I feel like I should preface this post by saying that chores and toddler responsibility is still a topic that I am very much figuring out as I go, although I could say that about nearly all aspects of parenting. As Parker nears the corner to three and a half, it’s something that I find myself thinking about more and more. Not so much chores specifically. We don’t expect her to mop the floors… yet ;), but what should we expect of her at this age? How do I motivate her to be responsible and take ownership of small tasks without turning our entire day into a series of toddler negotiations? I love the sense of pride that she has when she knows that she has done something right all by herself and I definitely want to encourage that. More than anything, I’m really interested to hear from the other mamas in this series and from you on what you’re doing and hopefully glean some new insight. I would love if you would share your own experience in the comments and be sure to check out the posts from: Hey Mama || Ave Styles || Design for Mankind || The Life Styled || Design Addict Mom. In the meantime, here is where we are at with our almost three and a half year old…
–We expect her to brush her teeth. She always goes first and then I take a turn and tell her I’m going to look to see if there are any sugar bears that she missed. She’s definitely getting better at it, but we are probably still a ways away from me trusting her to do it all by herself. What age did your kids begin to brush their teeth all by themselves?
–We expect her to take her shoes off when she comes inside and put them in the shoe basket by the door. This one is so simple and easy for her. She beams with pride when she does it without my having to ask her. “Look, mommy!” she will usually exclaim pointing to the basket with her shoes perched on top.
–We expect her to put on her shoes in the morning before school. Of course it takes twice as long than if we were to do it ourselves and it’s a test in our own patience on those days when we are running behind, but she’s so capable so it would be silly for us to do it for her. It’s also a lesson in self-control when it comes to me buying shoes for her. If she can’t put them on herself, then it doesn’t make sense to buy them, no matter how cute!
–We expect her to throw her own trash away at home and whenever possible when we are out. Our kitchen trash is located under the sink so this is another one that’s really easy for her to do herself.
–We expect her to pick up a box of toys before moving on to a new one. Does this actually happen? Maybe 50% of the time? Maybe. It depends how involved I am in playtime at the moment. If I’m up there and we are playing together I try to manage it and make sure that she is helping in the clean up process, but if she’s playing independently I try not to get involved and usually come up to her room later to find a great big mess. (But somehow the mess seems worth it to hear her up there talking to herself and her toys and playing well!) I would love to implement a clean up time into our nightly routine. Currently while she is playing in the bath, Aaron usually picks up her room because it’s quick and easy, but this is something we definitely need to get better about making her a part of.
–We expect her to sit at the table or kitchen bar when she eats and not get up until she is done. This is another one that is touch and go. This is definitely the expectation, but enforcing it has been another story. In a Janet Lansbury podcast she suggests saying that once a child gets up from the table then you tell them, “You’re telling me by getting up that you are all done.” At that point you take the food away from the table and there is no more eating or snack until the next meal time. In theory I totally agree with this, but in reality I have a hard time enforcing it. We definitely don’t let her eat in her room or outside of the kitchen or dining room, but the sitting and not getting up thing is a struggle and so is enforcing a no-grazing policy. Also, what do you do when your child doesn’t want to eat what you made for dinner? I would love to be one of those moms who says, “It’s this or nothing at all!”, but I just worry too much about her little hungry belly!
–We expect her to put her clothes from the day in the dirty clothes hamper. Phew! Unlike mealtime expectations, this one is super easy and something that she loves doing. It’s not like it makes my life so much easier or would be so hard for me to do, but we are trying to instill in her a sense of everything has a place and goes into that place when you’re done with it.
–I let her help me with a meal or a special baking project at least once a week. It’s always messier and always more time consuming, but I really want her to grow up knowing how to cook and make things for herself. We are still years away from that, but you have to start somewhere, right? Right now her skill set includes knowing how to crack an egg (we say, “soft, soft, hard!” as she taps it on a glass bowl or countertop) and how to stir ingredients and keep them in the bowl, which, thank goodness, she has gotten a lot better at. Meanwhile I’m working on not vocalizing any kind of distress over the mess and not micromanaging the situation too much. I want her to think cooking is fun, after all, and actually want to do it.
A huge, huge part of this whole toddler responsibility topic is just me being patient and not being in such a hurry that I end up doing things for her because it’s faster and easier. Which also means allowing more time in the morning, more time to get out the door in general, and more time transitioning from one thing to the next. I’m not sure how helpful this topic was for you, but it’s actually been super helpful for me to just type it out a re-commit to some of these things.
How old are your kids and what are your expectations of them? How do you motivate them? Are there incentives like allowance or consequences when they’re not done?
(You can see past topics from our Real Talk Series here.)