Setting Up Your Kids For Success

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Setting Up Your Kids For Success

We have all heard it said that we should encourage our kids and that they respond better to encouragement than to criticism. Usually, when we think of encouraging, we think of something like saying, “Good job” or “You’re doing really well”. This is one way of setting up your kids for success.

Another way to encourage them and to help them succeed is to arrange things so that their daily tasks or chores are easier.

For example:

  • If you expect them to hang up their coats each day, you are setting them up for failure if the coat rack is too high or if the coat hooks aren’t large enough or the hangers are hard to use.
  • If you expect them to pick up their dirty clothes, then provide them with hampers in their rooms.
  • If you require your children to make their beds, give them comforters instead of bedspreads, since comforters are easier for them to use.

  • Use plastic dishes when kids are first learning to hand wash dishes so there isn’t as much worry for them or you about breakage.

Companies that are successful usually have employees that enjoy their work. One way that you can make the work more fun for your kids is by providing mini-aprons for the girls to use while they help mom clean the kitchen. If you don’t have a small apron, then just fold a large cotton dish towel into a triangle and tie it around her waist.

My daughter bought a butcher’s apron for my grandson and decorated it for him to use when he makes pancakes. He loved it and making breakfast for the family is now a treat and not a chore for him.

Another thing you can do to make it easier for both you and your kids is to make lists of chores and hang them in certain areas where the kids can easily refer to them. I’m not talking about the usual chore lists. These are lists explaining how to do the chores.

For example, when you tell your child to go clean his room, “clean” could mean any number of things. Usually, what you consider cleaning the room is not your child’s idea of cleaning it.

In his room, post a list of what specific tasks your child should do when you tell him to clean his room. Kids are very literal thinkers and being specific will make the process smoother (At the same time, avoid including too many details).

Here are some examples of this type of list:

Clean Room

Make Bed
Put dirty clothes in hamper
Pick up all toys off of the floor and put in bins

Set Table

Place mats
Forks, Knives, Spoons
Salt and Pepper


Sort into colors; lights, white, colors
Check for stains
Fill washer 3/4 full
Put detergent in washer
(and list the rest of the details in doing the laundry…)

Kids tend to tune mom out after she has told them the same thing over and over. A child will follow a list better than too many verbal instructions, and it saves mom from having to repeat herself. You can make these lists for all kinds of things including steps to clean the kitchen, the bathroom or the family room.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t have to pop in once in a while to help and teach them, but this will save some time. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for sometimes. (Just ask their grandma how smart they are– She’ll tell you!) Even though they’re smart, they still don’t have experience doing these things and you have to train them. This means lots of repetition, so be patient.

Last, but not least, always check their work. This way, they know they will be held accountable.

John Maxwell says, “…what doesn’t get inspected won’t be respected. If there is no accountability in an area, then there’s no incentive to perform with excellence in it. …the root causes of poor performance in a workplace are inadequate training, a lack of capacity and a bad attitude. It is the leader’s responsibility to ensure that they pick the right people for the job, properly equip them for the functions they are required to perform and above all else, model confidence and optimism in their work.”

These same ideas apply at home. And always remember you can get twice as much out of a child with encouragement, a gentle word and a smile than by screaming, criticizing and belittling. I hope this has been of some help to you. If you’d like more tips to help with your kids, check out our “Saving With Kids” E-book series.



photo by: chefranden


  1. marzerna says

    I loved your article and it was right on the mark. Children don’t mind helping if they are asked to (not told or yelled at to) and respond well to thank you for a job well done. My son and niece always help because they have been trained in daily chores. I spent quite a bit of time showing them what had to be done everyday and what it should look like when finished. This has made my load alot easier.

  2. Sandy says

    these same type of lists are also sometimes necessary for GROWN kids who still live at home or move back in…..seems they forget too!!!

  3. Jenny says

    A very helpful, common sense article! I love the idea of an apron encouraging the love of cooking! I bought my son (9 yrs old) a rechargeable sweeper broom and now he can vacuum the house for me – it has encouraged him to help with chores around the house! He enjoys doing it and is proud of his work when he’s done. What more can any Mom ask for!? In fact I was preparing a chore list for him – and this article helped me break it down to get more specific on his list! Thanks!

  4. Jennifer says

    Touche’ dear lady! This advice is tried and true in our home (and I needed the reminder today when we’re *cleaning rooms and closets* in preparation for back-to-school 😀 ).

    One of my children has autism-tendencies (from a head injury years ago) and these very principles are what enable him to function at the very limit of his abilities.

    Thanks again for well-written, common-sense packed, timely articles!

  5. Colleen Gold says

    So very true, I especially agree on making your request something the child can really do. Be real in what your kids can do and start the next level with you at first

  6. Melanie Brownsberger says

    Love the article. I was wondering what all chores everyone gives thier kids. My kids r three. I have just started with chores. I took a swifter sweeper and took out one of the links to make it child sized. So now my boys help with sweeping and they do a little dusting (have 2 feather dusters for them) but not sure what else to have them do. any one have a suggestion.

    • says

      Melanie at that age be fore warned it will take you a little longer to get things done by them helping but in a couple of years that extra time will all be gotten back with older kids who can help and know what they are doing. It is great you are starting them early.

      Some other things they can do is:

      ~Pick up their toys
      ~they love to put things from the washer to dryer if you have front loaders
      ~Place their plate/cup on the counter by the kitchen sink after they eat
      ~Set the table with a few things
      ~Help make their beds like pull the covers up on one side and put pillow in place with jammies under it.
      ~If on a low shelf, can help but away can goods, cereal etc.
      ~ Place dirty clothes in hamper each evening
      ~ Depending on the child but could even start folding things like washcloths or undies

      Just look around as you clean to find different things – throw trash away, put pillows on couch, put shoes in closet etc.

  7. rose says

    thanks for posting this article .. i enjoyed reading it ..
    and its a good thing to teach kids young to pick up after themselves, the pets and each other ..
    and also i see a link to print out a chore chart too..
    awesome idea! ..
    thanks again for sharing ;D

  8. Jennifer says

    One of the best chores I ever invented for our home was called “pre-sweeper”. My daughter started this job at age 3. She was given a *special basket* (one for that purpose only; probably purchased at the thrift store or one I already had!). She went from room to room collecting everything she found on the floor, such as a hairband, dog toy, kleenex, wrapper, piece of paper, etc. Then she gave me the basket and I took care of each item (toss or put away). As she gained proficiency with that job, I added in the step that she threw away the trash parts (if she was unsure if an item was trash, it went into the special basket). This little job helps the vacumn person greatly!
    Other jobs my little ones had at that age were folding washclothes, folding diapers (cloth), setting the table (after I had placed the items needed on the table or a nearby countertop), 5-minute pickup (for toys), tidying their bed (or making it, if possible), putting their dirty clothing in a hamper, restacking/reshelving books after use.
    I read a great book years ago (80s) by a gal named Bonnie Runyan McCullough. She had lists by age that were a great help for me (though I had to make adjustments for my special needs child).

    • says

      In the kids e books that I mentioned at the end of the article we have lists of chores for every age group too like you mentioned Jennifer any one needs them and charts to print. It really has tons of things which I talk about in there – almost everything you need to know about chores and ways to get your kids to do chores and so much more. It’s called Saving with Kids e book

  9. LAC says

    Although children can learn to use real dishes and silverware. The Reggio School in Italy has 3 and 4 year olds set each and every table for lunch in their school everyday. It takes them 1/2 hour to set up every table with real table cloths, linen napkins, real glassware, and real utensils. They also have a real glass vase of real flowers at the table everyday! This teaches them life skills and respect for their materials. They are pros at setting the table and eating with real life materials. They learn table manners and how to sit at the table correctly! They are also proud of what they accomplish and will follow the rules of table etiquette more readily because they had to put the work in! It teaches them respect for their things and for others as well!

  10. Ashley says

    I have my 4 year old feed the dogs as her daily chore. We remind her frequently, but we don’t always have to. It has been a great chore for her. I also have a chore chart on which I give “special stars” for helping me with vacuuming, putting away the silverware and doing something she finds onerous. I intend to transition those jobs into her jobs as she grows older and can do them without my having to redo them (though she does the silverware perfectly now!)

    Also, we started at a young age to empower our children so that when they made a mess they knew what to do…clean it up! I still assist, but even my almost two year old knows to get a towel to clean up spilled drinks etc., And, the benefit to this is they don’t hide their messes and they don’t start crying over their mistakes. :)

  11. says

    As my kids have gotten older I’ve given them freedom to try new things, without my hovering. For instance, my daughters made lunch after church yesterday. I stayed out of the kitchen entirely. They made a homemade soup and homemade crackers. Not only are they learning responsibility, but new and frugal skills that will help them when they’re on their own, down the road.

    And my son, he’s learning to cook from scratch as well. Men remain bachelors for a lot longer these years, and he needs to be able to cook for himself without ruining his health, or depleting his savings.

    Now, they’re itching for me to let them try trimming my hair. I’ve been cutting our family’s hair for years, and they want to learn ho,w too. Do I have the courage to let them have a go at my hair? That I haven’t settled yet. But I may let them trim each other’s hair this month.

  12. Maggie says

    When my grandkids come to visit, they love to help me set the table and then put away the silverware after the dishes are done. They have specific chores at their house but my daughter just does not have them in the kitchen much at dinner time. Gramma is different. I let them help me stir or make muffins or get out the butter and milk (if it’s not too heavy). They think they are playing but it really takes a load off when you are trying to feed 8 or more people.
    When my kids were little, my son made his own chore list and put plastic over it so everyday, he could erase it and start over. We used grease pencils but now a white board would work just as well. Even as children, they loved their lists. Must get that from their gramma. :)

  13. says

    This is a good article with lots of good ideas.
    One thing not mentioned is “teaching a child to fail”.
    No one is ever going to go through life with success constantly.
    We have to teach a child how to fail gracefully as this is a great part of life.
    If they have some minor failure teach them that it is not the end of the world and then teach them the steps to overcome that failure.
    No temper tantrums, no sulks, just pick themselves back up and figure out a solution.
    They now have soccer games where they don’t keep score so nobody loses. If nobody ever loses how on earth is a child going to grow up thinking that they must do well to succeed?
    Nobody fails a grade at school. They pass and the problems they have with whatever subject is passed on to the next teacher.
    Society has taken away the greatest right of childhood. The right to fail at the small things so they never learn how to fail and overcome when the bigger things of adulthood rear their ugly heads.
    Teach them to succeed but also teach them how to fail.

    • says

      You took the words right out of my mouth grandma. I just finished a newsletter that will be coming out in a couple of weeks talking about that same thing and how we are truly depriving our kids if we make everything easy for them and allow them to struggle once in a while. You are so right.

  14. Maggie says

    Gramma and Jill, You are so right. I see it all the time. Everything the child does is praised and then when they get to the workplace, they cannot work without a reward for “doing their job.” Now, I know that getting a big deal or doing something special warrants a pat on the back but as my boss says, Your reward for doing your job is that paycheck you get every week. So, we don’t teach our children anything by never letting them fail and learning how to pick themselves up. We cannot give them a lollipop for everything that they do. We must teach them that just being is okay and sometimes life isn’t perfect but working through that will make you stronger. Hope this makes sense and isn’t too rambly.

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