There comes a time when you realize that your babies aren't babies anymore. They are growing human beings who will one day become contributing members of society. Then, like me, you might think "Damn, now the real work begins." I think about how I want my children to grow into adulthood all the time. I hope that they grow to be sensitive to others, curious learners, responsible, and independent.
I often ask myself what I can do to support and coach them to become all these things. My first thought is that I must teach them good manners. (Twin Mom Maritza has some great ideas for teaching your twins basic manners.) My next thought is always, always that they need to get to work around the house. Assigning simple household chores is, in my view, one of the earliest ways you can teach a toddler how to:
- Contribute in some way to the family dynamic.
- Respect and take care of things.
- Be organized and create structure in one's life.
You can start assigning chores as soon as your twins are walking. That might seem silly, I know, but there is nothing a new walker loves more than putting clothes in a hamper. So start there. Allow them to do that one little task, and praise them for it.
At around age 2, you will begin to see your children get excited about doing things around the house. I started with having my twins help set the table—only their plastic plates and forks, of course, but it was something. Then I began asking them to put their shoes away in their rooms and their coats next to the hall closet when they come into the house. (They can't quite reach high enough to hang up their coats yet.) This is something that they do every day now.
Another thing we do is clean up their toys as a family, with my or my husband's oversight. We often do this in the evening just before bedtime. I like to mention that we are taking good care of the toys they love and that by straightening up we are tucking those toys in for the night.
Consistency Pays Off
A few tips to remember as your toddlers take on household chores:
- Consistency is key, which I think is the hardest part at times. You have to remind them over and over what you'd like them to do. You also must have the same standard every time and make sure they meet it. (At times, they might get lazy.)
- Praise, praise, praise. Don't wait until after the task has been completed to let them know they've done something good. For example, if you are putting toys away in a toy box, verbally praise them as much as possible throughout the process.
- Start with the small things, then ask yourself what else you think they can take on.
- Have them work together. They are twins and will enjoy the company while completing their tasks.
As a side note, my son does one tiny "chore" that I believe will help him snag an amazing wife one day. The moment—and I mean the moment—I started potty training the twins, I insisted that they both put the toilet seat fully down, with the lid closed. (One of my biggest pet peeves is men leaving the toilet seat up.) So now Drew puts that lid down without hesitation every time.
Come to think of it, if I can create one man who always puts the toilet seat down, I might just have raised that contributing member of society I dream of! It's the small things, really.
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