Each family has their own way of handling chores. Some families use chore charts with incentives or allowance as a reward for good work. Other families require chores as being part of the family. Other families choose to not require their children’s help with household tasks.
Our family does a mix of all of these systems. We have tried to give allowance, but were very inconsistent. If there’s something our kids would like to buy they can earn money from doing extra jobs around the house. We mostly expect our kids to do jobs as part of being a family member.
How We Handle the Chores
We really haven’t made a big deal about them. It started when they were really little, it was just something we did. We didn’t do sticker charts or have incentive plans. It was just part of life. When they were babies and toddlers, they were with me all the time. I’d talk with them and explain what I was doing while cooking, cleaning or working outside. If we had a task that needed to be done, I’d ask one of them to do it. I want our kids to know how to take care of themselves when they leave our home someday. I want them to feel capable and proud of their own abilities. We have taught them how to do everything we ask them to do.
Each morning the kids need to get dressed, make themselves cereal or toast for breakfast. They need to make their beds and open their curtains. They brush their hair and teeth, put on socks, shoes and coat or sweatshirt. All of this needs to be done by 8:20. Our boys are seven and nine years old. This took years of support and reminders. I also have a list printed and hanging in their rooms. Jacob also feeds our dog, Shasta, each morning.
After school the boys need to read for at least 20 minutes and do any homework. I usually start the dishwasher before I leave in the morning. After school the kids each unload one shelf and put those dishes away. About twice a week, I’ll ask the boys to grab their laundry and start a load. They both love this job! They dump the contents of their laundry baskets into the machine. No sorting necessary! The last kids gets to add the detergent and start the machine.
We have a top load machine and they are not quite tall enough to reach to the bottom, so I’ll change the load to the dryer. Once the machine buzzes, one of the kids will put it in the basket and deliver it to my bed. The boys are able to fold their laundry, but it’s a challenge to get them to do it. So I usually fold them and leave their piles on my bed. They are each responsible for putting them in the correct basket in their rooms.
Reed feeds Shasta dinner as we are all gathering for dinner. Adam or I will do most of the cooking. Although, Jake is very good at making rice in the rice cooker. It’s almost always his job to get that started. As I’m cooking, I’ll set the plate, forks, napkins and glasses on the counter. Whoever walks by gets nabbed to set the table. When dinner is finished, each person scraps their plate and loads it in the dish washer.
We are currently teaching the boys how to clean up after dinner. And yes, I mean teach. It’s a step-by-step explanation with modeling and plenty of reminders. One kids needs to bring the leftovers to the counter. One kids puts away the condiments. One gets Tupperware out and I’ll scoop the food into them. One kid will wash the table. Sometimes we have the boys wash the dishes.
Special Once in a While Jobs
Every once in a while, I’ll ask the boys to do other jobs. I’ll have one kids wash the mirror in the bathroom or wipe the bathroom counter and sink with a cleaning clothe. I’ll have them dust or vacuum the rugs. Sometimes I’ll have them carry garbage or recycling out to the bin, but only if it’s not too heavy or full of wet grossness. I will sometimes ask them to bring the rolling cans back from the road.
I will also very rarely ask the kids to pick up after the dog in the backyard. Yes, poop patrol. And yes, they HATE IT. One kid holds the plastic bag while the other uses the pooper-scooper; they trade after a few minutes. Adam and I decided that we wanted a pet. The kids didn’t beg for one, we wanted one. The boys need to feed her daily and this is partially because of the responsibility, but it’s mostly so that she will bond with the boys. Whoever provides food becomes a loved person. Everything else is on us. I bring Shasta to the vet. Adam and I walk her. Adam and I clean up after her. Adam and I bathe and brush her.
What I Don’t Ask Them to Do – Yet
So far we don’t have the kids mow the lawn or scrub the floor with hot soapy water. We also don’t expect them to finish most chores beginning to end, like clean the whole bathroom, clean up from a meal by themselves, do all of their laundry, etc. But I do expect that as they grow older they’ll have more jobs that they can complete themselves. This is still Adam’s and my house and I don’t expect the kids to run it.
Kids and Chores – Why is it Important?
We are raising adults. At some point, our children will grow up and we want them to be productive members of society. We can make it easy on them by starting young and teaching kids how to take care of themselves. Or we can make it tougher. We can ignore the skills that they will need later and assume they’ll figure it out on their own.
It also helps your kids and their brain development. By scaffolding, modeling and teaching our kids how to take care of themselves and their belongs we are helping them plan, organize and initiate tasks. We are also teaching delayed gratification and self control.
How does your family handle chores?