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Chores: Who Should Do Them? Yesterday, on our Facebook page, I shared a video from another blog. The video was about a mom who shared photos of her kid doing chores and the support/flack she received over it. In my mind I never knew such a simple subject could raise so much controversy but I should have guessed. It seems that the simple things always raise the most questions if not concern in both normal life and in the system.
Over the summer rent-a-dad and I took a fostering class titled “creating teachable moments”. At the time we registered for the class we didn’t realize how straight forward the class would be. I guess we thought there would be some big secret revealed to us because we never feel like we have all the answers.
The truth is we have more answers than we realize (and that is what scares us the most days!!). The biggest (answer/truth) is that we treat all kids in our house (care) as if they are our children. This includes the expectation that everyone will pitch in and help out.
Yes we expect foster children to do age appropriate chores.
It is a bit of a shock to us that not everyone does this. Treat fosters as their own, have real and realizable expectations, and you know assign chores.
I mean we don’t call all of the activities chores, especially when it is a life skill like expecting a three year old to be able to get dressed (put on a shirt and pair of pants). Cleaning up after yourself or putting your own dirty dishes in the sink aren’t chores either as they are apart of daily life. Knowing when to start with these expectations or chores depends on the child’s social cues or research on age appropriate chores.
I guess it is all about perspective. We each feel certain tasks are apart of daily life. Some tasks are just ingrained as you do them no questions asked while others are labeled as chores.
When we attended the DCS class the subject matter was exactly what the title said “teachable moments”. The class went over expectations of what children learn naturally and what they need to be taught, through daily life and time set aside specifically for teaching life skills. This included the idea of chores.
When the question arose of “Chores: who should do them?”, I was the one to quickly say “everyone”. I had a few questioning looks even when I explained that if my (eldest) nephew at the age of one could pick cat dishes up and put them in a dishwasher on a daily basis, helping me with my chores, then he was doing chores. Ergo a one year old could/should do chores.
When all the heads swung to look at the instructor she said “that’s exactly right”. She went on to say something I believe whole-heartedly in, that if we, as parents or mentors, don’t show our kids how to do things then who will?
The most recent generations are lacking basic everyday skills and we aren’t just talking about kids in care. We are talking about children, teenagers, and young adults from all walks of life not knowing basic things like how to do laundry, mow a lawn, where the spare tire in a vehicle is located (or how to find out) and more.
The school systems are not prepared to handle teaching these life skills so we, as their parents and mentors, have to. Once upon a time Home Ec (economics) taught teenagers the basics of life after high school like how to plan a meal from the budget side to the cooking side, how to handle a bank ledger, and how to change a diaper. When I was in high school I think we maybe learned how to cook two meals. I shudder to think what that class (if offered) teaches today. The point is probably even less.
So who has to pick up that slack? The parents, mentors… rest of society.
Chores: What to expect…
Like with most subjects everyone has an opinion. When in doubt do an internet search. There are many different sources from medical journals to family periodicals that have suggestions of what age appropriate chores and life skills.
One such source, Focus on the Family, even distinguishes between personal chores and family chores. The youngest they go is age 2.
In my opinion if a child shows interest in helping around the house and participating in activities you are doing then, when safe, involve them. It is not like I ever expected my eldest nephew, at the age of one, to pick up the pets dishes on his own or unsupervised. Every time he helped pick up the pets dishes it was because I was already doing them and he showed interest in helping.
Showing that interest to help allowed us to realize that he was ready to start learning about picking up his own toys. His brother and our foster daughter were exactly the same when they turned one. Each of them expressed interest in different tasks but the point is they showed interest and we acted upon that.
Now if the child shows no interest, which is rare, then I would suggest following guidelines from the internet and start working with the child the closer they get to the age of two with small tasks.
As far as older children coming into care, or perhaps nieces/nephews staying with you over the summer, start by asking what chores they were expected to handle at home. If the answer is none then start with a list of small expectations (putting dishes into the dishwasher) and work your way up to age appropriate ones (like sorting laundry and helping with folding).
Chores: The outcome…
After all, no matter the age, what we are all trying to do is raise children who are not afraid to tackle every day tasks, regardless of gender, and who feel confident in asking for/seeking help when they feel they are out of their depth. So that when they graduate high school we (parents/mentors) are just as confident as they are about taking care of themselves, at least in the most basic of ways.
To not aid our children in this way of growth (chores/basic life skills) is doing them a major disservice. I for one would rather cry because my children don’t “need” me any more then because they are permanently stuck with me taking care of them through their twenties and thirties.