However, many parents wonder whether it’s worth investing the time and emotional energy that will be required to identify age-appropriate tasks and manage their children’s attitude and behaviour - especially while they’re younger than six years old.
Truth be told, many South African families employ a regular helper, and this causes them to feel that life may simply be easier if they postpone disrupting the status quo for as long as possible.
However, pre-schoolers also have a deep emotional need to feel useful and competent.1
Educators say the simple habit of putting their toys away or helping to clear the table after a meal can instil a sense of responsibility in children who are as young as 2 years old. What’s more, doing household chores are also important for teaching them many valuable lessons.
Learning new skills and becoming increasingly competent develops a sense of autonomy in children.
As they learn to do things for themselves, they become more independent and develop a sense of belonging, self-worth and self-awareness. Most importantly, they learn that they have what it takes to one day get on in the world and that they will be able to be successful and cope without having to always rely other people.
Chores also teach children about themselves.
Developing a sense of identity is all about having a clear idea of who you are, what you need and what you can do. Therefore, people largely base their identity on their skills and what they believe they know about their own personal strengths, flaws and preferences.
For example, as a child goes about doing household chores, he or she may incorporate into their identity that they enjoy taking pride in a job well done, prefer to plan and organize their time, collaborate with others and also like to deal with curve balls after first assessing the situation. Whatever the case may be for the individual child, developing a clear identity is necessary for feeling confident and ready to face the world.
As parents, we can also use chores to teach our children life skills.
The key is to discuss the attitude, planning and skills that go into completing various tasks.
Here’s a list of 10 life skills and how we as parents can help nurture them:
1. Consideration for others. When appropriate, develop your child’s concern for others by pointing out how their efforts are serving other people. You may, for example, say, “Thank you for packing your blocks away after playing with it in the living room. You know how much we all enjoy relaxing in an uncluttered space.”
2. Common sense. Emphasize the importance of thinking things through and learning from what worked and didn’t work in the past.
3. Cooperation. Teach your child the value of working together towards a common goal by emphasizing the value of collaboration and paying attention to being a team player.
4. Effort. Emphasize the value of learning from one’s mistakes, practicing hard and going the extra mile to become better at something. Children develop a “growth mindset” when they adopt these values.2
5. Flexibility. While some children enjoy altering plans at a whim, others strongly prefer sticking to an agenda. However, being flexible when needed is a necessary skill that can be improved through practice and self-awareness.
6. Initiative. Be careful to notice and comment when your child adds a special touch or does something without being instructed – simply because it needed to be done. A sincere thank you from your side can be very emotionally rewarding in situations like these.
7. Organization. To succeed in school and in the workplace one day, all children need to learn how to plan, arrange and implement tasks in an order.3 Three to five-year olds typically love making lists and, since they’re not yet able to read or write, they enjoy sitting down with a parent to draw a series of sketches that represent the steps they need to take to do something.
8. Pride. People who are in the habit of deriving satisfaction from doing their personal best are generally more successful because they are more often intrinsically motivated. Unfortunately, few parents talk to their children about how they feel about their own performance, where they would like to improve and what they regard as their personal victories and hurdles.
9. Problem solving: As children near their sixth birthday and the pre-frontal lobes in their brains develop more extensive neural networks, they become much better at dealing with frustration and handling big emotions.4 As a result, it becomes easier for them to reason more logically under pressure. However, it’s never too early to have conversations with children about how to solve problems in difficult situations and emphasize the value of coming up with solutions instead of endlessly dwelling on whatever is frustrating them.
10. Responsibility: Finally, children need to learn that it’s normal and healthy for people to be held accountable for their actions. This is what responsibility is all about. When we as parents follow through on consequences, we teach our children the basic lesson of cause and effect, which provides them with a firm foundation for learning to reason on a higher moral level when they’re older.5 On the contrary, when children witness their parents frequently giving in, they develop a warped sense of personal integrity that undermines their ability to effectively discern what would be the best way to act in difficult situations.
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For many parents, the tricky part of introducing chores in their home is matching is various jobs to their child’s skill-level.
To support you in this regard, we’re providing you with a chart of age-appropriate chores that is intended to serve as a rough guideline. In other words, it’s not necessary to introduce every chore on the list and you may want to include something extra that is relevant to your child’s daily routine or lifestyle.
1. Ridner, S., Schema Therapy: A framework for overcoming life traps. Published online: https://www.cornerstoneofrecovery.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Schema…
2. Dweck, C.S. (2014) The power of believing that you can improve. TED Talk, Norrköping : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-swZaKN2Ic
3. Center on the Developing Child (2012). Executive Function (InBrief). Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu
4. Dr Dan Siegel’s Hand Model of the Brain (2017). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-m2YcdMdFw
5. Kohlberg’s 6th Stages of Moral Development (2019). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bounwXLkme4
IMPORTANT NOTICE. NESTLÉ® NANKID® 4 is not a breastmilk substitute and is formulated to support the changing needs of healthy children older than 3 years.