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4 Ways to Help Your Kids Build Character

  • Pam Kanaly Co-founder, Arise Ministries
  • Updated Oct 17, 2014
4 Ways to Help Your Kids Build Character

When Jason and Sara were three and four, and I was a single mom, I realized early-on the value of having a routine under the roof. Routines gave them a sense of normality since we were going through a change with their daddy not living there anymore.  It created a sense of comfort, making their world feel secure. When they were toddlers, I called the routines “funnzies.” When they were a little older, it became the mean ol’ word: CHORES.

Every single mom wants her kids to land on both feet. Making chores a large part of family life helps the children in every area of development. Chores have value by building character.  The organization Character First defines character as an inward value that determines outward actions. I like that! So what character traits come from chores?  

  • Obedience - Chores teach a child to carry out an assignment from the person who’s the authority in the home.
  • Perseverance - Chores instill the importance of completing an assigned task.
  • Order - Chores teach harmony and organization where they quickly learn that clutter fosters chaos.
  • Virtue - Chores serve as the vehicle in training the children to want to do what’s expected of them.  
  • Positive pride – Chores teach self-esteem by creating a sense of accomplishment.
  • Endurance - Chores help kids apply themselves even though they may not feel like it.  
  • Generosity - Chores allow the child to feel like a contributor.
  • Dependability - Chores develop reliability.  
  • Tenacity – Chores ward off laziness. (I heard a saying that I liked, “Children who do too little, have moms who did too much.)
  • Godliness - Chores model biblical principles:

“Do everything without grumbling and complaining” (Phillpians 2:14).  

So where do you start?

Begin Early

I had a friend once say that anything eye level and below is considered cleanable. She commented, “Imagine, shiny baseboards!” That means that a three-year can hold a duster. In my home, Saturday mornings were family “tidy time” where we’d labored together. But I had to remember this - The object was teamwork not perfection. If they did their best, I didn’t redo or make better their assignment. It’s beneficial to let them enjoy the work of their own hands.

Be Creative

Make your “tidy time” fun. I created a kitchen sticker-chart. At the end of the week, we counted our stickers that bought hidden prizes that I had placed around the house. Play happy songs like Snow White’s “Whistle While You Work,” or make up your own silly tunes with their names in it. That creates a sense of family unity and contentment.

Assign Chores Where They Can Succeed

Be mindful of age appropriate tasks. Here’s a breakdown that might be helpful.

Toddlers (ages 2-3) - The key word is activity.

  • Pick up toys, pull sheets off the bed, put clothes in the dirty clothes hamper, wipe the cabinets and baseboards

Preschooler (ages 4-5) – The key word is helper.

  • Load the dishwasher, set the table, clean the windows, wipe out the bathroom sinks, match the socks, pull weeds, fold the towels

Early Elementary (ages 6-8).  The key word is belonging.

  • Wash the vegetables, vacuum, take out the garbage, get the mail, water the plants, fold the clothes, clean the toilets (they’ll love that one!)

Upper Elementary (ages 9-11).  Key word is individuality.

  • Make the beds, set the table, feed the pets, help wash and clean out the car, rake the leaves, help make dinner,

Middle School (ages 12-14). Key word is independence.

  • Mow the lawn, do the laundry, clean the bathrooms, organize the kitchen junk

And What About Pay?

I did not give my children money for chores when they were young. Preschoolers are too little to understand the value of cash. Explain that they work around the house for the sole purpose because they live under the roof, there’s work to be done, and that’s what families do. Such a mindset eliminates a future sense of entitlement. However, when they enter the teenage years, paying an allowance might be an option. It introduces them to concept of tithing, saving, and exploring financial decisions.

There’s great value in teaching your children to be good stewards of the God-given gifts of their hands and feet, which serves as an opportunity to please God through their chores. So happy cleaning.  

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, knowing you will receive a reward from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:7-8).

Pam Kanaly, popular author of The Single Mom and Her Rollercoaster Emotions and nominated by the Governor of Oklahoma for "Mother of Achievement Award - 2015 "-  remains one of America’s leading advocates for single mothers. As founder of the single mothers’ conferences – Survive ‘N’ Thrive, Pam exudes with a God-given passion in seeing women know their value in Christ. She is the co-founder of the national organization Arise Ministries, having been featured on the 700 Club and other national programs.

Publication date: October 16, 2014