How can we assure that our children are ready to join the real world? Start teaching them job skills from a young age. These skills are not always taught in school, and many of them are gained through hands-on experience. As parents, we can foster practical skills early in our child’s development. Using chores as learning opportunities is a surefire way to give our kids a leg up in the professional world. Giving kids a to-do list isn’t enough. We have to give chores in an intentional manner, with specific expectations. The focus is on the experience, not the outcome.
To develop work ethic, start kids off at a young age. Let toddlers help with the vacuuming or the laundry. It might add a little time to your daily routine, but the benefits to your child are tangible. To take some of the pressure off of you, give your tiny one jobs they can handle and try to let go of the results. It’s okay to let your child fold their own clothes and put them away, even if they end up a wrinkled mess at the end of the day. Remember, they’ll probably end up that way anyway!
When your kids help with the chores, celebrate the effort instead of the result. Young children love to help out, and they are forming a positive emotional connection to the work itself. You know that satisfied feeling you get when your kitchen is sparkling clean? Kids get that, too… even if their version of sparkling clean is different from ours.
Grit means pushing through when things get challenging. Developing your child’s grit will help them in school and in their adult life. They will be better equipped to handle failure and overcome obstacles. In the workforce, they’ll have the ambition to work hard for what they want.
Developing grit is about providing challenges for your kids to overcome rather than bulldozing a clear path. Chores can help do that. As your kids get older, increase the challenge of the chores they can handle. If they can’t figure out how to do something, don’t just give them the answer. If you puzzle it out with them, you’re giving them the joy of solving the problem.
There are many ways to foster independence in your child, from letting them pick out their own clothes to getting a hamster. Chores are a great way to help build independence, too. The key is choosing tasks that offer them the opportunity to make decisions. Start off slowly by having them take care of themselves in little ways, like packing their lunch for the next day. Give them chores that have natural consequences when they don’t get done. Instead of punishing them for not following through, let them face those consequences. You might have to send your kid to school in a stinky shirt once or twice, but they’ll figure out that they have to do the laundry.
Older children can be given higher levels of responsibility. Encourage older children to take on some of the family care duties, such as cooking or childcare. An easy addition to your kid’s schedule is cooking dinner for the family once a week. Cooking is a life skill that kids rarely have the opportunity to learn in school. When you give them the responsibility to feed the whole family, you are offering them a hands-on life lesson. Be sure you have some easy (but not too appetizing) frozen options on hand, just in case they drop the ball. You don’t want to go hungry, but you want some consequences for irresponsible behavior.
Teenagers can be given more of a choice for how they contribute to the family. You might encourage them to cook or clean, but you could also let them contribute financially. Teens as young as fourteen are legally able to work in some places, plus there are a wealth of options for remote and freelance work available online. Just be very clear about the impact their contribution has on the family. If they don’t understand why they are doing something, they miss out on the lesson.
If an allowance is part of your family’s routine, consider switching up how you pay out. Treating an allowance like a paycheck, money paid out for the work completed, can give your child a lesson in money management. Consider paying your kid by the chore, rather than a set amount each week or month. Set the dollar amounts per chore in advance, and give your child the option to do them. They will quickly learn that more effort yields more pay. Increase the payout for less desirable chores, like scooping the cat’s litterbox. They will start to learn that harder work pays more, and they can do less of it to gain the same rewards.
Job skills are life skills. Chores are opportunities for young children to learn how the world runs. By giving them responsibilities in your home, you are setting them up for success in the future. That being said, you know what’s right for your kid. There are benefits to every approach, so be flexible and willing to try different things. The lessons you are teaching your children are invaluable.
Ron Stefanski is the founder of JobsForTeensHQ.com and has a passion for helping teenagers find jobs. He created the website because he feels that teenagers need to focus on their professional passions much earlier in life and aims to teach them how they can do that. When he’s not working on his website, Ron is a college professor and loves to travel the world.