I've been trying to involve him in family chores since he was little, but all I've gotten so far was silliness and a mess. He never was interested in doing it like me, he just wanted to create a mess. Yesterday, I tried it again. I came up with a load of cloth that he uses to wipe his mouth and hands after meals. I asked him to please fold it. No answer. Then I said he would get a little reward at the end and he was at work right a way and doing an awesome job! Before, I thought he was just not able to fold stuff or so (when he did in the past, it was as messy as before), but now I know he just didn't want to do a good job. So, now I'm a little confused. I would love to have him help me more, but I don't think it will work without a reward.
He understands very well what money is, and is very much into getting money and saving it in his piggy bank for something big, he may want later.
I'm more the parent who says, folding cloth is a chore that kids do because they are part of the family and not something he should get paid for. But he won't do it without a reward!
What would you do?
Sounds pretty normal to me. He has his priorities and you have yours. His priorities do not include having the laundry folded. Everybody needs motivation. I agree with you, though, that doing chores is being part of the family. Does your son get an allowance? A one dollar allowance paid every Friday (like a paycheck) may do a lot to motivate him. I wouldn't tell him that it's payment for the chores, but that it's participating in the family's good fortune that he is helping to make happen. What I tell my son is that we're in one family and we all have to work together to succeed. So he has things he has to do: "feed his guinea pigs and put away silverware." But, as part of the family, he also gets to gets the reward from the family succeeding in a way that is visible to him. He gets a dollar a week. So, I think maybe your son needs to have clear guidelines of what his chores are...so they're always the same. And an allowance to make him feel more "responsible". But still, you will need to remind him sometimes when he forgets his chores or wants to do something else at the moment...
What chores does he enjoy doing, whether he is effective or not? At 4yo, it really is more about the effort, not the results. It also needs to be the right length of time. This is going to look different for every kid. They also like company. Chores at this age (and, why not? for as long as necessary) should come as a family activity. When everyone gets in on the action, being *out* of the action is less fun.
I have had success with expecting very little things: the girls put their day's clothes in the dirty laundry. It's a tiny, tiny chore, but it is incredibly helpful.
Now we have a toy chore chart (Melissa & Doug). They decide what chores they want to do during the day from a list. At the beginning of the day, I tell them what I need to do, and if there is anything they want to help with. My oldest (8.5yo) loves ironing and dusting. I do not need ironing done, but why not? When I was little, I liked sweeping and dusting. Not so much ironing, but then I was expected to do all my clothes plus pillowcases. I still like pillowcases. DD irons the handkerchiefs, which I also do not need ironed, but again, why not? (With our system, the girls reward themselves--I have nothing to do with this chart, but that is just our house and the way we work and live.)
Just like dinner on the table, make sure some of the options are ones he would enjoy, even if it would be more helpful if he chose something else. The goal at this point is to engage him in a necessary family activity.
Also, make sure that you don't make chores sound like drudgery. You don't have to be Snow White and be all cheery, but don't grumble and gripe, either. Put on some energetic music and sing and dance your way around the room, scooping things up, vacuuming. Kids love dusting, as non-essential as that is. They love anything with bubbles and brushes. Don't expect the "chore" to be something that *really* needs to be done at this point. Polished the mirror yesterday? Again today? Why not?
Good luck. Remember that a 4yo is more likely to make chores take longer. It's OK to get irritated when they mess up your good work, like jumping on a bed full of neatly folded laundry. They will not be 4yo forever.
And I personally would ditch the rewards for cleaning. Your son is the poster child for the downside of rewards for chores! Kids can and will start helping out without them. You need to have faith and patience with that. But in the end, you might decide that help with chores is more important and that they might outgrow the need for rewards for every effort. It's all up to you and your priorities. Cash for chores? Why not, if it eventually gets you the help you need? I had teenage friends growing up that were paid each $20 for getting the house clean. And they cleaned all of it (this was back in the early '80's when $20 was a *huge* amount of money!)
Unfortunately, when a lot of kids start helping out willingly is about the same time they get whisked off to school, adding more to their day and in making chores a burden for them.
Another personal note: I do not tie chores to allowance in any way. Allowance is for learning about money here, period. I know my money-motivated daughter would do more to help with that system, but I tell her, if I do not get paid for it, neither does she. Everybody feels better when the house is cleaner and more organized, that is our reward. She has other ways to earn money, as both dh and I are self-employed.
Give me a few minutes while I caffeinate.
lmkl and sweetsilver, thank you for your replys! I honestly don't have a chore routine, not even for myself Everything is done on an "as needed basis".
One chore he enjoyed (at least once) was loading the laundry machine with dirty clothes. Maybe I can make him "responsible" for that? It wouldn't be terrible if the already dirty laundry fell on the floor again... And after seeing that he can fold the cloth so nicely, maybe I can coax him into doing it again without a reward? With the explanation of this beeing a family thing? What bugs me though is, that when I asked him to fold it in the past, he did a crappy job of folding (clearly on purpose) with the reward hanging over his head, it was done with care and pride... I just don't get it!
But, please keep it coming. It makes me think about how I handle chores and what they mean to me. Quite enlightening!
We've done a lot of "quick! everybody find 10 things that aren't in the right place and put them away!"
And there's the "we can't X until we ___." "We can go to the park as soon as the clothes are put away." "We can play another game, but not until these toys are off the floor and we vacuum it." "Sure you can watch a video, just as soon as X is done."
I wouldn't expect a fantastic job either, but I think that wanting to get a kid of that age to help with something, at his ability level, without being bribed to do it, isn't unrealistic. My 2 year old can stack diaper liners fairly neatly, put away toys in bins, put trash in the can and dirty clothes in the hamper, etc. I am sure there are chores that the OP's child can do to an acceptable level. I bet a family chore routine would help, and all doing stuff together on a regular basis. (I'd better implement that while my daughter is still in the uber-helpful phase!)