Chores/Responsibilities for 4-yr-old


#1

My oldest child is 4. He is learning to be independent and do more of taking care of himself, and his things. A list of some of the things he is able to do alone (he does most of these things everyday):

Chooses clothes and dresses himself
Brushes teeth/washes face
Makes bed neatly
Puts away clean folded clothes
Puts dirty clothes in proper place
Helps put clean dishes away
Clears place at table
Runs vaccum (although not thoroughly)
Picks up toys/books
Feeds/waters pet
Straightens shoes and coats

Is this appropriate? Many times he will whine and carry on, especially about making his bed. I have seen him do a very neat job (as neat as I do it) in about 5 minutes of work. He is very able to do this. However he is ALWAYS reluctant to do this chore. My mom suggested I sort of do it with him, but it’s actually him doing it. I tried that today, and it helped, but usually when I have tried it, he just gives up and wants me to do the work.

Should I just make him do what I ask promptly or let the consequences take over? (i.e. he lollygags so long he misses story time (his favorite thing) or some other fun activity.)

Just looking for seasoned parents’ advice…I understand children will whine, but are these chores age-appropriate or is it too much?


#2

It sounds okay to me, just daily life helping mom or picking up his own mess.


The bed thing my be more of a personal issue as that’s “his space” so to speak. It may not be that he doesn’t want to make the bed, it may be more that he has a hard time accepting doing your way. I would tell him to make his bed and walk out. If you come back and it looks like a 4 yr old made the bed, then that’s good enough. LEAVE it that way and praise him for doing the bed. As he gets older it’ll look better, what matters is that he is doing it himself.


#3

I wouldn’t have a four year old operate a vacuum cleaner (and I do have a four year old and a vacuum cleaner). It can be dangerous (after all, that beater bar is whirrling around very fast and little fingers, or hair, can get pulled in) plus a vacuum will bang up your walls and furniture. Save that chore for when he turns eight or so.


#4

Don’t fight over a silly bed. It will be crumpled in a couple hours anyway. When he makes it, tell him Good job. If he does it well, let him know that you noticed how neatly he tucked the corners or how he put the pillows so nice and straight. Then he’ll take personal pride and ownership of the task over time. Much better than doing it on Mom’s orders. Don’t re-do what he has done. And if he isn’t ready to do it, then do it with him. As in, “Let’s go make your bed, Tommy. Oh, I can’t reach! Can you get the top while I get the bottom? Whyyyyyy look at my handsome man down there. Good job! Thank you. Now you go brush your teeth while I get my shoes on.”

Your list in and of itself is not good or bad. The key is if you are treating him like a four-year-old and still interacting constantly and using the time for bonding or if you are treating him like a little adult and expecting him to do all of these things like a robot or while you are elsewhere. Perhaps you can solicit the advice of others who know you and see if there is a pattern to what they say about your approach. Of course, some will say you are a good mother to your face no matter what, so do your best to make sure the person feels comfortable with being honest. Something like, “My mom pointed out to me that most 4-year-olds don’t do as many chores as Manny does. I hadn’t ever noticed myself. Do you think it is difficult on Manny?” Then you aren’t asking, “Am I a bad mom?” Because, of course, the answer to* that* is no.


#5

Let him make his bed to his ability and liking, not yours. And I wouldn’t let a 4 yo operate a vacumn either.


#6

I let my 4yo do it (the vaccuum) b/c he begs…lol. I usually put the attachments onto it, and then let him get the corners of the hardwood floors with the brush on the end…everyone wins that way. Tho he has dumped the whole thing over a couple of times, but we right it, talk about moving it along with you and he goes on. He does pretty darn good with that thing considering it’s taller than he is. He does the silverware when we empty the dishwasher, dries the dishes with Daddy after supper (DH hands him a clean/wet pot, he dries it and puts it on the stovetop to get hung up) – he clears his place and sets the table, dresses himself, and usually puts his stuff in the laundry basket – he showers himself while I “supervise” (chat with him from outside the curtain; this way I can supervise without him feeling supervised) and gets himself and his sister the toothpaste…listing it all out I guess that seems like a lot…but he always asks if he can help me with this or that, so I say “sure” and try to break it down into something he can manage. We love to fold towels together…something I hated until I had a child show me how it can be fun again. LOL. Usually his asking strikes me as wanting to be a part of the action, wherever it might be…so I try to accomodate without losing my good china, etc…


#7

About the vacuum, we have hardwood floors or tile, so it is just a sucker vacuum, no beater bar. Our house is old, no storage, everything against the walls, you can’t bang the walls with the vacuum. It’s very small and light. Anyway he asks to do it and I let him try.

When he makes his bed, it is done very well. I showed him with little lessons in the beginning how to do it right, and gradually he took over and just does a great job! It most of the time does not look “like a 4-yr-old made it.”

My concern is how to handle the whining. It is just that he doesn’t want to START the process. He doesn’t want to start the chores. He does a great job once he gets going!

Do I let him face the consequences of not starting a chore or do I make him do it promptly?

Thanks!

Heather


#8

[quote=mass4life]About the vacuum, we have hardwood floors or tile, so it is just a sucker vacuum, no beater bar. Our house is old, no storage, everything against the walls, you can’t bang the walls with the vacuum. It’s very small and light. Anyway he asks to do it and I let him try.

When he makes his bed, it is done very well. I showed him with little lessons in the beginning how to do it right, and gradually he took over and just does a great job! It most of the time does not look “like a 4-yr-old made it.”

My concern is how to handle the whining. It is just that he doesn’t want to START the process. He doesn’t want to start the chores. He does a great job once he gets going!

Do I let him face the consequences of not starting a chore or do I make him do it promptly?

Thanks!

Heather
[/quote]

Well, I don’t know that answer…but whenever one of mine starts to whine to me about whatever grave injustice has just occurred and they cannot possibly endure this life one SECOND longer…(you see the drama too, right? It’s not just me?) – I pull the “I can’t hear you thru the high pitched whining sound…talk normal please, and then we can figure this out” – I tried it in desperation with my 2yo b/c she’s just OH SO whiny…and holy cow, it actually worked!! LOL, I really didn’t think it would…I figured it was one of those “feel-good” parenting techniques that in reality just doesn’t cut the mustard…but wow, this child will collect herself, and then “present” her problem “mommy, I can’t get my sleeve back doooooowwwwwwwwwn” (hey, she kept it together for all but the last word, that counts in my book)…it’s almost funny to watch the transformation. “Oh, C- I can’t hear you when you’re whiny and crying like that – I can’t understand you (looking at her so sympathetically…as if to say “i really want to help, but really and truly cannot hear you!”) so please talk normally, ok?” – and holy crow, she does! LOL. My son has never been much of a whiner…so this is all new for me.


#9

It sounds like you’re more on top of the “personal responsibility” thing than me, but I have a 4yo who could probably do all of those things, and who I expect to do many of them. I see it as an obedience issue. If I ask ds to do a chore and he refuses, he gets the same discipline as when he otherwise disobeys me (time in the chair). I’m still struggling with the whining thing too, but I try to treat it like back-talk. After a warning, it is disciplined as other misbehavior or disrespect would be.

If he wastes time, I do one of two things

  1. At bedtime (after a reminder of how much time he has), I tell him he took too long to do (whatever tasks), so there’s no time for a bedtime story or the rest of our ritual - this is a big motivator for him.
  2. I give him a reasonable time limit, and warn him of the consequences if the limit is not met (story, play outside etc). He usually is pretty motivated by this too.

Then when he is successful, he gets a lot of praise, so he starts to take pride in doing his tasks well.


#10

I would let him operate a vacuum under supervision of course. (Which is what it sounds like you are doing.) (Note, mine our 16, 13 and 4)

I have chores for mine also, I also have a chart with cool stickers. Every chore he does, he get to put a sticker on the Chart. Certain “chores” carry instant rewards, like gushers. (My son was potty trained but liked to use the small potty. Every time he choose to use the big potty, we gave him gushers. The instant reward “chores” are always things that we really want him to get done. Yuck, I hated that little potty chair!) As certain behavoirs become habit, the instant reward moves on to other things.

After a certain number of stickers, he gets a big reward. Now he likes to just get money so he can pick out his own toys. But we also give an allowance to our older children also. If you don’t like allowances, clearly you would not like this reward based chart either.

There are a few things that my child must do. But others, I just leave it up to him. But there is a time limit on when it must be done or no reward. (For example: Make the bed. If he doesn’t make it before Dora comes on, I make it and no reward is possible.) This works well for the last child because he tends to want to put things off, but really wants a sticker.

Just another idea for trying to motivate your child.

Note: We freely give out stickers, so the actual value of the stickers is very low. Right now, we give pennies and nickels per sticker. We also encourage him to set a goal on what he is going to spend the money on. Since he does not yet understand the different value of money, we increase or decrease the amount given to help him reach his goal in a timely manner. Learning to wait for things is good, but if the wait is too long…

God Bless,
Maria


#11

My kids like dusting and cleaning glass (windows, mirrors, glass top endtables). I always found that if I gave them a chore, it had to be very specific. I couldn’t just say “clean your room”, instead I say, “put away all the barbie things” then “put away all your books” and so on. small tasks are much more managable. I also do alot of baskets, because kids toss and don’t really “put” things away. Shoes in a basket near the bedroom door, board books in a basket on the bookshelf.


#12

My 5 year old son feeds the dog, makes his bed, brushes his teeth, picks out his clothes and dresses himself ( I don’t really count that as a chore though…) and various other things that I ask him to do throughout the day (“Throw this in the garbage” - “Put this in the sink” – simple requests) I just started an allowance with him after reading a Dave Ramsey book to him about saving money. We are giving him a quarter a day and a dollar on Fridays. The allowance also depends on his behavior throughout the day-- if he disobeys me, no quarter that day. I’m thinking of even taking a quarter away if he deliberately disobeys me. We’ve had trouble with him not listening and disobeying lately. Still ironing out the details–it’s only been one week. But that is what we do.


#13

[quote=aterrell]My 5 year old son feeds the dog, makes his bed, brushes his teeth, picks out his clothes and dresses himself ( I don’t really count that as a chore though…) and various other things that I ask him to do throughout the day (“Throw this in the garbage” - “Put this in the sink” – simple requests) I just started an allowance with him after reading a Dave Ramsey book to him about saving money. We are giving him a quarter a day and a dollar on Fridays. The allowance also depends on his behavior throughout the day-- if he disobeys me, no quarter that day. I’m thinking of even taking a quarter away if he deliberately disobeys me. We’ve had trouble with him not listening and disobeying lately. Still ironing out the details–it’s only been one week. But that is what we do.
[/quote]

Just my opinion, but if you give him 1 quarter for a days behavoir and work, docking him 1 quarter for 1 incident of bad behavoir is too harsh. If I were going to do it that way, I would dock a penny or nickel per incident. That way it would give him a chance to redeem his day with good behavoir, and possibly earn back that which he lost through “extras”. Things he does without being asked, (but has a chart reminding of things he could do.)

But either way, I too think teaching kids the value of earning things.

I once went to a parenting/homeschool conference. One thing really stuck with me. Theoretically, a child will make every decision and be completely responsible for themselves at 18. That means that at 6, they need to be making decisions and being responsible for 1/3 of their life. Our job as parents is to decide which 1/3 they get to do.

Money is a hard thing to learn to spend responsibly. Hopefully, these lessons will help when older. (Actually, they have helped. My oldest (16) does a very good job managing his money and the 13 year old is getting better. He planned ahead for his Christmas shopping and is almost done! )


#14

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