I’ve got two kids, an 18 month-old son and a 2 1/2 year-old daughter, and I wanted to give you a little story about the value of allowing kids to help out around the house, and in the family.
When my daughter was around a year old, my husband started asking her to help unload the dishwasher at night. Frankly, this initially had me petrified, as seeing my baby standing on the counter putting dishes away looked like total disaster waiting to happen. However, he always reassured me that it was good for her to help and he would make sure everything was safe. So I reluctantly allowed this to become a habit.
The interesting thing is that I would notice a night and day difference in how happy she was, when he let her help him. If she was upset about something or acting all demanding towards us, as SOON as she would start the dishes, she would instantly become intensely interested, her attention would not be on herself anymore, but on her environment, and she would become enthusiastic about doing things. It was so obvious that it had this positive effect on her, that it later on became our go-to move with her, if she got into a bad mood. I would just ask them to do the dishes or something else around the house, and it has always worked as an immediate cure.
I had always known that contribution was necessary in people and applied it a lot with adults or teenagers before. With babies & toddlers I admit it can be hard to put into action at first, because you feel they are going to just make more of a mess or it will take longer than you just doing it quickly yourself, etc. But it’s so worth it.
I think it’s good practice for them, but the most important part is that they feel they are helping and are productive. They also eventually become honestly good at certain tasks and it does end up helping you (not “helping” you). It makes the house a happier place.
It’s amazing to see how accomplished a one year old looks when they “sweep” a pile of dirt around making half of it into the dustpan. It is so worth it to have them try to help. It makes them feel like they are a contributing family member and happy to be there and make their parent “proud”.
My 2 1/2 year old now LOVES it when I ask her to help clean up the house and we play a game of putting things in the house away while she says over and over, “Mommy, I’m helping clean up”. And at the same time, she is doing a great job, truly helping!