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 chain switch. I consistently underestimate how long it will take.
Now that I have three young children, I have trouble finding time to do those chores – and when I do try to do particular household jobs during daytime hours, my oldest son, who is 5, wants to help.
Parents always face a dilemma when a young child wants to tag along and “help” with work. 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 son to help me more with jobs and tasks, and I’ve discovered we’ve both enjoyed it.
Here are five reasons I’ve done this:
1. It teaches both of us patience. Patience is one of those fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) that few of us ever master, but that Scripture nevertheless commands. Nothing will teach patience like trying to do a job with a 5-year-old. But choose your chores carefully. I did allow my 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, we each come 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 teaches children about work and achievement. From the jobs at home to the chores in the office or on the farm, chores take time and patience, and 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 work 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 but instead a great team member. 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).
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 son to help with a task, I find a way to do it by myself. But more times often than not, he’s tagging along with me, happy to just be doing whatever he can, asking me a dozen questions. Those are times I’ll always treasure.
Michael Foust is an editor and writer who blogs about parenting and fatherhood. He loves his family and also really likes popcorn. Interested in re-posting this in your publication or on your blog for free? Send me a message in the comments section below (the message won’t go public).
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