Children’s Readiness-Mary Ann Wilcox

Jobs well done

Gauging a child’s readiness to perform work

By Mary Ann Wilcox

A child’s readiness to work is dependent upon his age, his past experiences, his level of skill development, his emotional stability and his physical growth. Often, children are ready physically to handle certain skills but are emotionally incapable of handling the magnitude of the responsibility. In this case the parent needs to break the job into small parts, work with the child until his confidence is strong, and use lots of praise and encouragement.

Just because a child is unwilling to work doesn’t mean that he is always incapable. Sometimes the work is too hard, sometimes the work is not challenging enough, and sometimes the child is just lazy or wants to get out of work. For instance, if an older child does not like to babysit a younger sibling, he will do a lousy job in hopes that you will not ask him to do it again.

Analyze the child and determine what is interfering with his productivity. If lack of physical coordination is the problem, wait to teach the skill. If emotional insecurity is the problem, work carefully and slowly with the child on a step-by-step basis. If laziness is the problem, set deadlines and provide incentives and consequences for his actions.

Developmental Stage #1: Birth – 1 year old: A child in this age group is completely dependent on outsiders to meet his every need. He is not capable of doing things for other people or accepting responsibility. It is the purpose of a child in this age group to learn about the structure around him, adjust to family life situations and to the physical world.

Developmental Stage #2: 1-2 years old: A child in this age group is ready and willing to help on a voluntary basis. Capitalize on this willingness — it is inconsistent to refuse to let a child help at 2 and then require it at age 10. This is also the first stage of rebellion so let him help you when he desires and don’t force it. Otherwise, you will find yourself involved in a power struggle that you can only win by physical force. His concept of work is doing something fun with a parent, especially if it involves water. Because of the child’s concept of work, it is not damaging to re-do a job that the child has performed.

The basic responsibility of this age group is to bring joy, love and happiness to the family and develop his self-image through participating in the family process as much as possible.

Developmental Stage #3: 2-5 years old: A child transitions from a baby to a child when he is ready to sleep in a regular bed. A child in this age group is ready to develop good personal habits of cleanliness and hygiene. It is important that you supervise everything the child does during this period so good habits will be developed. The child’s favorite quote at this age is, “I want to do it myself.”

Developmental Stage #4: 5-11 years old: These are the years that children develop skills. This is the greatest physical training period you will have as a parent. During this period, a child should learn how to perform tasks properly, how to do a job, when and how quickly it should be done, and the level of perfection that is expected in each task. This is also an excellent time for children to develop other coordination skills. At this age, their coordination is at a peek, they have little fear, and little ego at stake. Music lessons and sports activities should be encouraged. Children will start very few new activities after the age of 12.

It is just as important that a child understands what is expected in extracurricular activities as it is in work performed at home. He should be made to make a commitment for a season so that the benefits of the activity can be manifested. A child should not be allowed to quit because it is not convenient or becomes difficult. Help the child evaluate the circumstances prior to making a commitment. A one-year commitment will allow a child to cover one or more growth plateaus and find out if he has an interest or talent for that activity. Quitting destroys a child’s self-esteem and makes him fearful of difficult tasks. Children need to complete the growth process before they are allowed to quit.

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Idaho Family Magazine