Mayans and many other indigenous cultures have a lot to teach western parents. Like how to raise kids that WANT to do chores – without even asking.
Turns out, it starts as toddlers who are invited over and over again to doing chores together. The research has turned up some interesting facts.
1. Don’t reward your toddlers for doing chores. Rewarding them after they finished produced LESS helpful kids later. It is unknown why.
2. Let your toddler help – even if they make bigger messes or it takes longer. Many modern parents tell the kid to go do something else, indigenous parents keep inviting them to help – even if it takes longer or the parent has to do it twice. “How else will they learn?” was one response.
3. Expose kids to chores as much as possible. Let them be part of any chore you’re doing. Especially during the early years, children watch adults and want to be a part of it. Instead of lecturing or explaining, simply give them a part of it to do with you. It shows they are part of the social activity of the family – that they belong and are being integrated – not excluded.
4. Give them tasks appropriate to their skill level. Hold measuring cups while you cook, moving a chair, etc. But it has to be a key part. Parents that give toddlers ‘fake’ projects (like re-sweeping a floor that’s already clean) quickly figure out they aren’t invited to really contribute.
5. Always work together. Motivation is lost if you divide up chores and everyone works solo. If doing laundry, make sure everyone is folding everyone’s clothes – not just their own. Make them part of a common goal together.
6. Don’t force it. Don’t force kids to help, offer them opportunities to be part of the activity and invite them to a task instead. It’s a subtle difference, but a huge one. Forcing or demanding creates resistance.
7. Westerners see children as wanting to just play, indigenous parents see toddlers coming over as an indication they want to help. Be creative and find ways to include them.