Every Thursday, my 9-year-old daughter cooks dinner for the entire family. From start to finish, it’s her responsibility and she hasn’t made a bad meal, yet. I didn’t ask her to start making dinner because she’s a girl and I think her place belongs in the kitchen. As a full-time working mom and wife of two who owns a business and has a life outside of this house, I needed help.
My husband does the laundry (yes, even the folding!) and many other things. We’re teaching the toddler how to pick up after himself. In our family, everyone has responsibilities. We need everyone to pitch in for the house to run smoothly.
When I was my daughter’s age, I had chores. It wasn’t a lot. I cleaned one of the bathrooms every day, and washed dishes. My parents would also give me things to do occasionally like vacuum, or dust. Even though I wasn’t particularly interested in doing chores, I knew even then that I was getting off kind of easy.
I talked to Ayva about pitching in and asked what she’d like to do. She’s still responsible for some cleaning and taking out the recycling, but I wanted her to have the chance to pick her own contribution. Most of the cooking and grocery shopping in our family is done by me, so I was thrilled that she wanted to help in the kitchen.
We decided that Thursday would be her day to cook, and it’s her job to choose the recipe and let me know what she needs to make it. Before she got started, I let her know that she didn’t have to think of a different thing every single week. I encouraged her to master two or three dishes and then move on to new recipes. She took my advice, and I have to say, her Spinach & Tortellini is magnificent!
In addition to her chores, there are other things that I expect my tween to take responsibility for. I’m always around to coach and provide instruction. Mostly, I try to step back and let her do things on her own. She’s going to be a teenager pretty soon, and after that a young adult. I think it’s really important for me to give her opportunity to learn (and potentially fail) new skills in a safe environment before I send her off into the real world.
And besides that, have you heard a tween’s mouth? They know everything! Might as well put those know-it-alls to work!
Here are some things your tween should be able to do on their own
1. Cook dinner
It doesn’t have to be fancy. My daughter makes things like breakfast for dinner, quesadillas, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with fruit in addition to trying new recipes. If your tween knows how to get themselves a snack, they can pick one night a week to make dinner for the family.
2. Keep track of their own deadlines
If your child has projects due, or activities that they need to attend, they should be responsible for keeping track of their schedule. Since my tween is on the young end, I still help her remember what she has to do. She’s learned that I might remind her at the last minute. If she wants to be fully prepared, she needs to keep track of deadlines, too.
3. Pick out birthday gifts for their friends
I do not buy gifts for my daughter’s friends if she isn’t with me. If she doesn’t remind me to stop and get a gift when she has a party to attend, she will have to take the gift late. You have your own kids to worry about, and you’re not even going to the party! Your children should be picking out gifts for their friends, even if you are paying for it.
4. Help keep the house clean
The chores you assign out might vary from kid to kid based on their abilities. If they live in the house, they should be pitching in. Cleaning their rooms is a given, so that doesn’t count. Whether it’s washing dishes, keeping the house vacuumed, or helping with yard work, let your tween have a part in keeping your home looking good.
5. Talk to their teacher
My daughter’s 4th grade teacher inspired this suggestion. If a student leaves homework at school or needs an extension for any reason, she only wants the kids to email her. If there was a situation that required my input, I would have no problem stepping in. For the most part, your tween should be able to talk to their teacher about basic challenges they’re having.
I know that it feels like our tweens were just babies. They were, but now they’re older and able to do a lot more. We don’t have to be martyrs by trying to do it all, Mamas. If all of our family members pull their (age appropriate) weight, you might just get a chance to relax!
I know I do, every Thursday night, as I watch television and wait for dinner to be served!