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20 Ways to Get Your Kids to Help with Thanksgiving Dinner

You are planning to host a large family Thanksgiving dinner in your home.  You need help.  You have kids . . . problem solved, right?  As parents, we know that our kids may not be eager to help around the house.  Here are 20 tips to motivate your kids to help with Thanksgiving dinner.

1.      Reference the value of family time (such as Thanksgiving with immediate and extended family).

2.      Tell your kids that hosting Thanksgiving is a major project and you need their help.

3.      State that your family is a team . . . that you all work together to accomplish family goals.

4.      Speak about the cooperative nature of Thanksgiving itself:  how pilgrims and Indians worked together at the original Thanksgiving.

5.      Provide your kids with a written list of all the tasks that need to be performed (i.e., setting the table, stuffing the turkey, and even vacuuming the carpet and dusting the furniture).

6.      Ask your kids what they would like to do among the tasks listed.

7.      Make suggestions based on the interests and skills of your kids.  For example, you may say, “Kelly, you are so creative!  Would you like to bake and decorate turkey-shaped sugar cookies or some other creative treat for snacks that evening?  You could search the Internet and come up with something fun to make, if you’d like.”  Another example would  be, “Jonathan, I know you like working with your hands.  Do you want to squish the bread and stuff to make the stuffing and then stuff it all in the turkey?  It’s kind of fun to feel that stuff squish between your fingers.”

8.      If one of your kids would like to add a task to the list . . . a task that s/he would like to perform . . . give that serious consideration.  For example, if Paul would like to rake the leaves in your front yard into large piles so that the kids at your family  gathering can entertain themselves by jumping in the leaf piles, that may be a good idea, assuming that your family members will come casually attired and the weather will support outdoor recreation.

9.     Mark down on your task list who will perform which tasks.

10.   Post the list in a prominent location prior to and on the day of Thanksgiving.

11.   Praise your kids generously and often for their willingness to help.

12.   Tell your kids that you are grateful to them for their help . . . that you don’t know how you would get it all done without them.

13.   On Thanksgiving, discuss task performance (including the timing of the performance of each task) with your kids.  For example, “Katie, thank you for volunteering to vacuum today.  If you need help moving any of the furniture so that you can vacuum under and behind it, please let Daddy know.  He’ll be your furniture mover today.  I’m hoping that you’ll have the vacuuming done by about 11:00 a.m. because our guests may start to arrive shortly thereafter.  You may want to have the task started by about 10:00 a.m. because it will take about an hour to get the task accomplished.  Ok?”

14.   As work begins, play music that inspires the performance of the tasks.  Up-tempo, whimsical music may work well, for example.

15.   As the kids are performing their tasks, provide them encouragement, praise, and gentle guidance.

16.   Give your kids incentives for performing the tasks.  For example, Kelly (the cookie baker) may get to eat a little cookie dough and Jonathan may get to fill a small pan with stuffing (outside the turkey) just for his consumption.

17.   When the tasks are completed, again express your gratitude to them and praise the outcomes of their work.  For example, you may say, “Wow!  That carpet has NEVER been that clean!  Good job!  What would I have done without you?!”

18.   When your guests arrive and dinner is served, announce to all your guests that their meal was made possible by the cooperative effort of your immediate family members (you, your spouse, and your kids).  Publicly thank your spouse and kids for their help.  If special skills were involved (i.e., Kelly’s creative Thanksgiving snacks), praise those skills publicly.  (Note:  if you praise one child for a special skill, find something uniquely praise-worthy in each of your kids and mention that.)

19.   When Thanksgiving draws to a close and your last guest has gone, hug and kiss your kids, tell them how proud you are of them, how grateful you are to them, and how very much you love them.

20.   Spend time that evening (or soon thereafter) in bonding activity with your kids.  Watch their favorite DVD movie together.  Spend time playing at the park together.  Decompress and connect as an immediate family, without all the clamor of the extended family.

By following the 20 tips above, you can motivate your kids to help with Thanksgiving dinner.

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