Let’s be a little real here — becoming an adult was probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve even got a t-shirt that says just that. Things like work, paying bills, buying groceries, washing dishes and doing laundry make me want to build a pillow fort, climb inside and never come out again.
Nah, I’m just kidding. I love my job.
The rest is what makes me want to hide in a pillow fort. I’m a crappy adult.
As much as I love my parents, they never taught me how to function in an adult world. Things like paying bills, buying cars and stressing about money were all done behind closed doors. They relied on our local public school to teach me how to survive in the real world — even though my high school got rid of their life skills courses in favor of academics during my freshman year.
Now, my daughters are only 5 years and 5 months old, but I’ve decided that I never want them to feel like they have no idea how to write a check, pay a bill or apply for health insurance. With that in mind, consider the following clever ways to involve your kids in your weekly household tasks.
Keep the Door Open
I’ve already mentioned how I was raised. My parents did all their adulting behind closed doors, so when I moved out at 18 with my first job and first apartment, I had no idea what I was doing.
I refuse to do that to my girls, so the first thing I had to change was that I always keep the door open. Now, I’m not dealing with a stack of paper bills or writing checks to pay for my utilities. Thank God for the digital age. Instead, I pay my bills on the family computer in the living room, and when my 5-year-old asks what I’m doing, I pull her up on my lap and explain things.
She’s a long way off from needing to pay bills or worry about an income, but I’m hoping these little bonding moments are laying the foundation for turning her into a thriving, self-sufficient adult. As she gets older, I’ll start explaining things like income, taxes and budgets. I’m committed to making sure my daughters don’t turn out like me. I didn’t learn how to do my taxes until I was 27.
Teach Them About Money EARLY
Do you want to know another skill I didn’t learn until I was in my mid-20s?
How to save money.
Yep. I survived this long without a savings account or a retirement fund. Ask me how. Or don’t — I have no idea.
Another skill I’m focused on teaching my daughters is how to save money. Studies have shown that children as young as 5 or 6 can understand the concept of saving money, so now is the perfect time to begin.
Start with a piggy bank that they can put coins or their allowance in. I even have one — it looks like Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. My 5-year-old does some age-appropriate chores — more on that in a moment — to earn her weekly allowance. When she makes her money, we talk about saving some for a big item that she wants. At this age, it’s usually a toy or a doll or dessert when we go out to eat, but as she gets older, these lessons will translate into bigger ticket items like a first car, phone or game system.
Assign Them Age-Appropriate Chores
Now here comes the challenging part — getting your children to do chores to earn their allowance. The trick, I’ve found, is to assign them tasks that aren’t too difficult for their age. For instance, my 5-year-old’s weekly chores include:
- Picking up her toys
- Making her bed
- Clearing the table after dinner
- Watering the plants
- Feeding the dog
It might not seem like much, but the way she fights me on it, sometimes you’d think I was asking her to do brain surgery while climbing Mt. Everest.
If your kids aren’t 4 or 5, there are plenty of other chore ideas for you. Just pick a few you think they’ll accomplish and assign them every week. If you have younger kids, don’t get irritated if the job isn’t done correctly. I don’t expect my 5-year-old to be able to make her bed so perfectly that I can bounce a quarter off of it. At that age, the effort is what earns the allowance. She’ll learn how to improve her techniques as she grows.
Keep Them Involved — Always
The best piece of advice I can offer is to keep your kids involved in every aspect of running a household — from chores to money and everything in between. Kids are little sponges, and they’ll absorb all that information, which will create a stable foundation for them to grow from — hopefully into self-sufficient adults.