When you are in a management position you learn quickly that delegating is the key to your success, as well as your sanity. If you’re at the office and you consistently feel that you are the only one that can get the job done, something is wrong. Unless you are understaffed, you have either failed at training the people that work with you or, you are the type of person that can only feel competent if you are doing it yourself. Neither of these reasons help to lighten your load, they just create a situation where you will constantly feel overwhelmed and underappreciated. In the home, children need to feel as though they are part of a “team.” As a parent you are the team leader and they need you to clarify what it is that needs to be done. Sounds simple enough, right? The younger your children are when you start, the easier it will be down the road, but it is never too late to pull out an extra apron. When children are young they love to help out, so it is easy enough to make it happen. The supermarket and the kitchen are great places to start.
Supermarket Savvy. If they are with you at the supermarket have them help out as much as possible. If they are very young, you can play “I Spy” and ask them to find a certain item that is on the list. Even if they are sitting in the shopping cart, they can help out. When they are old enough, have them check the ingredients listed to see if there is anything that they would not find in your cabinet at home. You would have oats, but would you have high fructose corn syrup, or artificial flavoring? Have them check to see if there are any colors or numbers (like Red-40) and explain why artificial colors do not belong in their bodies. If it doesn’t pass the test, then you don’t buy it. By doing this, you are teaching them at a very early age to pay attention to what is in the package. If you have older kids and you are out shopping and they are home, you should never unload the car unless they help, or do it for you, ever. If they are home, phone in when you are on your way back and tell them that you need their help and will be home shortly.
Setting the table for dinner. If they are young, help them do this, they’ll catch on soon enough.
Preparing the meal. Each child should have an apron and child-safe cooking utensils, and learn to help in an age appropriate manner. Check out Cooking.Com they have great items for the kids. If they are too young to use a knife, then they can mix and even help measure ingredients. If there is a recipe involved and you are printing it out, make the print larger and, if they are old enough, have them read the ingredients to you as you go along. While you are preparing say things like: “I love to eat fish because it makes my brain work better and it helps keeps my heart strong.” They will remember this, I promise.
While you are eating. During the meal ask them what they think about the food they helped you to prepare. Ask them what they would like to change the next time you make the same dishes, and write down their answers. Keep a Family Cookbook file/folder and encourage them to come up with ideas and recipes. You can even have them choose the meal one day a week; make it their day! Look through cookbooks and magazines together and keep them interested.
Loading the dishwasher and cleaning up. This is a truly great accomplishment, trust me. Loading and unloading the dishwasher has never been my favorite task, and I could cry when I watch my kids doing this after dinner. That’s how happy it makes me feel, and aren’t we all entitled to these little moments of joy?
When young children are taught to be a part of the kitchen scene, they are always going to be more interested in the true value of food. They will almost always be more willing to try a new food that they helped to prepare, as compared to one that hits the table and is unidentifiable to them. Cooking is a necessary life skill and it is up to you make it happen. Teach them to get around in the kitchen and they will cook for you when they are teenagers and… they will clean up afterwards! When one of my teenage sons makes me something to eat, I want to jump up and down and cheer, but I don’t because that might scare them. It just feels so right, so deliciously right. (By the way, my 14 year old is an amazing cook, much better than my husband or myself)
There needs to be a gradual transfer of your workload, or you will be cooking for, serving and cleaning up after your entire family for a very long time. It’s much more fun when you know that eventually YOU get to sit back and watch it all happen. So, this a great place to start, don’t you agree? Think about it.