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Kimberly  Fast
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Principal's Corner

Grit- Giving Your Children a Gift That Will Last a Lifetime

The Christmas tree and decorations are most likely packed up at your house. As a parent, you may have spent too much time and money trying to find the perfect gift. However, many of the toys that were nestled under the tree may already be broken, discarded or gathering dust in the corner of the room. A few things that felt like necessities may have already been confiscated and you find yourself asking why you thought a seven year old was ready for a drum set???

January, however, is the perfect time to begin to give your child a precious gift that will last a lifetime…the gift of work. Now, you may feel like your child is too young or I can hear some of you saying… “I’ve tried the chore thing and it is more work for me than it’s worth!” Perhaps in the past getting your child to do chores has led to bickering and it may not feel worth the hassle. As one mom said to me, “I feel like a nag when I try to get them to work. I’d rather have a peaceful home than fuss with my kids.”

But every parent wants children who know how to contribute and are others-centered. If every activity is based on what they want to do, we risk raising very self-centered children. Learning to work teaches children to be responsible and contributing members of society. Developing a healthy work ethic teaches children how to balance work and play. While we want our children to be happy, happiness is a byproduct of job well done. When we fail to teach our children to work, we rob them of happiness and the chance to be successful as adults.

Here are some tips to help you be successful as you train your children:

1.       It’s all in your attitude. As a parent you don’t teach your child to work to make your life easier…it may eventually, but that is not the goal. Learning to work and taking satisfaction in a job well done will make their life easier. When my children were young, one of the first jobs they did was edging the walls with the vacuum. Dressed in a fireman’s costume, (complete with a hat!) made the job of “sucking up fire along the edge of the living room” much more fun. In fact, it was not unusual for my preschool boys to want to play fireman when they had friends over to play. The looks on other parents’ faces were always priceless! Those early times of instruction help lay the foundation for adults that have found satisfaction in working.

2.       Supervise! Supervise! Supervise! Everyone has someone to whom they must answer. That’s life. But the job of a good supervisor is also to teach. So you must work alongside your child teaching them how to do a job. It is not enough to say, “Make your bed.” You must show your child HOW to do it. Here’s where you can have fun. Set aside some time to tickle and wrestle on the bed in order to get it into complete shambles. Then together, work at straightening each layer. It’s not enough to just pull up everything at once. Being deliberate teaches your child the steps necessary to do a good job. Try breaking down each job into small concrete steps and your child will have a clearer understanding of the job and will also be more successful. Once it is completed then…

3.       Inspection is critical. When the any job is done, it must be inspected. Don’t take your child’s word that their room is clean, check their work. Try putting on white gloves and using a fun accent. Your child will learn that you mean business in a silly way. You will find that to skip this step will ensure sloppy work and the development of bad habits. If you really want to be “crazy,” ask your children to inspect your work around the home!

4.       PRAISE is power! We don’t just praise perfection. If that were the case, we would all be discouraged. We praise attempts and the process. When we first moved to our current home, we planted 100 trees on our property. Each tree needed an equivalent to an inch of rain a week. That meant lots of time with the hose watering each tree. Now my children may accuse me of being a storyteller, but “I never worked as hard as they did, when I was a child,” and when anyone would comment on our trees, we were quick to point out that they were thriving because of our “hard working children.” Today the trees are well over 15 feet tall and are a living testament to the value of diligence.

5.       Enjoy yourself! Working together as a family is fun. It creates great memories and a sense of satisfaction. After a hard day’s work, celebrate with a special treat, a trip to the pool or family game night. It is very motivating to complete a job if there is a reward at the end. But remember, time with you, doing something as a family, is the best reward.

6.       Have reasonable expectations. Most of us struggle with what is appropriate for children to do at various ages. Here are some suggestions that have worked for me:

Ages 2-4

1.       Pick up unused toys and put them in their proper place

2.       Place napkins, plates and silverware on the table

3.       Choose between two foods at breakfast

4.       Clear their own place at the table

5.       Clean the toilet. (Yes…you read that correctly!) Get a pair of child size rubber gloves and a with little vinegar, let your child swish the toilet brush around.

6.       Edges around the house with the extended nozzle of the vacuum…and don’t forget the fireman’s hat!

Ages ­­4-6

1.       Put away groceries

2.       Make their bed

3.       Make a simple dessert (e.g. Pudding or pouring toppings on ice cream)

4.       Hold the hand mixer with assistance

5.       Vacuum

6.       Fill the dishwasher

7.       Follow a schedule for feeding a pet

Ages 6-8

1.       Water outdoor plants, shrubs and trees

2.       Follow a list at the grocery store

3.       Make a simple meal (for example make sandwiches or grilled cheese and cut up fruit, make a simple pasta dish…My children started with a simple Pasta Cabonara which is still a regular on their adult meal plans).

4.       Clean the bathroom

5.       Learn to correctly answer the phone (This is becoming a lost skill but a necessary one)

6.       Hang up their own clothes

7.       Separate clothes for laundry

8.       Pack their own lunch

Ages 8- 10

1.       Get themselves up in the morning on their own

2.       Mop or dust the floor

3.       Dust the furniture

4.       Help rearrange the furniture or help plan the layout of a room (You may have a budding designer!)

5.       Complete a simple painting job (The inside of a closet is a great place to start.)

6.       Write thank you notes

7.       Clean a closet

8.       Follow a chore chart independently (By this age, children like to have choices. Make a list of all the chores that need to be done and have each family member take turns selecting items for their personal list…don’t forget mom and dad! It is important that your child sees that every member of the family works together for the good of everyone.


Ages 10-12

1.       Sew on a button

2.       Prepare a more complicated family meal with guidance

3.       Do their own laundry or do a complete family load

4.       Buy groceries using a list and comparative shop with guidance

5.       Handle sums of money up to $10

6.       Pack their own suitcase for an overnight or vacation

7.       Assist with yard work. Begin with trimming bushes and by 12 move to mowing the lawn with supervision

8.       Check and add oil to a car under supervision


Now, if your child is 10 and has never had the opportunity to learn to do some of the things on the list, you may need to go back to an earlier stage. However, remember for each of these tasks, you are supervising (teaching) inspecting, praising. As your family learns to work together, you won’t just be having fun, you will be creating memories as you shape your children into responsible people. Enjoy the journey!