Wailing and gnashing of teeth! Tantrums!

That was me before I even called my children in to do their chores - so great was the dread I was experiencing. Truthfully, I knew how I wanted chores done, and it was quicker and easier just to do them myself. The problem with that kind of thinking is that nobody wins in the long run.

Chores are a vital part of childhood and much can be learned from them, for both you and the kids.

I remember when two of my daughters shared a room. When I tell you that local news crews could have come and filmed the room instead of actually visiting a natural disaster, it would be no exaggeration. It was deplorable and it was making me crazy. I told them they were grounded until it was clean.

[Crickets chirping.]

Fast-forward two days. I opened their bedroom door to find them still sitting on piles of dirty clothes, shoes, books and games - having a blast playing with their dolls.

"Don't you girls miss playing outside with your friends?" I asked.

[Crickets chirping.]

Eventually, they missed their friends. But they were completely and utterly overwhelmed at the task before them (cleaning the once untidy room that was now disastrous).

It finally dawned on me that telling them to clean their room was like telling them, "Hey, girls, I'd like for you to get a man on the moon."

Break it down

I had not equipped them with the tools or the know-how to get the job done. Truth be told, the room overwhelmed me. So I broke it down into components and made it a little more fun by timing them in a competition.

"Emily, when I say go, you put all the books on the shelf and Rose, you put all the shoes in the closet ... GO!"

"OK, now, when I say 'go' both of you make up your beds."

And so forth.

We laughed, and it was a great time spent together. After that, I made little charts with pictures for Rose and words for Emily, who could read, and put them in plastic sheaths. They would mark off the chores with crayon as they completed them. Breaking the big task up into little, quickly achievable tasks made all the difference in the world.

Set consequences

For most of my life, I've had a lot of children in my home. My rule was that everyone did their own dishes. I would run hot, soapy water before we sat down to dinner and once we were through eating, they would ask to be excused and clear their places and do their own place setting.

To make sure I knew that they were all actually doing their own, I went to the dollar store and bought them each a colorful, but unique, place setting. Hannah was orange flowers, Tanner was blue rings, Grace was purple flowers, Rose was solid green and so on. Now I knew at a glance who had done their own and who had not.

If I caught anyone using someone else's place setting because their own was dirty or if they didn't do their own right after dinner, then they got to do the fringe work (wipe down counters, sweep floors, put away food and so forth).

It worked like a charm!

Reap the rewards

Now, as for the benefits, I cannot stress this enough. It is nice to compliment your children on their appearance, sense of humor or their kindness. Those are all good things. But if you want to teach your children self-esteem, I'll clue you into a little treasure. Nothing makes us feel empowered as knowing we can take care of ourselves - that we can take on a task and complete it and give it our best. That is where self-esteem comes from.

A good work ethic and self-reliance are two of the most important values we can teach our children. I always say, "I didn't raise children; I raised adults." If children grow up believing they can do the things that are essential to their happiness - order is a huge component to happiness - they will be so much the better.

In addition, once you develop the habits with them, they will continue as they grow. Regularity, structure, rituals, customs and traditions. All of these are vital to happy, healthy individuals.

Work with them on whatever their chores are for a week or two, and then turn them loose and expect results.

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