The Importance of Teaching Your Child Independent Living Skills (aka do those chores!)
Over the years, I've come to realize more and more the importance of both children and adolescents developing a solid set of daily living skills. Having worked in a high school for a number of years, it has become a growing concern that many teens getting ready to transition into the real world do not have an appropriate set of independent skills for simple daily life tasks. Schools are now taking a more active approach to teaching these skills since many teens require an extensive amount of training in this area. Preparing the next generation, not only academically, but in life skills as well, is becoming a necessity. Researchers are linking children who do chores at a younger age to professional success as adults.
Many parents I've worked with admit to wanting to make life easier for their child or getting stuck in a habit of doing things for them. The best intentions are there, or so we think. But it should be about giving children and teens the tools they need for the "real world". That is where our best intentions should lie. This may seem like a tough feat to conquer, and it might be at first.
Something to keep in mind: make it a team approach (we are all doing our part!) and make sure your expectations meet your children's developmental age (don't expect your 6 year old to hang up their clothes if they can't reach the hangers!). The good news is this "training" can start as young as toddler age and work all the way through the teenage years. Here are a some reasonable examples that may work based on your child's age:
Toddlers can be taught to hang up their coat, put clothes in a hamper and bring plates to sink. With this age, try to keep it fun and remember they are little "mini me's" and watch everything you do!
Elementary age children can put coats and backpacks away, pick up toys, clear the table and load the dishwasher and vacuum. Breaking these down into smaller steps can make this easier for them. Also, don't worry too much at first about the quality of how things are done. Praise them for their contribution! Teach them as you go.
Tweens should be able to do all of the above chores and any other household chore they have not learned yet (e.g., mopping, laundry). At this age, keep in mind that their personal care routines are changing and help cater to success in this area (e.g., give them their own special towels, provide containers and extra space in the bathroom for all of their new grooming "stuff"). It can still be fun for them at this age too! Try making a "punch card" for them. Each time they complete a chore, they get a punch. Then they can turn it in for a reward (something they'll buy into at this age) like a chocolate frappuccino or a pizza!
Helping facilitate these life skills early and often in your child's life will lead to more success down the road, not just as a teen but as an independent adult.
Posted by: Shawna Paplaski, LCPC