Working well in a team is a skill our kids need. Like, need. No matter what they do down the road, teamwork will 100% be a part of it. If not in their professional lives, hopefully as parents or citizens or competent contributors to society. And think about it, living in a family is a great start to learning to be part of a team!
Achieving a common goal is what motivates members of team to work together. While it might be difficult to explain the macro picture of how their small chores and responsibilities contribute to our family unit’s survival (or at least quality of life), it’s a perfect starting place. I want to frame helping out around the house–whether setting the table, washing the dishes, or picking up toys–in the context of contributing to the goal of our family being a wholesome, joyful environment for all.
That said, I need a little heart-check here. Whoa, is it hard to let kids in on the housecleaning! Am I the only control-freak out there? I can do it faster and better, but slow down, Mama, and remember the big picture. I’m giving myself some tips here; maybe you’ll find them helpful too.
1) Explain, and explain it again. Give detailed, step-by-step instructions. I do want help with the mundane chores like cleaning and laundry and yard work, for sure, but I want good quality help. Before I get upset at him for “doing it wrong”, I need to make sure I’m equipping him with good training for how to do it right.
2) Smile! Keep it light. I’m so quick to get frustrated with his complete lack of ability. He’s learning! These things take practice. Give him space to grow his ability, and be a positive voice in the process.
3) Look away. A preschooler just can’t do it like this expert, been-at-it-for-years, professional home-keeper. But a) it’s important he feels part of the team keeping the family going and, b) that he gets these kinds of tasks mastered for adulting someday. If need be, I’m just going to close my eyes and picture a well-mannered, capable young man who’s not afraid to scrub the shower or do the dishes or fold his own laundry.
A story I remind myself of often: I remember once as a young girl being told to sweep the kitchen floor. While it wasn’t obviously my first choice of activity, I specifically remember how I decided to do it cheerfully and hummed while I worked. I vividly remember my shock and hurt when my mom came by and reprimanded me harshly for not doing a thorough job. Now I’m grown, I can totally see her side of things. I was not doing a thorough job. It was the end of probably a long, hard day. Heaven knows I’ve chewed out my kid for less. The point is, she missed an opportunity to encourage my attitude by focusing on the quality of the work. Don’t get me wrong, of course I want to instill a high value on quality of work, but work ethic includes more: attitude, self-motivation, effective evaluation. I want to make sure I’m thinking big-picture when training my kids to work hard. I want them to feel part of the team, like their work is valuable to the whole household and their attitude makes a big difference. I haven’t quite figured out exactly how to perfectly implement this however. Advice welcomed!
Chores are not the only way to work teamwork into our young kids’ lives. Oh no. Play is rife with team effort and the challenging relational aspects inevitable whenever humans work together. Oh goody. This is where sibling squabbles get good, guys! Case in point: LEGO last night, all over the living room floor. Little brother’s idea of playing with LEGO is swishing his hands in the box of pieces so they scatter all over the place or destroying big brother’s creations. Naturally, there was some frustration expressed on Eddie’s part. Sometimes, I’ll remove the little nuisance, for everyone’s sanity, but sometimes it’s worth all playing the same thing for awhile to practice working as a team. I’m not great at building, but I can hunt for pieces and fix broken parts. Maybe Xander doesn’t have much to contribute yet, but he needs to learn how to be part of the LEGO team, and being in the middle of the action is a great place to start, swishing bricks and all. As kids play together, the inevitably run into obstacles as they work toward their common goal. There’s always that teammate who doesn’t contribute much. Life lesson, kid.
I hear sports is a great way to introduce kids to being part of a team. We’re not quite there yet, but I’d love to hear your family’s experience! How your kids have learned important lessons of teamwork on the field, around the house, and at playtime?