Chores and mini chefs
Allow the children to participate in the cooking.
Toddlers are usually quite keen on helping out. They want to know how things are done. They want to take part. They want to help.
Yes, you will have to clean both kitchen and children thoroughly afterwards. Yes, you will have to instruct them very carefully, and also be very careful with everything sharp or hot. But try and find ways to make room for their helpfulness and interest anyway. To scale, whisk and pour, according to their capabilities, gives them an insight into how the meal is cooked, and interest can be born.
Children can be allowed to participate in planning and purchasing. They can get to taste. They can help making the table. The smallest ones can rummage through drawers, chew on spoons or bang on pot lids. Perhaps the toddler can slice a piece of bread or banana with a blunt butter knife into tiny crumbs, while the older ones can help out more, or just socialize by doing their homework in the kitchen area if they want to.
A nice relief is when each family member takes care of their own dishes after dinner. Even a three year old can learn to carry away, rinse and put plates into the dishwasher or the sink. You can also take turns to have dish washing days when the kids are a bit older.
The children should be encouraged to help with the cooking, cleaning and shopping, to learn to value and respect the work behind the meals and all household duties. It’s about responsibilities. It’s about growing independence, skill by skill. That also grows confidence. Feeling of importance, of inclusion. The basis for self esteem. Don’t underestimate the power of a job.
Chores are more pleasant to do when you get the occasional “thank you”, and perhaps some appreciative comments about a good performance. This is true for children as well as adults.
More on motivation in this post.
Keep in mind that children can’t possibly perform chores they haven’t been taught how to do. They need step-by-step instructions, very detailed too, to understand what they are expected to do whey you ask them to “clean”. Do you mean picking up toys or wiping the table? They also need appreciation to feel good about doing house work.
Teenagers playing their part
The negotiations you may have with your teenager about chores comes down to this: you live and work together, as a family. You all have different work / school schedules, interests and needs. Start there, respectfully discussing what needs to be done, what can be put on hold and who’s about to take on the responsibility for each of the necessities.
Asking questions and actually listening to the answers is an important part of understanding each other. To give the teens the opportunity to solve problems instead of trying to convince them that your way is right, is a powerful tool. It tickles their ambitions and nurture a mature interpretation of independence.
With discussion, you can add other aspects to the problem and control the outcome indirectly (and quite craftily) when their solutions are just too simple or unfair. To discuss solutions like this shows the teens that there is a responsibility here, and that you think they can take it on. It shows respect, and teens need some of that too.
Also respect the fact that a teenager does have a lot of things going on inside and can’t always be of much use. They are tired from growing, from figuring out their individuality and social relations among all the other stuff they are suddenly counted on knowing about. But do encourage them to take on a reasonable part of everyday chores. It’s good for them:
Hands-on stuff to do keeps your feet on the ground. To actually help out and be of use is good for your self esteem. Being helpful for survival and family comfort IS more important than what brands are hotter or what shoes to wear, really.