting my eldest three on their clothes anymore. People just don’t say anything about their appearance. Nobody really cares that the oldest boy is wearing basketball shorts again. Or that stepdaughter has her hair in a sloppy ponytail. Or that little son is wearing neon green socks with orange sandals. I no longer think that it reflects poorly on me if my kids aren’t dressed to the nines.

But what I do hear goes deeper than that. I’m hearing how well behaved they are. How generous and how kind. What good friends they are. That’s what’s really important, right? Not that they’re wearing something mismatched.

You may see me out and about with the kids, or maybe you see a photo of them online. One of the kids is wearing a clip-on tie with their t-shirt, one is wearing a Christmas themed shirt in July and the other has spiked his hair with too much gel. Just smile and nod. And know that I’m dying inside to correct them. But that I’m choosing to let them grow by letting it go.

Confessions of a First Time Coach – 7 Ways I’m Shredding It!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BornToShred #ShredTheDay #CollectiveBias

Each day that I wake up, I’m thankful. I might not have received the best rest the night before (not always possible with a teething toddler!). And I’m still working through the chronic back pain that has plagued me since I was pregnant. But I don’t want to make excuses anymore! I’m thankful for the ability to do what I can. There are so many ways I still want to push myself to become a better mom, a healthier person, a more well-rounded me! And I was starting to see the disappointed looks on the faces of my kids when I’d tell them I was too tired or hurting too much to be able to play with them. Talk about the best incentive to get better, right?

First Time Coach Confessions

In late summer I signed up my kindergartner for soccer. There was a call for coaches and I immediately started thinking about who I knew in my family that could help. My husband works full time and also goes to night school, so as much as he’d love to volunteer I knew he was out. And then it hit me, “Why can’t I be the coach?”

This is new territory for me. I’ve never coached soccer before. In fact, I haven’t played soccer since I was 12. I used to be extremely athletic but have a back injury that I’m working through therapy for. However I really wanted to push myself into learning something new and being more involved with my kid’s activities. After some consideration, I registered as head coach. Way to jump in with two feet!

Here are a few tips and honest thoughts about being a first time coach. I’ve learned a LOT in the last few months of coaching and would like to share how I’m pushing myself to learn and grow as much as my players.

1. Build Up Stamina

There’s no way I could have just leapt into coaching without first getting into shape myself. I’ve been going to the gym several times a week and walking at least 30 minutes per day. It’s been all about moving more and sitting less to build up my stamina for playing soccer with these 8 little boys!

2. Get Help

As soon in the season as you can, seek out parent volunteers. I wasn’t unable to secure an assistant coach so it’s me, all by myself, on the field at practices and games. It can really be a challenge to set up drills during practice when you’re the only adult because with 8 players, I’m definitely out numbered! Having a “team parent” help with coach/parent communication is imperative. It’s best to have another parent available for collecting money for the team banner, arranging a snack schedule and ordering trophies.

3. Open Communication with the Parents

With texting it’s so easy to send a quick reminder to all my player’s parents about upcoming practices and games. In addition I send a weekly email with details about upcoming games, I go over the “game focus” and bring up anything that’s too long for a text.

4. Have a “Game Focus”

Each week at practice in addition to the usual drills like dribbling, passing and kicking, I have my players work on a predetermined “game focus”. Our focuses have been, “Corner kicks”, “Turning the ball around” and “Follow up”. After one week’s game when a player on the other team was taunting our players, our game focus was “Good sportsmanship”. We discussed how to handle things if another player is acting rude. Having a focus at each game reminds my players what we worked on in practice.

5. Move More, Talk Less

I try to keep my “coach talks” to less than 30 seconds each time. 8 boys tend to get pretty wild and they don’t listen much after thirty seconds of talk! Showing rather than explaining goes farther. I also find that if I’m silly their ears perk up and they’re more apt to listen!

6. Keeping It Fun

Let the game be a game and just have fun! Our division doesn’t keep score (though of course, each of my players has their own tally of the goals!). I always allow plenty of time at practice after our drills to just have a fun scrimmage against each other. Sometimes we even play 8 against 1 and the boys try to score past me!

7. Healthier Body for More Energy

Just as I always insist that my little players eat a well-rounded meal before a game, I’m setting a good example as well. I need good fuel for practice and games. For me, that’s Post Shredded Wheat Cereals.

These new Shredded Wheat flavors help me kick start my day. My son and I picked up Mixed Berry and Cinnamon Roll at Walmart. S’mores Bites is another new variety available. Just the right amount of sweet with the heartiness of the shredded wheat cereal. You can also earn $3 cash back on Post Shredded Wheat cereals on ibotta as well!

Before the Saturday game, my son and I make sure to take time for a bowl of cereal together. We chat a bit about the upcoming game, talk about the game focus and then pack up the mini van with our game ball and banner.

Pin this post to save for later and check out these Post cereal recipes on the Pinterest Page.

When Did We Stop Rooting for Ourselves?

This post originally appeared on my blog Painted Butterfly Studio on Sept 28th, 2010. I reread it this week and find that topic of accepting compliments and cheering for ourselves to be relevant. Kids are great at sharing their accomplishments but how can adults be better at accepting compliments?

Please note that I include affiliate links in my posts. Clicking and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

The Soccer Game

“At what point do we stop cheering?”

We were sitting on the sidelines watching our six year old soccer players celebrating after they’d just scored their uncontested sixth goal. The dad next to me posed the question. About 90 seconds later we got our answer when the seventh goal was scored. Parents didn’t cheer and just a small smattering of applause could be heard from our side of the field.

Later in the day, I got to thinking about that question.

“At what point do we stop cheering?”

Do we ever stop cheering? Or rather, should we ever stop cheering?

And I’m not just talking as parents, but just as adults?

“At what point do we stop cheering?”

Kids are great at sharing their accomplishments but how can adults be better at accepting compliments?

Shrugging Off Instead of Accepting Compliments

I was reading Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy this week. The section I happened upon was about how as adults we tend to downplay our accomplishments. We shoo away compliments and never really revel in them as we should. She suggested that we pull out our awards, something we’ve created, or anything that really makes us proud of ourselves and put them in a prominent place in our home.

Why, as adults, do we hide our light under a bushel? Why do we shrug off encouragements from others instead of just saying, “Thank you so much! I’m proud of it too!” This daily reminder of seeing visually what we have done should be a push towards what we can do.

I recall hearing about a baseball player who didn’t display any of his awards in his home. The announcer noted how humble the player was and that if you walked into his home you’d never have guessed he was a ball player.

This actually just seemed kind of sad to me. If this man was a sculptor or an artist, would he not decorate his home with a few of his own art pieces? Is it not appropriate because it wouldn’t be humble? Or even just to have an important plaque on the wall, or one special baseball on a shelf that was particularly meaningful, something that recognized his accomplishments? Nothing?!

I’m not talking about constantly tooting our own horn here to the point of rudeness or painting an entire mural on our living room wall with our likeness. But really think about why we stopped cheering…Because we didn’t want to come across to others as too confident? Because it might hurt someone else’s feelings? Because we’ve been taught as children to be humble and modest, that we shouldn’t be “too good”?

 

Kids Are Naturals at Complimenting Themselves

Now, back to the soccer game…7th goal was scored. The little boy who scored the goal had already scored 4 others in our game, but just the same he looked excitedly over to the sidelines for recognition. We put our hands together and clapped briefly and smiled back at him. He wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed in the least to have created such a lopsided score.

As we were leaving two players chattered boldly to each other, “We scored 7 and they didn’t have ANY!”

One of the moms said, “Shhh, not so loud”, to which one of the boys looked up at her and said, “Why?”

The unabashed pride of these six year olds was actually inspiring to me. Humility and modesty will come eventually, as it should. But at this age it’s refreshing to see the exuberance about each accomplishment. Whether it’s getting across the monkey bars without falling off, finishing an entire puzzle without help or scoring the final goal in a 7-0 game.

Kids are great at sharing their accomplishments but how can adults be better at accepting compliments?

Rooting Ourselves On

I’m going to root myself on. When someone pays me a compliment, I’m going to say a simple thank you and not follow it up with something that undermines the entire good thought (you know the kind, “That’s a pretty blouse!” and we say, “Yeah, too bad I’m so fat that’s too tight on me now” FROWN!). That completely diminishes the compliment (and is not very kind to the person complimenting you either). “Thank you” is the perfect reply to any compliment.

I’m going to make some pillow covers to put in the living room and if anyone compliments them, I’ll happily share that it’s my own handiwork. I will bravely admit that there are things that I’m really good at and I’m going to promise myself that I won’t be too shy or humble to admit it!

I hope that by my modeling this, my own children will pick up on the air of confidence and not be ashamed or embarrassed of their own accomplishments. Accepting compliments and sharing what you’re confident and strong about isn’t bragging, it’s knowing that you are worthy. Knowing your worth and can humbly accept praise is given to us by God. And that’s something to cheer about.

In what ways and areas of your life could you be more confident and assured? Please share with me below in the comments!

Kids are great at sharing their accomplishments but how can adults be better at accepting compliments?

Preparing Your Child for the First Day of Kindergarten

My 5 year old starts kindergarten in less than two weeks (cue Mom’s tears!) He’s crazy excited about school so that makes preparing him for kindergarten sort of easy. Not all kids are like that though – My eldest was terribly nervous and anxious about his first day of kindergarten. Getting kids ready to learn, choosing at-home school supplies and even cute photo ops can add to the excitement. Here are a few ways to prepare your child for the first day of kindergarten!

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking the links and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

1. “Play” School at Home

If your child has never been to school before the entire concept may be daunting and confusing. Outline what will happen throughout the day. Describe terms they might not know like work study, arts and crafts, recess, lunch period, quiet time and free play. Role play can help kids know what to expect and ease the jitters.

Home workbooks like these can get your kinder kid prepared for what they might be seeing from their teacher during school. (BIG Kindergarten Workbook and Reading & Math Jumbo Workbook: Grade K)

   

2. Read Books Together

Story time is a big deal in kindergarten! And of course you already know that about 30 minutes of reading each night is ideal to develop reading skills in kids.

These are two favorite books I know about the first day of school. They are sure to put a smile on the face of your nervous kindergartner. These books are must-haves! (The Kissing Hand and First Day Jitters)

   

3. Make Learning Fun

Teaching basics like letter recognition and how to properly hold a pencil will start kids off on the right foot. Supply your kindergartner with a few of these items to practice learning at home first. (Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! Alphabet Activity Book and Gaobei Pencil Grip for Children)

4. Wait for a Supply List Before Making Big Purchases

I know that the kindergartners in my school district don’t use backpacks. Kids carry open-topped buckets to hold their over-sized paperwork. So I won’t be making a backpack purchase for my kindergartner this year.

That’s my son on the left with his LL Bean backpack in 3rd grade. He’s still using it in 8th grade!

However if you do need a backpack, I highly recommend L.L.Bean. I bought my eldest son his backpack from L.L.Bean when he entered 3rd grade. He’s starting 8th grade this year…with the same backpack! And it’s still in great condition (no wear, no tears and the zippers work perfectly).

LL Bean Backpack (same one I bought my son 5 years ago!)

Before you run out and stock up on pencils and crayons, wait for a supply list from your child’s teacher. Or consider buying a few small items to have at home to get your child in the “back to school mood”.


5. Teach and Practice Basic Manners at Home

“Please” and “Thank You” goes a long way. So does sharing, friendship and being a good friend. Practice with gentle reminders at home. A few good books can help to reinforce what you’re teaching. (365 Manners Kids Should Know: Games, Activities, and Other Fun Ways to Help Children and Teens Learn Etiquette and Say Please, Little Owlet)

   

6. Pick Out a Special First Day Outfit

My kids love having something special to wear on the first day of school. And I always shop Gymboree because the quality and pricing is fantastic. The clothes are durable and so cute too (perfect for picture day!)

At prices like these, you can easily stock up for the entire first month of school! (PS: These are all images of clothing that I’ve recently purchased for my own kids!)

If you’ve never ordered before, here’s a special link that will get you 25% OFF Gymboree with your first order!

Make the First Day Special

Now that you’ve taken care of preparing your kindergartner for the first day of school, here are a few more ideas to help make the first day really special!

7. Plan a Fun First Day Breakfast

Put away the cold cereal for the first day and give the kids something fun and filling! A Mickey waffle would surely put a smile on their face for back-to-school. And Amazon even sells Golden Malted waffle mix, the same kind used in the Disney parks! (Disney Classic Mickey Waffle Maker and Golden Malted Pancake & Waffle Flour)

8. The Obligatory First Day of School Photo

I love the idea of taking first day of school photos in the same place each year, just to compare growth from year to year. I try to pose my kids against the cute white fence at my mom’s house each year. From left to right, this is my son at kindergarten, first, third, fourth and fifth grade.

      

Another sweet memory is capturing your kindergartner exploring their classroom for the first time. I grabbed this shot when my eldest son sat down to look at picture books in his new class.

9. Write Down First Day Thoughts in a School Memory Book

You’ll look back fondly on these sweet memories! Having a dedicated school memory book keeps cute memories, photos and special awards and photos in one spot. My 13 year old son has the book mentioned here. I love looking back at it on the first day of school each year, remembering that adorable kid with missing front teeth! (School Years: A Family Keepsake of School Memories)


For more on this really awesome topic,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


These practical back-to-school preparation tips will help ease your kinder kid into the first day of kindergarten.

Preteen Routine Daily Checklist Printable (So You Don’t Have to Nag)

FREE PRINTABLE - Preteen Routine Daily Checklist Printable (So You Don't Have to Nag)

Preteen kids have a lot to keep track of. With the start of junior high, puberty and a changing body, they also have intense emotions they’re dealing with as well (seen Inside Out?) I have two preteens in the house (my almost 12-year old son and my 11-year old stepdaughter) so my husband and I have a lot to deal with keeping them on track!

If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do is have to run down a laundry list of items as your kids are going out the door. They don’t like the nagging and neither do I…however, I also don’t want my kid smelling like an onion after P.E. because they forgot deodorant! Streamlining their personal routine and making it more routine for them is the key, but sometimes they need help remembering.

FREE PRINTABLE -Preteen Routine Daily Checklist Printable (So You Don't Have to Nag)

I created this quick, no-nagging-necessary free printable checklist for preteens. I have it in a plastic sleeve, posted in several places around the house so my preteens can handle their business privately on their own. This is all about creating good habits that your child will take with them through life. And about teaching them a routine so at some point these things will be second nature and they won’t have to refer to the checklist anymore. Parenting is about creating independent people (because you don’t want to be calling your college-age children to make sure they are using deodorant, right?)

Here’s my FREE PRINTABLE Preteen Daily Checklist.

FREE PRINTABLE -Preteen Routine Daily Checklist Printable (So You Don't Have to Nag)


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Why Our Kids Do Housework – Tips for Getting Kids to Pitch In

Confessions of a slob, right here! Growing up I had little responsibility. There were things that were expected of me, of course, like being polite, brushing my teeth and not talking back. But when it came to actual cleaning up, I was a literal mess. My room was a huge disaster! I had a hard time throwing things away. My laundry and trash cans overflowed. My parents did most of the chores around the house and I pitched in very little.

Happy childhood? For sure! But as an adult, I didn’t have the skills in place to keep up with housework. I sort of fell into the same routine with my oldest son. I’d clean up around him while he played. When I remarried (to a neat-nik, no less!), my husband insisted that we teach the kids housework and chores. I will admit that it was really hard for me at first. I am in the camp of “If you want something done right, do it yourself” so it definitely took a lot of work on my part to let the kids do housework. But I promise you it has paid off over the years.

Why Our Kids Do Housework - Tips for Getting Kids to Pitch In

Can Kids Do Housework?

Your kids aren’t going to wake up one day and have the desire to clean house! And they aren’t automatically going to know how to properly do the tasks either. These are life skills that must be taught (and the younger the age of the child, the better to start). If you think they can’t do something, you’re wrong – they just haven’t learned yet!

I can tell either of the older kids to “clean the bathroom” and they know exactly what that entails. They empty trash, put out recycling, clean mirrors, unload and load the dishwasher, sort laundry and vacuum. They can sweep, mop and wash a car. Even my preschooler helps with laundry, like transferring clothes into the washer and then into the dryer, folding cloth napkins or putting things away into drawers. It hasn’t been easy teaching the kids to do housework, but it’s a life skill that I’m passing down. And they do have the ability to do it (the desire, on the other hand, isn’t always there – more on that later!)Why Our Kids Do Housework - Tips for Getting Kids to Pitch In

Find Age-Appropriate Tasks

Every child can learn how to make a bed. But only older children can be trusted to make scrambled eggs for breakfast. Make sure that the chores you assign are appropriate to the age and not too difficult or dangerous. Leave the use of chemicals for cleaning to big kids and make sure they have been taught safe use.

Trying to get the kids to do housework? Here are the tips I use with my four kids.

Our laminated laundry instructions above the washer and dryer.

Make the Task Clear

If I were to tell my kids to clean the bathroom, they would know what to do. This is only because we’ve explained what the task includes. They know that cleaning the bathroom means wiping out the sink & faucet, wiping down the toilet, scrubbing the bowl, replacing the towels and cleaning the mirrors. Make sure kids know each task detail so that when you tell them, “Clean your bedroom” or “Do your laundry” they know exactly what you expect.

Why Our Kids Do Housework - Tips for Getting Kids to Pitch InTeach Awareness

Kids should start to notice their world around them. Point out to them that you want them to pay attention to when household chores need to be done and that they can complete the task unprompted. Rather than waiting for you to tell them to clean the toothpaste off the mirrors or to put their cup into the dishwasher, kids who are paying attention to their surroundings should be able take care of the task without reminder.

Don’t Enable

Okay, so your kid made their bed and it looks like it’s already been rolled around in. Resist the urge to “fix” it. And don’t give up and start doing the chore yourself because your child isn’t doing it “right”. Better that they try than to have you finish their work. That will definitely give them the wrong message. Older kids can take correction more than little ones.


Make Cleaning “Fun”

Yep, just like Mary Poppins said, “The job’s a game”. If you have reluctant housekeepers, like I sometimes too, give them an “Element of fun” in their chores. We toss matched socks into a laundry basket across the room. I always drop wet t-shirts onto my preschooler’s head when he’s pushing clothes into the dryer. Let the kids get involved with meal planning and prep. My parents used to put on a CD of John Philip Sousa marches when they did housework and it kept things peppy. Make it fun and your chores will be less like a…chore.

Trying to get the kids to do housework? Here are the tips I use with my four kids.

Housework is a Regular Thing

Instead of just requesting that kids chip in occasionally, make sure that chores are done on a daily basis. Kids can be expected to keep their rooms tidy, with toys put away and beds made each day. The table can be set at dinner and cleared after eating. Lunches can be packed for the following school day. Find little things that kids can help with each day to make housework a habit. Older kids can understand the concept that things have to be maintained on a daily basis. It’s easier to keep up on housework if you do a little each day rather than let it build up.

Create a Chore Chart (For Little Kids)

Keep the chores simple for little ones and they’ll be more likely to complete the jobs with minimal assistance. A visual chore chart with incentive marks or stickers will help with goals.


Create a Chore List (for Older Kids)

Now that my teens can tackle just about every housekeeping item in the house, my husband and I came up with what we refer to as the “Ultimate house cleaning list”. While my kids have certain things on the list that they do every day (like cleaning the bahtroom sink, making beds and wiping the kitchen counters after dinner) other things are only occasional (like vacuuming out the windowsills, wiping down the ceiling fan blades or scrubbing the bath mat in the shower). Having an ultimate list reminds us of what tasks we need to complete. I laminated the list and keep it in the same place so everyone knows where to find it.

Trying to get the kids to do housework? Here are the tips I use with my four kids.

The laminated “Ultimate house work list”

Recognize and Reward Work That Goes Above & Beyond

We don’t pay our kids for household chores. We believe that we’re teaching our kids lifelong skills and responsibility. However when our kids do something that is out of the ordinary or particularly challenging, we will reward. Sometimes it’s a special treat, a few dollars or dinner out. It’s also important to thank them and let them know you appreciate their efforts.

Why Our Kids Do Housework - Tips for Getting Kids to Pitch In

Dealing with Grumblings in the Ranks

Of course teaching and enforcing housework in our house doesn’t go without some grumblings from within the ranks. We frequently hear, “Why do I have to do this every day?!” Or “I just cleaned this, who got it dirty again!” A little complaining is allowed, after all if it wasn’t a job, it would be called something else.

The whining doesn’t deter from the fact that things still need to get done. I just remind my kids that chores still have to be completed properly, whether you like to do them or not. My goal is to raise kids who know how to do things independently and who can take these valuable skills with them into the world. After all, soon enough they’ll be adults and will need to know how to clean their own homes! I’m certainly not going to be doing it for them.

Trying to get the kids to do housework? Here are the tips I use with my four kids.