The first year or two after your baby starts to walk can be an exciting (but stressful) time. As both a mom and a photographer, I know that your toddler can be your most demanding critic when it comes to your cooking, daily routines, and practically anything they can form their sweet little opinions about. Their earnestness can be a great asset when it comes to learning. A few good mom tips at this age can make a difference in the quality of your child’s contributions to household chores in the future.
Now that spring is here, many of us are tidying up our homes to get ready for things like Mother’s Day dinners, Austin school spring recitals, dances, and formals. You might even be getting ready to do a little family portrait photography in your home. While you don’t have to do spring cleaning to cater to guests, photographers or otherwise, spring cleaning is still a great way to introduce toddlers to chores and get a little work done around the house yourself. Here are some mom tips — from this mom to you– for how to get your wee one started with good chore habits.
You’ve been around a lot longer than they have, so you might not be as excited as they are about the little things — including chores. Little kids find a lot of enjoyment out of doing things adults take for granted (anyone in the throes of potty training understands what I mean.) So, making new things like chores fun and exciting is an excellent way to cement these habits into their minds as fun. Some great ways to do this include:
I combined these two tips because they work well enough alone, but combining them sometimes gives an extra edge to convincing your kids to clean. Using incentives is an age-old mom trick, but many parents are surprised to learn toddlers can benefit from them, too.
First, utilize age-appropriate visual schedules or charts. Think of the type of chart typically used for older children and simplify it. Start with a chart that reads “helped mom out” and have your toddler put a sticker on it each time they help. The visual reminder of the times they helped you out will allow them to feel good about their contribution and encourage them to accumulate more stickers.
Combine that with an age-appropriate incentive, and you’ll be encouraging them to step up their involvement in household chores. Examples of toddler-aged incentives include:
There is no denying that what we say directly influences our children. As new parents work to make their language more child-appropriate, they should also consider what they say about specific activities. For instance, rather than just avoiding negative talk about chores, make chore talk inclusive and about togetherness.
Let’s take bed-making, for example. You probably have at least two beds in the house. Depending upon how young your child is, you might not even have your child on bed-making duty yet. When the time comes, though, how you talk about it will make all the difference. First, avoid commands like “Make your bed.” That can make your little one feel like they are doing more work than you. Also, be sure to avoid unconsciously making the chore your chore. To do that, say something inclusive like Let’s make your bed together! or Let’s make the beds together! rather than Mom has to make the bed now.
Even if they don’t actively help make the bed, this type of language acknowledges that this chore is something everything does. When they’re ready to help, they’ll help, and when they get older, they’ll understand that when mom makes her bed, it’s time to make their bed.
Nothing can squash that sweet toddler optimism quite like showing disapproval. So, in the case of chores, avoid disapproval at all costs.
Your toddler’s chores might not create the sparkling clean environment you hoped for, but they will lay the foundation for a neat and orderly household in their older years. And while fixing their work in front of them isn’t direct disapproval, it shows them that you undervalue their contribution (even if that isn’t how you feel). Wait until naptime or bedtime to change anything around… or just leave it! After all, anyone who has had a toddler knows they can be a whirlwind.
Center Togetherness. I cannot stress this enough. If your toddler enjoys spending time with you, leveraging that time together can be a potent tool. This is the most crucial part of encouraging good habits because it kills two birds with one stone. First, you model good behaviors without having to exert extra authority. Second, you get to grow together with your child — which, in my opinion, is much nicer than a clean house.
Is your house spiffy and ready for spring portraits? My schedule is booking up fast, so if you need an Austin family photographer, now is the time to schedule with me. Click here to learn more about my pricing, or email me.