Archive for Monday, August 12, 1996


August 12, 1996


There's no sure-fire way to get children to want to help around the house. But here are some suggestions to help parents develop a system of shared home management responsibilities:

You may want to start by getting everyone around the dining room table for a discussion about what jobs need to be done, which ones are the most disliked, and how each person can share in family chores. Make a list and include the children's ideas.

Each family member can be responsible for personal things. Beyond that, you'll have to decide who will do what jobs. Try to involve everyone in a plan of dividing up chores and assigning them fairly. Avoid separating jobs into male/female tasks. Explain that everyone needs to learn a variety of household management skills. At the family meeting, stress the importance of each family member being organized to prevent additional work. Show children how some tasks can be consolidated. For example, children can set the table for breakfast while putting away the supper dishes. Make your home user-friendly. Try to eliminate the chaos that makes it appear it would be nearly impossible to get things straightened up.

Children may need to learn how to operate some household equipment (running the vacuum sweeper, for example), or how to do some chores in an orderly way. Work with children until they can do it satisfactorily and encourage them as they learn. When they've done the job well, be generous with compliments.

Agree on the quality of acceptable work. Everybody has a different idea about what constitutes a "clean" room, so begin by setting specific standards. Nevertheless, when children take some responsibility, they will expect to do the work their own way, which may not coincide completely with yours. Their abilities and skill levels also will be important factors in job quality.

Agree on reasonable deadlines that are mutually satisfactory to those doing the work. After a time schedule is agreed upon, try not to vary.

Once everyone agrees on tasks, what happens if the work is not completed? The key is to discuss this at the first family meeting before it becomes a problem. It's important that consequences be agreed upon in advance and then are consistently applied.

Be a good role model. If you expect children to make their beds, be certain yours is made also.

And don't forget the adage about "all work and no play." The reason for sharing household tasks is to give the whole family more time to be together and for each person to have time alone. Make sure chores don't become drudgery.

Learn Art of Delegating

If everybody in a family helps create the work, why shouldn't everybody join in getting things done?

But so long as one person works double time, few others are likely to pitch in and help.

That's why delegating is important. Whether you are volunteering within a local group, serving on a committee at work or dealing with a family situation, dividing large tasks into smaller segments that can be shared is beneficial for everyone involved.

Don't let guilt feelings interfere with good intentions. If you find it difficult to delegate, follow these suggestions:

  • Define responsibilities clearly. Allow for individual differences in the way tasks are done, but define limitations to provide consistency.
  • Delegates complete segments of a task. Make sure others can see the goal. Others may lack motivation if they are asked to do only bits and pieces of a project.
  • Feedback is important, but be honest and accurate in your assessment. Emphasize what went wrong, not who did something wrong. Praise efforts of family members and expect some mistakes in the beginning.
  • Set goals and performance standards. Discuss expectations and deadlines for particular tasks. It may be helpful to write out responsibilities and deadlines.
  • Provide support. Share your knowledge, information and plans. If special skills are required, teach others or provide the means for them to attend necessary classes in the community.
  • Share decision-making. Let others have a voice in the plan. If you ask your spouse to do grocery shopping, let that person plan the schedule and decide if it is easier to go once to twice a month.
  • Let go of authority. Transfer authority to allow others a feeling of personal success or failure. Perhaps the most difficult part of delegating is letting go.
  • And remember to say "thank you." After a job is done, acknowledge the accomplishments of others. Commend and encourage family members as they learn new responsibilities.

-- Trudy M. Rice is a Douglas County Extension Service agent in family and consumer sciences.

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