8 Essential Skills to Teach Your Kids That Will Simplify Your Homelife

Skill #5: Learn to finish. 

The skill of finishing is best taught initially in the room that sees a lot of family members each day and can become quite messy without consistent "finishing."

With younger children, it is enough to focus on flushing the toilet, checking the toilet paper, and helping them hang up their towel after bathing. With older children, teenagers, and adults, the skills might include washing their toothpaste spittle down the sink, putting their toothbrush and the toothpaste away, and getting their dirty clothes inside the laundry basket.

Again, a family meeting might be held where the specifics of what a "finished" bathroom looks like are discussed and clarified. Successful "finishing" marks could merit a treat at the end of the week.

Skill #6: Seek to serve. Help Mom or Dad 15 minutes every day doing what they want you to do. Mom or Dad will, in turn, do what you would like to do once a week on "your day."

Kids spend a lot of time whining about having too much to do around the house just with regular chores. Yet there are special circumstances that seem to come up each day where a little extra help would really make a difference to most parents.

Thus the skill of service. Ask family members to come to you sometime during the day and ask how they can help out. Set a timer for 15 minutes and let your children serve you in unique ways, according to the demands of the day.

This is countered by children having one day of the week where Mom or Dad will do what they want for the same 15-minute period. Often children will ask for a book to be read aloud, for a few minutes together at the basketball hoop, or for help with their latest school project.

This back-and-forth service in the home sets the stage for bigger service projects outside the home and creates a "sure, I'll be happy to help" attitude.

Skill #7: Regularly return the whole home to order. Clean up the house three times a day, usually before breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

This skill helps keep the home neat and teaches family members that any little job done frequently is much easier than a bigger job done less often. Because food is a great motivator, choosing to clean up before meals will bring a higher rate of success.

For example, a mother might say, "Dad will be home in fifteen minutes. I have dinner prepared, but, oh, the mess we have around the house! I have hot spaghetti and meatballs for all 'Italian sailors' that can help make our home ship-shape for inspection by Daddy when he arrives home. Let's set a timer and go to work."

Skill #8: Practice self-initiative. Do one chore every day without being asked.

This skill is also somewhat elusive unless there is specific training about both the principle and the practice. It is useful for a family meeting to be held where each family member is given a chance to choose a daily chore they will do for the whole week without being asked or reminded. It is useful, as with all family projects, to make up a written chart with commitments written down plainly.

For example, a father might receive the following commitments from his family. "Kent will put away his backpack on the hook in his bedroom when he first comes home from kindergarten. Eliza will set the dinner table at four P.M. Mom will have dinner ready by six P.M. I will start doing dishes right after dinner. Everyone will do these chores without being reminded."

There are many other important skills to learn together as a family, but these eight skills seem to make the most difference to most families I work with. In no time at all, the laundry is being put away in a timely manner. Bedrooms are neater. Meals go more smoothly. The family is working together and it is easier to maintain order.

Of course, there will be bad days, but the skills are there to be practiced again when things settle down. All in all, it makes for a happier family when the home and life are a bit more organized.

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In Marie's book, The Children You Want with the Kids You Have she details a "Training Children to Work Master Plan" for helping children learn a variety of essential skills needed to have a good work ethic, a responsible character, and the opportunity to live in a home that functions well. Now available at Deseret Book.

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