Some of the most frustrating moments in my life have involved household jobs that required far more time than I initially envisioned. Fixing that stopped-up sink. Painting the room. Changing that broken ceiling fan switch. I consistently underestimate how long it will take.
Now that I have three young children, I have trouble finding time to do any chore—and my children (ages 6, 2 and 2) are often wanting to help.
Parents always face a dilemma when a young child wants to tag along when Mom or Dad are working. The time it takes to accomplish the chore easily could double or triple with a kid in the picture. Will the child truly help—or simply break something else along the way? Shouldn’t I just get my spouse to keep him or her away?
Lately, though, I’ve tried to allow my children to help more with jobs and tasks, and I’ve discovered we’ve all enjoyed it. Just the other day, for example, they “helped” me fix my car’s broken thermostat.
Here are five reasons I’ve done this:
1. It teaches patience. Patience is one of those fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) that we often struggle with, but that Scripture nevertheless commands. Nothing will teach patience like trying to do a job with a 2-year-old. But choose your chores carefully. I did allow my 6-year-old son to help with that stopped-up sink and that paint job, but he didn’t get to help with the ceiling fan switch. Household jobs teach him patience, too; those jobs that he thinks are all fun don’t get accomplished in five minutes.
2. It’s great for bonding—and for funny moments. I rarely finish a task with my son and regret letting him help. Most of the time, each of us walks away with great stories—him telling everyone how he got to “help Daddy” with a big task, and me telling everyone something funny he said. I won’t ever forget the time he said excitedly, “Dad, I can’t believe you can pick up that big tree limb!”
3. It lays the foundation for a solid work ethic. From the jobs at home to the tasks in the office or on the farm, chores require perseverance. It’s good to begin teaching this great life lesson to children early, and they’ll pick it up quickly by watching us. I heard my son say quietly to himself once as he was playing a game, “Don’t give up.” He had heard me say that to him, over and over, as we worked together. And when the job is over, both you and your child can celebrate. God is glorified when we work with a good attitude and a correct perspective (Ephesians 6:7). He also wants us to have a good work ethic—and to teach our children the same.
4. It teaches them they are not a burden—and it gives them skills. We’ll always be able to fold clothes better and clean up the kitchen faster. But if we are always impatient, not letting our children help, what are they learning about us—and themselves? I’m a sports fan, so I like the concept of a “team.” I tell my son that we’re the “Foust team” and that team members help one another. I’ve even awarded “Team Member of the Day and Week” awards (he wins it every time). Letting children help also teaches them skills. I know about car repair, gardening and beekeeping because my father had patience to teach me.
5. The time will come when they won’t want to work. Think back to your teenage years. When I was a teen, I didn’t run eagerly to the garden to help pick peas. Oftentimes, I moped about it. Young kids, though, often enjoy helping. Take advantage of it.
When I truly don’t have time for my children to help with a task, I find a way to do it by myself. But more often than not, they’re tagging along with me, happy to just be doing whatever they can, jabbering away or asking me a dozen questions. Those are times I’ll always treasure.
— by Michael Foust
Foust is the father of three small children, a writer and editor, and blogs about parenting at www.michaelfoust.com.