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OT - small children, chores and leadership

moeilijk's picture

There's a chore chart out there with responsibilities even 2-5 year olds can do. And I think my kid, with me riding herd, can do each of those things.

I'd really like for DD3 to take on a bit more responsiblity for others in our home. It might be asking too much. She now chooses her clothes and dresses herself (although she has recently become obsessed with Frozen and has organized her non-name brand clothes into Frozen/not-Frozen and nothing in the non-Frozen category is worn anymore.... but I digress).

I know people have talked about teaching their children to make a gourmet dinner for 10 and to take everyone out later in the car for ice cream by the time the kid was 5... so how did you get the kid to do stuff around the house?

In other news I've decided to spin DD being dominant into her showing leadership, and instead of battling the dominance I've let her run with it. And it's worked very well for the most part. It's been a couple of days, and just today she seemed very upset. Apparently she got angry at a teacher in the daycare and threw her boots at her (!!! It got handled there, but everyone was very surprised, not just me!) She told me several times she wasn't going to do as she was asked, and once I had to pick her up and move her because she refused to move (she was in the middle of the road. Not a place to hold a discussion.)

So on the one hand, I am looking for ideas on how to encourage leadership. I literally asked her to be the leader on the way home and she *loved* that. And when she is being 'bossy' I now act all wow you know so much. But maybe you guys have more practical ideas as well?

And on the other hand, I think I need to watch my step that it doesn't become overwhelming. For example, yesterday I told her that I could see she was growing up and if she wanted, she could ride her bike to daycare today. She did, and talked about it a bit. Then this morning, we talked about it again, and she wanted to do it. She found it very upsetting at the start, and got very upset every time the bike stopped and she couldn't get it started (it's got training wheels). Twice she stopped to ask for a hug (awwww...).

So yeah, she's got a really intense emotional life so she's sensitive.... and she needs the outlet of being charge, knowing something, being good at something etc for that dominant side.

Just to be clear, I am very happy with her and don't want HER to be different. I'm just looking for ways to help her develop leadership skills and ideas on how to handle kids with super-strong emotions.

And also how to get her to do the tidying up.

That's all. Wink


ksmom14's picture

I'm not sure how to help specifically, especially at that age.

But I will say that being a GOOD leader is about being flexible and reading your "followers". Just like how everyone learns in different ways, so as a teacher it is important to figure out how best someone learns and try to teach them that way.

So I guess try to incorporate leading as being an outlet to HELP other people vs. leading because she just likes to be in charge.

moeilijk's picture

Whenever I look up leadership skills, it seems the most visible quality is decisiveness, but there are soooo many other skills that are important. Communication, empathy, pro-social behaviour (helping). I just never seem to find anything practical. Like, all the articles I've found talk about getting your kid who cares about what happens to a dog in a story to do a fundraiser for a local shelter. Like, what??? Maybe appropriate from age 10ish, but not for everyone and not at age 3!

Letting her be in charge of something is a way I can let her show leadership, so I do. She waits for the slow-pokes (me), she reminds everyone of the safety rules (stop and wait for me, then look and cross the street), so I think she's got the basics of helping behaviour.

It's more, what kind of opportunity can I find for her?

robin333's picture

She sounds adorable Moe. What about setting the table even if that means distributing the silver? Having be in charge of getting to school was super smart. You are exposing her to the leader role and providing support for the emotions she experiences in these new situations. I have the upmost respect for the thoughtfulness of your parenting.

moeilijk's picture

Thank you!!! That's a really great compliment and I appreciate it. I think she could take on setting the table. It's a challenge, in the sense that she can't reach the drawer without a stool, and the kitchen isn't that big... but I think we can make it work. Thanks for the idea!

Livingoutloud's picture

I think you are doing a great job. There are no clear cut rules in parenting really. You already doing more than many. She is only three!

Don't worry about stories of 5 year olds cooking dinners for 10 people. We all walked to school 5 miles in a snow, up hill both ways
lol don't even bother with those stories.

Leadership skills is s tricky one. My DD is very decisive and don't lack leadership skills but I didn't let her pick her clothes for the longest time. I think I am way too controlling and am too concerned about looks. You are brave!

I think in terms of practical leadership role maybe tell her that she is responsible for one particular thing and then she should remember to do it every day (tell her she is in charge) like maybe organize shoes in a hallway or like somebody said set up table etc

I have no advice on tidying up. I am the last person to advice on that! My DD still bad at tidying up. She was very good getting out of it at young age and I was too preoccupied with her intellectual development and let it go. Didn't seem important. It's hard to tell what's right. My parents are very messy and they never taught me to tidy up yet I am a total clean freak. I am complete opposite of my parents. I taught myself. But DD grew up with clean freak parents and is messy! Ugh go figure!

moeilijk's picture

You know, in terms of BEING the parent I want to be, I absolutely succeed. I see her quite clearly, respect my own limits well, support her in her development and teach her what I find most important (safety first, then fun!!).

There is SO much more I want to do for and with her, and for myself ofc. It can be hard to be ok with good enough sometimes, you know?

Livingoutloud's picture

I understand! Just focus on the fact that she was on this planet for only three years. You have years ahead of you. Make sure you read books with her and give her tons of various experiences. Expose her to things. Show her things, explain how things work.

secret's picture

Personally I found that developing a sense of accountability was easier to teach at that age than leadership. Cause and effect... but as to leadership, I generally used a very tight schedule. (I also ran a daycare for a while, so this was incredibly useful to me)

What I did was have a large picture frame with a piece of bristle board in it, covered with pieces of velcro. It was a timetable of sorts... with hours written directly on the board. I had a stack of cards with activities/chores/meals on them, with the other peice of velcro on them.

Every morning, I sifted through the "cards" I planned to do that day - took out breakfast choices, lunch choices, choices for chores such as set the table, sweeping, dusting, laundry, and choices for fun stuff like playing outside, story time, playdough, coloring, cartoons (if it was raining or something), legos... and then I would let the kids work it out.

The only non-negotiable things were meal times, which were in a colored square - but they could pick the meal.

They'd choose when to put each activity - maybe laundry was mid-morning, after storytime and before playing outside, or maybe they wanted it done in the afternoon... didn't matter, as long as there were activities in all the slots.

Then they had to stick to them. Since they selected them, they seemed to have a better sense of ownership of the tasks and were less likely to put up a fuss about following through.

For cleaning up - I had specific bins for each type of toy... and I always made sure that whatever they were playing with was put away before they started playing with something else, so we didn't end up with barbies all over the place along with tonka trucks legos and building blocks... much easier to pick up one "set" of toys - they grabbed the right bin (small dollar store containers with lids) and put them back in the shelves once picked up.

I also involved them in all my chores... if it was laundry, as babies they played in the pile. Tried putting the clothes on. Tried folding it as they got older. Now they all do their own, have for years. For meals - I got them to rip up lettuce... sprinkle the veggies in the salads... stir the mash the potatoes...mix the batter... as they got older, they started helping to peel, slice & dice... and now, they can each make a few decent meals relatively unsupervised (meatballs, mashed potatoes and roasted carrots for example) and several meals unattended (KD, eggs, canned stuff, pasta, frozen pizza...things people who can't cook can generally make).

Sure, they didn't sweep the floor properly, but they did it. A half swept floor is better than a non-swept floor... and if you half sweep it every day, you can kind of stay on top of it... lol

Honestly what helped the most for me and my family in terms of tidying up, was You were talking about being lost in time/space on another blog... I get like that sometimes though not to the extent you described - but this is why flylady was very helpful for me. One of it's core mantras is that you can do anything for 15 minutes... and I used it religiously. It also uses timers.... which again, helpful for me because I easily lose track of time. Even now, when I go about a deep clean in my home, I set the oven timer for 15 minutes and I go raving mad for the 15 minutes it's set for... because I know that if I can get it all done within the 15 minutes I gave myself, I can "reward" myself by making a cup of tea, looking at a magazine, whatever, for the next 15 minutes after that. Usually, though, I end up setting it for another 15 minutes because I'm so pleased with the progress on what I'm doing I don't want to lose my mojo.... so I end up cleaning/doing stuff for 45 minutes before I take any time for myself.

It breaks everything down for you - from which rooms to clean when, to the order of tasks you should accomplish, direction of the room to go in, and can send you daily reminders if you wish (weekly, ,monthly, whatever). It gives you tips like how getting fully dressed first thing in the morning, including shoes (indoor shoes or whatever) helps you subconsciously "be ready for anything" and gives you a sense of professionalism, even if you don't work outside the home.

Personally this works for me... because if I'm still in my pj's at 10am Saturday morning, it won't be a productive day...and I'm likely to make spaghetti for dinner because I've been vegging out all day... but if I'm dressed... by 10am I've got bacon and eggs going along with pancakes, an extra batch of pancakes so I can freeze to reheat another day's breakfast, I've got bread dough rising, the floors are washed, the kids have been nagged to death about planning to go do something outside, chores have been doled out, dinner prep has already been started by soaking beans/thawing meat/chopping veggies, a load is in the wash - ok I am totally exaggerating a little, but you get my drift.

I also never really called chores "chores". "Contributions" or "fair share" were closer expressions to what I'd use when it was time to do chores... everyone had to pitch in to keep our environment clean and pleasant... no tasks were owned by anyone, it was based on what needed to be done, that's all. I also encouraged them to keep an eye out for things that needed attention, and encouraged them to deal with it as they noticed them, which would mean that on the weekend, they'd have more time for themselves because whatever needed to get done was done sporadically throughout the week in 1-3 minute chunks of time.

moeilijk's picture

Now this is interesting!

I used to follow FlyLady some years ago, and have just started to pick bits and pieces up again as I am seriously overwhelmed in my personal life these days (online university student, 85% SAHM, disabled from working as my usual pain level is 5/10 or more and my usual fatigue level is 7/10, traveling with DD tomorrow to visit my ailing and challenging mom, my FIL is just now turning the corner from a serious medical issue in a faraway country, my step-MIL has asked my DH to send money (???!!!) and I've stopped sleeping completely, our babysitter/friend is on vacation, most of DD's playmates are on vacation as well so no playdates where I can sit and relax) and even though I can see how much better things are inside my head than before, it's still a lot.

Anyway, I realized that many things from back in the day have stuck, like dressing and having lots of little routines. But putting it on paper can help a lot. One thing that I always underestimate is how long things take. Example - DH happily took over doing the groceries and cooking about a month ago when my health was clearly taking a hit. But we've had the same 3 meals over and over because it's so much work to plan ahead etc the way I always did.

What I've found most difficult is the feeling of treading water. Like... I have to take so many things off my want-to-do list because it makes me so unhappy to never be able to move towards my goals.

I have dropped teaching my child prayers - now I just let her listen to prayer music in the evenings, and praise her virtuous behaviour when I see it (kindness, courtesy, helpfulness, etc).

I have dropped working with her regularly on her maths book, or on her reading.

I let her watch more tv.

I don't go for as many walks with her.

And that's just what comes to mind in my life as a mom. That feeling of - I have to not even try just sucks.

DD is good about doing as she's asked to take care of 'her' stuff. Her clothes in the laundry basket or hung up/put away, tidying up her toys and books, for the most part that's ok. It's not automatic, and a routine chart would be useful for sure.

Another issue is that it's has proven impossible to find bristol board in NL. It is for sure available at a special store - like a Costco, you have to have a membership, but the condition is that you have to have a business number, so only businesses can buy there. If your response is WTF??, all I can say is welcome to my life. For example, they have two solid antiperspirant options, well three if you count the gel one.

I have tried some similar things in the past but didn't find a system that worked for me. Maybe you can PM me in excrutiating detail about that chart?

secret's picture

I feel for you. I was gung ho with my first...less so with my second...and had completely turned into what I felt to be lazy mom by the third. I wasn't, but I feel like I let go so much in comparison with my first that I felt I was failing both her and myself.

10 years later, the youngest is in no way behind the other two... in fact, she seems to be the one with the older soul, deeper thoughts... she's the most responsible and trustworthy.

Have you considered recording the prayers, so that you could play them for her to listen to while you're cooking, or cleaning? Or even, have them play before bed or while brushing teeth/hair?

I'll pm you about the chart.

Monchichi's picture

moe, I am just happy when BabyD sleeps and puts her wet nappy in the bin. You're an over achiever Blum 3

moeilijk's picture

I know what you mean. I noticed the other day that a used pull-up was under her bed. Along with her favourite 'Frozen' pyjamas. I have no idea how long it was there.