By Connie Hammer (http://parentingcoachingforautism.com/author/Connie/)
Not all parents have their children do chores and those that do all have various ways of handling them. What works for one family may not work for another family. When I was growing up I had various small chores to accomplish during the week but Saturday morning was designated as cleaning day, which included changing beds, vacuuming and dusting.
The rule was – No Saturday morning cartoons until ALL chores were completed and passed inspection. This motivated me to get things done quickly because the thought of no Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry was unthinkable to me but my sister couldn’t care less.
How do you get your child to do chores around the house?
Any of the answers to the multiple-choice question above may work for your child but the answer with the best chance of success is D. Most children, not just those with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, need direct teaching on how to approach and tackle a chore.
Just as a grocery store manager has to train his employees and teach them how to stock shelves, clean equipment or run a cash register, children with Autism have to be taught clearly and specifically how to do things. It is extremely important to teach each chore thoroughly before you can expect satisfactory results and accept that it will take much repetition before you get the exact outcome you desire.
Developing an attitude that tolerates lower expectations in the beginning while maintaining a goal for steady improvement is an important mindset adjustment to make. This article, Promoting Independence in My ASD Child with Chores, provides many useful strategies and tips that will guide you to shift the way you think about chores in order to maximize successful outcomes.
When you are ready to tackle the assignment of chores to your children here are some things to keep in mind for a stress free and enjoyable experience for all.
- Begin at your child’s level. It is very important to identify your child’s level of ability when it comes to teaching her a new chore. If you want your child to experience success at a task in order to motivate her to repeat it, being realistic about where to start can make all the difference. Start with something you know she will be successful at and slowly increase the level of difficulty as you go.
- Communicate clearly. Is your child verbal or non-verbal? How best does he communicate? Will schedules or lists, whether in picture or text format, be useful? It is important to do whatever you need to in order to appeal to the unique way your child’s mind works. Children on the Autism spectrum tend to be very concrete and literal thinkers, therefore seeing or hearing a task broken down into very small steps with explicit instructions will increase comprehension and the likelihood that the chore will be accomplished the way you want.
- Go slow and be patient. Repetition is the key to mastering any task, regardless of age or ability. Taking the time now to make sure your child acquires the necessary muscle memory for the task will pay off in the long run. Muscle memory is a term for memorizing a procedure by imprinting a specific gross or fine motor task to memory through constant repetition. There are many everyday work or play related activities that are learned in this manner, such as riding a bike, playing a musical instrument, or sweeping a floor. With lots of practice these things become so automatic they do not require much thought.
- Praise effort. Children who are praised for their intelligence only, instead of the effort they put into an activity or chore, become hyper focused on results and do not come to see the process of completing the task as important. Should they fail at a task where successful accomplishment has been the only thing emphasized, they are less likely to try again. They may attribute their failure to a lack of ability, something they believe they can’t change. But giving a child specific praise for the energy they expend on a task helps them see themselves as in control of their success.
- Acknowledge the benefits. Teaching children to do chores, however simple or intricate they may be, helps them feel good about themselves when they see the tangible results. Seeing the fruits of their labor may not strike them as wonderful at first but continued appreciation and recognition of a job well done will help them feel proud and build a positive sense of self. A sense of teamwork is another benefit from doing chores that children will realize as they recognize their contribution to the family.
All in all, teaching a child to do chores is a very important way to make any child more independent – something we all want our children to be.
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles