15 Ways to raise a helper
Young children love to feel useful and want to help around the house. Allowing them to help, even when it makes it harder for us, encourages this aspect of their nature. When we discourage them from helping, we eliminate this natural tendency.
15 Ways to Raise a Helper
When we allow our children to help us from the beginning it becomes a part of who they are. They identify with their role as a helper around the house. They see us working and they want to be like us. Why not capitalize on this natural tendency?
1. Position your child so they can watch you work from the time they are infants.
Children learn everything by watching the people around them from the time they are born. This is why it is super important to work when they can see it.
I know, I know… it’s soooo much easier to work when they are sleeping or gone. I totally get it. I felt the same way and often avoided work when my daughter was young. Big mistake.
Children need to see you work or they will not know what to do or what is expected of them in the future. It may seem trivial, but I assure you it’s not.
I realized how well this worked both during the time that I worked as a nanny and the time that I ran an in-home child care. I always needed to do chores in front of the children, and over time I learned that this was a very good thing!
Don’t worry if you haven’t done this yet… start now!
2. Show them how you want work to be done as they watch.
As your children get older, show them how you want things to be done as they watch. Children learn best when they are shown, not lectured.
In Montessori and Waldorf education all work is demonstrated to a child before they are asked to complete a task. This is because children are imitative creatures. That’s a fancy way of saying that they learn best by watching others.
3. Complete the action EXACTLY as you would like it to be done.
I mentioned that children are imitative creatures right?
When you demonstrate how work is to be done, whether you think they are watching or not, do it EXACTLY as you would like it to be done.
Like it or not, they will show you how good your example was… or wasn’t.
They don’t know how you meant to do it, or how you wanted to do it. They only know what they saw.
My daughter has taught me that I need to improve my example. For the whole story see How to Raise a Helper.
4. Allow them to start helping when they start walking.
As soon as a child can move around on their own they can help. Trust me… it’s all they want to do.
Your children want to be like you and do what you do. They have been watching you their whole life chomping at the bit to get started!
When you allow children to help from the very beginning it becomes a part of who they are. Helping becomes a habit. It becomes their norm… their way of life.
Find simple tasks they can do to help and allow them to imitate you in whatever way they can. This is how learning happens and how you raise a helper!
When children are not allowed to help it does not become a habit for them. A child that is not allowed to make a habit of helping when they are young is unlikely to have a habit of helping when they get older.
5. Allow your child to help whenever they want to even if it slows you down.
Whatever you do, don’t discourage an eager worker.
It doesn’t take long to teach a child that you don’t want them to help you. If you’re reading this I’m pretty sure that’s not what you want.
I’ll be honest. Working with your child when they are young can be tough. It can be downright painful at times.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to get my daughter out of the way so I could get things done.
Of course there will be times that we can not include our children. We just do our best to handle it gracefully.
6. Invite and allow
Invite and allow your child to help. If your child is not interested at the moment… no problem.
No pushing, forcing, or shaming.
If children don’t want to help, let them come and go as they please. They will eventually find something to do on their own.
This is a win, win, win situation. Your children will learn from watching, helping, or figure out how to entertain themselves. You’ve got nothing to lose!
Whatever you do don’t stop working because they don’t want to help. Don’t ignore them for hours and hours while you work either. Find the balance and you can’t go wrong.
7. Use kind words
What we say and how we say it matters. All our kids want is to be like us and to please us. Watch your language while they are helping and be careful not to bruise their self-esteem with harsh words.
8. Guide your kids as they work when necessary
Guide your children when necessary, but please don’t do it for them. Help them learn to help you by offering your support when needed.
9. Step in to help only when needed
Unless there is a safety issue, allow your child struggle and figure things out on their own whenever possible. Don’t help your child unless they absolutely need it.
When you do things for your child you teach them that you do it better than them. Your child will continue to let you do everything for them when you teach this. If you do it better why should they bother?
Each time you do something for a child that they can do for themselves, you limit your child and increase your work load. Allow them to gain mastery by figuring things out on their own whenever possible.
Of course there will be times that you will need to do things for them. I know I have. We just do the best we can.
10. Teach children that mistakes are opportunities to learn
This one has more to do with our example than with our words. We need to show our children how to learn from our mistakes even when we get angry.
Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes we get angry about them. We are human after all. How we recover from our mistakes is what makes the difference in the eyes of our children. Especially when it’s directed at them.
Usually children are more upset with themselves than you are when they make a mistake. They are also afraid that you will be angry. Please don’t make it worse for them or scare away your helper.
My daughter used to get very upset and/or worried when she made mistakes. Now she says, “That’s okay… we all make mistakes sometimes!” Then she learns how to do it better the next time just like her family does.
11. Praise their effort not their ability
When children are praised for their effort they will develop a healthy mindset toward helping. Here’s why:
- When children are praised for their effort, they are more likely to blame mistakes on a lack of effort as opposed to a lack of ability.
- When children are praised for their ability, they are more likely to feel like a failure and lose the motivation to help when mistakes are made.
When praising a child focus on specific examples of effort or accomplishment. Use phrases such as, “You worked really hard to get that window clean.” or “Thank you for helping me sort the laundry I really appreciate it.”
12. Don’t re-do anything they did in front of them
Please don’t re-do or “fix”what your child did in front of them. This will make them feel unworthy and that their work was not valued. Children (and adults) that don’t feel “good enough” are much less likely to help.
For example, if your child is helping you fold laundry and you don’t like how it was done please wait until they are long gone to re-fold it. Praise their effort in the moment and do what you need to do later.
13. Offer Practical life activities
Think of practical life activities like home economics for little one’s. They are designed to provide real life experiences for children to help them learn and develop independence.
Dr. Montessori created what she called “Practical Life Exercises” to teach children how to complete activities done in daily life. She believed that these activities would help children become independent members of the household.
You don’t have to know anything about Montessori to offer these types of activities to your child. A few options are listed below with more to come. Sign up for my newsletter below so you don’t miss anything!
14. Establish household rhythms
Children thrive on rhythm in the home. Having regular household rhythms help children learn what to expect day by day, month by month.
Children are more likely to help when they know whats coming. For example, if dusting day is Wednesday morning in your home your kids will know what to expect and be more likely to help. Especially if they have their own tools.
To learn more check out Establish Household Rhythms.
15. Give them their own tools
Tools are magical objects to children. They see us using them and they want to be like us and use them too. If you really want kids to help, give them their own tools. One of my daughters favorite tools is her cleaning kit.
When you give a child a tool it is as if you are saying, “you are good enough to help, you are valued, and you are worthy.” That is EXACTLY what they need and want to hear. Wouldn’t that make you feel like helping?
Check out Tools for Raising Helpers for more information.
15 Ways to Raise a Helper
Raising a helper is important to your child’s education. Home life is one of the developmental domains of childhood along with language (reading), math, science, art, music, gross motor, fine motor, sensory, and social emotional learning.
The primary lesson of home life is learning how to help around the house and learn to become independent. Use these 15 ways to raise a helper today!
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