I loved the response I got from some of you when briefly mentioning this age that Hailey is at (three years and four months). I wanted to write a post this morning about the challenges of a strong-willed preschooler, but alas, as these sneaky little ones have a tendency to do, yesterday she was as sweet as tea in the south. For example, I asked what made her happy and her response? YOU make me so happy mama. That was followed by book reading and snuggles. While there was an instance or two of seriously, stop sitting on your sister, I feel to do justice to the perils of mothering a threenager, I need to be a bit more fired up than I am at the moment. So instead, let’s talk about the responsibilities of my three year old.
…spoiler alert, there aren’t too many!
Oh to be three.
I can’t remember the exact moment we started giving Hailey responsibilities. I imagine it started early on with having her help clean up toys. However, maybe it was just after she turned two that David and I realized she could actually do things. Like bring us things we needed (a blanket, the remote, a beer…I kid I kid) so our lazy bums could stay parked in our chairs. SWEET.
Ok, so giving children chores/responsibilities has more behind it than a self-serving desire to have someone else do things for us. There’s the need to teach responsibility and the idea of pitching in without an expected reward because that is just what families do and blah blah blah. And for every ache my heart experiences about my girls getting older and bigger (I’m feeling rather mushy about it all today), I feel great pride in watching Hailey slowly take on more ownership in pitching in around the house.
All that being said, there is only so much that a three-year-old can do. Here are Hailey’s current responsibilities:
1. Cleans up her mess/toys. I’ll be the first to admit our playroom stays pretty crazy. It has the advantage of a magical thing called a door that I can close and pretend I don’t know about the disaster that remains behind it. Our living area though, I see that everyday and it irks me to no end to see it in shambles. We keep limited toys downstairs- a kitchen, a grocery cart, kitchen food/accessories and a few books/baby toys. Still, it’s amazing how quickly those can be dispersed around the whole downstairs. For the most part I let it go while she plays all day, but in the evening Hailey is in charge of cleaning up her mess.
Occasionally she’ll pull the the threenager classic of going limp and sulking that she caaaaannnn’t clean up to which I’ll respond with ‘oh ok, if you aren’t big enough to clean up than you aren’t big enough to (enter something she loves here- read books/watch Dora/eat pears/wear slippers). That usually gets things moving, but honestly, she usually does pretty well with cleaning up, even singing a little tune to keep her focused. Clean up clean up e’rybody e’rywhere, clean up clean up er’body do your share!
She’ll give it a go, then I come to ‘check’ and point out anything she missed.
2. Clears her Dishes. We still use kid plates and cups. I can see us continuing this into the teenage years because plastic is fantastic at, well, not breaking. That’s important since Hailey is in charge of taking her dishes/silverware/cups to the sink when she is finished eating. For the most part, she likes this one. I can feel the pride radiate from her when she focuses hard of balancing her fork and spoon on her plate as she carries it with two hands to dump in the sink. She throws her napkins and yogurt cups in the trashcan too. Occasionally she’ll try to hold it out for me to take and in those situations I get to pull out those old favorite sayings of motherhood like ‘I am not your maid.’
…oh you don’t think you’ll ever say that? That’s nice. I give you a year until you’re spitting that saying out right after Because I said so! and Don’t make me turn this car around.
3. Puts up her Clean Laundry. Understandably some things I still have to do, like hang up shirts, but anything that goes is a drawer is her territory. I have fond memories of my mom piling our clean clothes on the stairs and you sure as heck better not step over it on your way up. I hope to instill the same fear, ahem, sense of ownership in my girls. Hailey sometimes helps separate the clean clothes, then I hand her stacks to take up to her room.
4. Puts Koda In and Out of her Crate. When we come home, we have a routine to implement before we do anything else. I love that Hailey has it down pat. Doors, shoes, koda, hands. Simple enough- close your car door, take off your shoes, let Koda out and wash your hands. It’s nice that she knows what to do on her own and it gives me a few minutes to get Kaitlyn out of the car and settled inside.
5. Puts Clothes in the Hamper. At bath time, she is responsible for taking off what she can on her own and throwing it in the hamper, then circling back around to do the same for Kaitlyn’s clothes. Again, simple, but a small thing she knows is up to her and she takes it seriously. By that I mean, if you value your life, do not try to help out and toss the baby’s clothes in the hamper. That’s her thing and trying to take that away from her will result in a meltdown of epic proportions.
Bonus: Anything else we need done. Sometimes it’s grabbing me some wipes or throwing away a dirty diaper. She often helps David pick up Koda’s business from the yard using the scooper (gross, but she enjoys this). She will help empty the dishwasher, wipe up Koda prints, sop up her spilled milk and bring clothes to the laundry room and toss them in the washer. I love asking for her help because as much as I’m trying to push ‘yes ma’am’ as an appropriate response, she usually goes with a peppy ‘uh, sure, yup!’ that makes me giggle.
It’s fortunate at this age she enjoys helping out (most of the time). I hope to take full advantage of that to create habits that will stick long term as things she just does on a regular basis. When she gets a little bit older, I’d love to implement a system like this in which there are tasks she can choose to take on to earn money:
but the basic chores (cleaning up, making bed, putting away clothes and helping out) I hope to always keep as a base line- something we all do because we are all apart of the family.
What responsibilities did you have growing up?
How do you handle chores for your kids?
At what age do you think children should start pitching in?