Like many young children, when I was a little girl, I wanted to do everything my mom did. So much so, I cut up a dress she had just finished sewing for me. Earlier that week, I had seen her cut the fabric for the dress and I wanted to copy her. Unfortunately, when I got my hands on her fabric shears, I cut up the beautiful dress instead of a sheath of fabric.

Luckily, I was blessed with a warm and empathetic mom who understood that I was merely trying to copy her. She has since told me on several occasions, "Mimicry is the greatest form of flattery." My mom reports that this incident helped her to realize that she could take advantage of my desire to be like her. In other words, she realized I was ready to begin "helping" her with household maintenance.

Starting when your children are toddlers, it is important to communicate to them that chores can be both fun and rewarding. At this age, children are so eager to be included in everything their parents and elder siblings do. Although, it may initially feel frustrating to do chores at a toddler's pace, it is well worth the upfront investment. If small children start participating in age-appropriate chores, they are much more likely to develop a good work ethic and be willing to do their chores throughout their challenging teen years.

  • Notice your daughter's interests and follow her lead. If she loves playing with the backyard hose, invite her to help you water the garden or wash the car.

  • Provide ample and specific praise. "I can see that you are putting a lot of effort into washing all the dirt off the car. I appreciate your helpfulness."

  • Maintain a positive attitude and sense of pride regarding your own household duties. Children will notice your attitude and will likely take their cue from you.

If your children are older and chores tend to be a contentious issue in your household, the following ideas may be helpful.

  • Approach a household project as a family-unit. In other words, team up and complete the task together.

  • Make the chores as fun as possible. Play loud music, and have an impromptu dance party in the midst of sweeping the floor.

  • Set a time limit for the chores versus focus on task completion. Oftentimes, when children know they only have to participate in the chore for 30 minutes or less, they are much more able to put forth their best effort.

  • Older children tend to relish freedom. Consequently, it is helpful to let them decide which chore they want to complete. For instance, "Would you like to vacuum the living room or mow the lawn?

  • Celebrate efforts with small rewards such as going out for pizza or ice cream.

  • Manage your expectations. Be realistic about your child's efforts. In other words, don't expect perfection.

Instilling a healthy habit of performing daily chores early on in life will sustain a rewarding and responsible life later on.

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