First let's review the cards.
Take Time for Training:
Training is an important part of teaching children life skills.
Children helping out a home learn life skills, develop social interest and feel capable.
Helping my kids acquire these "life skills" is something I'm devoted to doing. I don't want my kids to get to college and not know how to look after themselves and take care of their own basic needs. I don't want to wait until just before they leave home (for college or other adventures) to try to teach them these skills quickly. In short, I want them to be independent and value being independent. Feeling capable of handling things, even little things, is so crucial to good, healthy self-esteem.
And equally importantly, I don't want to have to do these things for them when they are perfectly capable of doing these things themselves! I need help around here! :o) Why waste all of this time--I'm talking about the years ahead in which they're still going to be living here--doing their laundry and cooking for them when they can handle those jobs independently? To be frank, I've got better things to do with my time. In other words, I am a rationally self-interested Mommy, and I value my Me-Time.
Take the laundry. One of my projects this summer was to teach both older children (nearly 7.5 and nearly 4.5 as of this writing) some laundry basics and to turn over most of the responsibility for doing their laundry to them. Both children surprised me by stepping up to the task. And really, what's so hard about laundry?
To teach them, I more or less did the same steps listed on the Take Time for Training card. They've always helped out here and there with the laundry, but I walked them through some of the less familiar steps a couple of times. Then, I let them do the steps with my assistance.
In this process, we found that we needed to do a few things to make the process a little easier on them. For example, washing machine settings can be confusing
I still help, but my assistance is limited to three critical areas. First, I still need to measure the detergent for both of them--until I can get some detergent in a smaller bottle that will be easier for them to manage (I went nuts at the wholesale club a few months ago and we have several super-sized detergent containers to work through first). So this issue will change soon, I hope.
The second area I'm helping with every time is simply due to physical constraints. Ryan can't really reach the wet laundry at the bottom of the washer (and Morgan can't reach it at all), so I assist in the washer-to-dryer transition. But that's only fair, I think. How many times has each of them helped me load wet clothes into the dryer? That's a great activity for toddlers, and even Sean has already helped with that job once or twice.
Finally--folding. Morgan is still a long way from being able to fold neatly and consistently. Ryan can do it, but I've found he approaches this task in a much more productive frame of mind if he and I split the jobs. I'll fold pants and he'll fold shirts, for example. I don't mind helping right now, because it's more fun to do a stunningly boring chore with a little company and it goes more quickly, too. Also, they both need reminders about certain fine-tuning (or in Morgan's case the regular-tuning) techniques. And also also, it actually forces me to make sure that we all see this through to the end (a problem I personally suffer from in the laundry arena). Plus, I don't mind helping them do THEIR work now that it's theirs and no longer my responsibility. Because I have less to do now that they've accepted this task as their own!
One thing that I didn't know before having children--and should have known--is that kids are more capable of handling things than many adults give them credit for. When you create an environment in which they are capable of succeeding (by scaling things down for them, stepstools, etc.), and when you take the time to break tasks down into manageable steps and explain them, and when they are excited about being independent, it's an awesome experience for everyone.
It's so thrilling to hear a child exclaim proudly "I did it!" And it's just as equally thrilling to have less laundry to do. :D
That's all for now--I am planning a follow up to this post, which will explain more about how we split up jobs around here (an ongoing process), who does what, etc. But for now, speaking of laundry, I have a sick little baby who started our day with a little (I hope) bout of Pukinson's Disease.