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Moms, you should stop doing this!

Moms! Listen up! If you stop doing everything for your kids and let them help out, you will reap SO many benefits. This is a GREAT post proving that!

Warning: In this post I’m going to gently step up on my soapbox and give you some unsolicited advice.

If you were sitting across from me at the table, I wouldn’t give you this advice unless I knew we were close enough and I had earned the right to speak this into your life.

But since we aren’t sitting across the table from one another but you’ve chosen to read my blog, I’m going to pretend that we’re close and that I’ve earned the right to speak into your life.

If you don’t like people who shoot it straight and you don’t want any unsolicited advice from me, here’s your chance to stop reading right now.

I’ve warned you.

Okay, so here goes…

Stop Doing Everything For Your Kids!

If I had one piece of advice to give to moms of littles, it would be this: Stop doing everything for your kids.

No, I don’t mean that you should sit on the sofa and veg all day long and let the laundry and dishes pile up and have your kids scrounge for food. I’m not abdicating checking out as a mom nor am I promoting laziness.

What I am encouraging is this: Start letting your kids help.

Let Your Kids Help You

From the time your kids can walk, they are capable of helping. Now, trust me, it won’t feel like helping in the beginning.

It will feel like your kids are just making bigger messes, that it is taking so much more time, and that you could have had the project done or the recipe cleaned or the laundry folded an hour ago with a lot less mess if you just did it yourself.

But the more you involve your kids, trust your kids, and let your kids work alongside you, the more it will pay off in the long run. I’m living proof of that!

From an early age, I had chores that were assigned to me and I was expected to do. When I was 9, our family moved out to the country. This move — and the fact that we had a lot more land — meant that we were all given more chores and expected to work hard.

I’m So Glad My Parents Taught Me to Work Hard

I have fond and not-so-fond memories of lots of back-breaking work from my childhood and teen years: gardening for hours on end, dragging hoses all over the acreage to water the new trees we had planted, and spending almost an entire day each week taking care of the seven acres of the land that were planted in grass.

Truth be told, I wasn’t always so thrilled at all the work they expected us to do. Sweating in the heat and developing sore muscles on a regular basis weren’t what I’d consider fun. But looking back, I’m so thankful for the character I developed through all those hours of laboring in the hot Kansas sun.

And I can tell you without a doubt that I’m so grateful my parents taught us the value of hard work and instilled in us a strong work ethic.

In fact, I believe that a strong work ethic is one of the greatest gifts my parents gave me. It well prepared me for the struggles and setbacks I’ve encountered in the years since and has helped me continue to persevere even when I might feel exhausted and ready to quit.

Start Early & Stick With It

When teaching young kids to work, it typically takes a lot of practice before they get it. Start by being excited about the chore and about how they are going to help you with it.

Then, show them how to do a chore and let them work alongside you and help you do it. Gradually, they’ll become more self-sufficient and you’ll be able to let them do more and more of it on their own.

This takes patience and perseverance, but I promise it will pay off! I remember when I first started teaching Silas (then 2 years old) and Kaitlynn (then 4 years old) how to clean the bathroom. It seemed like an exercise in futility at first, with no one really picking up on what I was wanting them to do.

But I kept at it week by week, and within a few months, they were working more independently!

Nowadays, my kids can pretty much do all of the laundry, take care of most all of the cleaning and house projects, make quite a few different meals, and handle so many tasks by themselves.

In fact, some days, I realize that the only thing they need me for is to talk with them and drive them where they need to go (and the days of them needing that won’t be much longer!)

Need some more practical advice? Check out my post on How to Get Your Kids to Stop Whining & Help With Chores.

4 Reasons Why You Should Let Your Kids Help

  1. Your kids will feel empowered that they are a vital part of your family. We regularly reiterate the fact that we all have to work together to make our home run smoothly.
  2. Your kids won’t be so afraid to try new things. I see my kids becoming so confident in many areas — making new recipes, putting furniture together, planning get-togethers with their friends, etc. and I know that a lot of this was borne out of them helping from a young age.
  3. You will work yourself out of a job. The older and more responsible your kids get, the more they will be able to help! They can help with or be in charge of meal-planning, cooking, organizing, laundry, cleaning, taking care of all their own homework and projects, helping their siblings… and so much more!
  4. Your kids will go into life more equipped for the real world! (I never would have started December212012.info were it not for my mom having me be in charge of menu-planning and cooking and grocery shopping for our family of 9 when I was a teen.)

Note: Don’t Expect Too Much Too Quickly

The last thing you want to do is frustrate your children by giving them chores that are too difficult for them! Start your children out with one or two simple chores and then gradually add more as they catch on and improve.

If you’re not sure what age-appropriate chores might be for your children, you might find these chore lists helpful:

Remember, that each child is different. What might be simple for one 4-year-old, could be utterly overwhelming to another. So keep your own child’s abilities in mind when assigning chores and don’t feel frustrated if they struggle to do what another child their age can easily pull off.

Let Them Make Mistakes

Now, let me say it again: it takes a lot of time, patience, and work. They will make messes. They will make mistakes. And they certainly won’t do things as well as you or exactly like you in the beginning.

But keep letting them help. Keep patiently teaching and encouraging and coaching them. Keep looking for the good to point out and only carefully (and when necessary) gently pointing out where they can improve.

Keep praising them and letting them know how much you believe in them and how much you trust them and how proud you are of them!

Pretty soon, you’ll wake up and realize that they are BETTER than you in many areas and so self-sufficient that they don’t need you for much more than spending time, listening to them, hanging out with them, and encouraging them!

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23 Comments

  • K says:

    I really like your outfit in the 1st pic! You look like a DYT 4/1. 🙂

  • says:

    The dishes take longer to do, the clothes end up being folded nearly a dozen times, but the time spent with my little ones and teaching them life skills will pay off in the future. Thank you for this reminder.

  • Therese says:

    I spent many, many years working with college students whose parents clearly did everything for them. At 18-21 they should have been productive adults ready to function in the real world. Instead they needed someone to teach them how to do laundry, clean their rooms, cook a simple meal, and take care of their finances. They were swimming in credit card debt from buying everything and eating out. YES! Please start early and stick with it. Your children’s futures depend on you investment now!

  • Cheryl says:

    I agree 100%, our son is almost 14 and our daughter almost 16 and from an early age they have helped along side of us. As parents we did not complain about doing housework or outdoor work and just had them help as their age allowed. It has been neat to see them become confident in their skills and able to “pitch in” because that is what being a part of a family is. If you make the chores fun at an early age, it really helps!

  • Joy in Alabama says:

    I have 9 kids, 2 still in high school. The investment is truly, truly worth it! Crystal, you are absolutely right! My olders came back and said to me they are grateful for good work ethics and as a result, have been in demand for jobs, have good reputations among older adults, and have moved into managerial positions at young ages. I’m not tooting my own horn – just reiterating that kids need to help around the house, then when they are teens, they need to get part time jobs or make their own jobs, such as yard work for people. It makes them appreciate what they have and realize what it took to provide those things. Just this week, my son, who graduates in May and works at the grocery store, got a good raise because he’s cheerful, works hard, and has good manners. It’s hard work to let kids do stuff and you have to let jobs be done at kid-level so the folded laundry or the dusting is not perfect, but, oh so worth it later!

  • Trixie says:

    My parents raised me and my siblings to do as much for ourselves and to help the family as possible.

    That is the biggest factor in my living a happy, successful, productive life.

  • Aimee says:

    Awesome post, Thank you!

  • Cathy says:

    As an elementary teacher, I agree with you wholeheartedly ! Our daughter is 26, and we totally did so much of what you are doing with your kids~preparing them for life!

  • Lydia says:

    Question: when do you start enforcing chores? I have a three year old who has demonstrated she can do certain chores but if she is playing or doing something else she won’t do them. I have been told that it should be just for fun up until about 4. Thoughts?

    • Beth says:

      I try to arrange chores around a simple schedule for my four year old (we started before four). So after breakfast we get dressed, make the bed, make sure the room is tidy. Before snack time we might fold laundry or empty the dishwasher. We’ve recently moved so we’re still figuring out the new norm but putting certain chores around other daily activities helps him know when to expect to help and I’m not interrupting play time as much. There are times when I say, I know you don’t like grocery shopping (or whatever) and I don’t either but we all need to eat so we’re going to do it even though we’d rather do something else. Sometimes there’s complaining but after after a few days or at most a couple weeks of a scheduled activity he usually doesn’t complain because he expects it.

    • Jo says:

      I think that as soon as they can walk, they can start helping! 🙂

  • says:

    It’s amazing how many kids are growing up without the fundamental life skills we all need. My son is 15 and by the time he’s 18 I want to know that I could send him out into the world and he’d be okay without me. (Okay, not COMPLETELY without me – you know, I’m a mom, I need to be needed!) 🙂 He’s definitely not the best at cleaning (or making a bed so the sheets stay on!), but he’ll get there. He’s learning to use tools, and does yard work, and he’ll know how to change a tire, change the oil in a car, and we’ve gone through how to get your car unstuck in snow and ice. (Thank you, never-ending winter!) I’ve got him completely educated on shopping finances, and we’re working on saving, investing and planning for the future. More than having a college fund, teaching our kids to live is the most important things we can give them.

  • Janet says:

    Crystal ,

    Well said and while were at it /let’s get back to teaching manners and respect my own grandson is one of the few I hear say please , thank you, yes maam yes sir.

    Let’s get rid of yep! yeah! UHUH.

    How about excuse me I did not hear what you said instead of hunh?

    Life in the early fifties the children respected adults did chores for their fair share in the home and extra chores to earn money for outings or things they wanted to buy. Let’s get back to this.

    Instead of having 20 year olds with their hands hanging out.

    • Quinn Horn says:

      I am 35 and have a bad habit of saying yep. Drives my husband crazy. Yes or no! I need to work on these too. 🙂
      And I grew up where it was yes ma’am, no sir. Don’t we all have things to improve on? 🙂

      Like making my own bed (which makes me feel so good!) When I am expecting my daughter to make her bed.

      I have to take some deep breaths when my daughter is wanting to do everything with me and tell myself be patient mamma. She is not always going to be dieing to help me with everything like she does now. Stop and slow down. Like today I told myself today is going to be an adventure outing at the grocery store while Daddy is home sleeping. We only had a few things to buy and our grocery store has the scan and go. She loves scanning the groceries as we take them off the shelf. And I took some time to explain difference between spaghetti and linguini. Thanks for sharing Crystal!

      Any kid knife recommendations. She is always wanting to cut things with me.

  • Beth says:

    Reason #5: it gives your kids something to do while you’re watching them without you having to entertain them! Especially for young kids. I like having my four year old fold laundry with me because 1) he spends time with me 2) he isn’t getting into trouble in another part of the house 3) it gives him something to do that doesn’t require much creativity on my part and 4) the 18 month old is usually content to play at our feet because he wants to be with us.

  • Tracy says:

    My son started helping at 2 years old. He kept trying to take the vacuum and the broom and dust pan on me. So that year for his birthday from me he received a kid size vacuum that actually worked and a small broom and dust pan. It was hilarious when he was opening up his presents, he had opened up a bunch of toys he was excited about. However once he opened up the vacuum present he literally took of running into the house so he could vacuum right away. He still had about half of his presents to open and cake and ice cream to get still. I had to run after him and bring him back out to the party. The only way I got him back out was to promise he could vacuum once the party was over however much he wanted.

    He is 12 now and he still helps. He also learned how to do all of his laundry and if I go to do it he will scold me how it is his job.

  • says:

    I’ve also found that children are happier when they have some chores and responsibility. Our children are 6, 5, 4, 3 and 1. Work is integrated into daily life and they don’t know it any differently. I actually just blogged about our experience at:

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