Splish, splash! I was doing the dishes
“Who cut their hair on the couch?”
“Why does the dog have one blue paw?”
“Where did all the kitchen chairs go?”
These and many more questions like these are not a good way to start summer vacation.
My experience as a mother of three children, including twins, has taught me that it’s easy to entertain a child, but not so easy to keep them busy at home.
Allow me to explain the difference.
It’s easy to put on a movie for your toddler or allow your tween all the computer time he wants to keep them occupied or from destroying the house.
On the other hand, it takes more effort to give your kids opportunities to grow and develop into independent, well-rounded, active, self-sufficient young people.
It wasn’t without difficulty, but I taught my preschoolers to help around the house. I involved them in my daily chores: folding towels, mopping floors, preparing meals, etcetera.
I had to let go of some perfect. The towels weren’t always folded to my liking. The floors sometimes needed to be re-mopped.
But I wanted my children to learn that they weren’t too little to be an active part of the upkeep of our home and that it wasn’t all Mommy’s job.
I’m now reaping the benefits of that early training. My children are helpful, compliant and carry out household tasks with little to no whining.
Here are a few tips for keeping children actively engaged around the house so as to benefit themselves and the family:
EARLY TO BED, EARLY TO RISE
(Even in the summer)
Allowing your children to set their own sleeping schedule in the summer doesn’t do anything for them in the long run.
If anything, it will teach them to be disappointed adults. Sleeping in isn’t a regular part of any productive adult’s life.
Even though it’s summer, our regular wake-up call has been pushed back only a half-hour and a decent bedtime is enforced. Everyone still enjoys a full eight hours and nobody sleeps the day away.
FUN FIRST, THEN PLAY
We’ve adjusted our schedule so the kids aren’t helping around the house during the cooler hours of the day and then refusing to go outside to play when it the temperature climbs, thus spending the whole day inside the house.
Instead, we eat breakfast and then play outside or exercise, which for kids is the same thing.
When it gets hotter outside, we do chores inside. As it begins to cool off later in the day, the chores are finished and everyone can do as they please.
It may sound like putting the cart before the horse, but it’s worked for us.
LET THEM KNOW WHAT IS EXPECTED
(And what they can expect)
When my husband, Secret Agent Man, decodes sensitive documents or protects state secrets, he gets a paycheck.
I want my kids to understand that if want something, they have to earn it, just like Dad.
On a daily basis, my kids know it’s their job to take care of the pets, unload the dishwasher, set the table and maintain the cleanliness of their bedrooms and bathroom.
On top of that, each day I give them a list of other things to do around the house.
Just like a real job, the completion of everything that is expected is met with a payment. Sometimes it’s money or trips to the pool or extra time to play video games or watch TV.
It would be easier to let them be free-range children over the summer and do whatever they feel like ... after all, “they’re just kids.”
But, then how will they ever learn the value of time, self-reliance and how to be an asset instead of a liability?
It’s worth the extra effort, especially if it will help avoid more couch haircuts.
For more on an unpredictable variety of other topics, visit Annie Payne’s “Anniethology” blog at Anniethology. blogspot.com.