How Do I Make Chores a Part of Our Family Life?
Chores are an important part of raising responsible, independent children. It’s good for them the way vegetables are good for them- they may not like them but they’ve got to eat them to grow healthy and strong. And, just like getting them to eat vegetables, it can be a royal pain to get them to actually do their chores.
The truth is, you can and should start your kids helping with chores at around age three, but it’s unlikely that you are going to feel like it’s actually easing your chore load for at least four or five years. It’s going to take patience on your part, mom and dad! They need supervision, help, and your willingness to let a few crumbs go unswept (attention, perfectionists, I’m talking to you).
- Decide what you want “help” with and what you don’t. This may boil down to what you can stand to let be done imperfectly and what you feel is absolutely essential to have spotless. Children do not have your eyes, trained over many years, to see every dust bunny, every water mark on the faucet or every speck of toothpaste on the mirror. You have to recognize that the ability to clean well is a skill that is developed over time, and it happens little by little, after many repetitions.
- Make clear what you want done, and when you want it done by. Figure out and inform your kids of the consequences if they don’t meet their deadlines. I find it helpful to set an alarm on my phone in the evening for “chore inspection.” We have chores connected to allowance (which you may or may not chose to do), and if each child has done all their chores, I “deposit” $2 for the day into an app on my phone (I use Rooster Money), and they get the money they have earned that week on Friday.
- I split up chores into “Meal Chores” and “Daily Chores.” I let my kids choose what they would like to do surrounding the meal- setting and clearing the table, loading the dishwasher, putting food away, etc, and I write down the chores each child has selected. Then I know exactly who to call on to set the table. Each child has one assigned household chore per day, Monday through Friday- a room to vacuum, a bathroom to clean. We shake it up and rotate chores every few months, rather than every few weeks. This gives them the chance to build their skills with one particular chore. All of their chores are on a chart hung on the fridge. Before the kids could read, I found clip art to put on the chart depicting each chore.
- Make it easier for the little people! If you come to my house, you might be a bit confused if you open up the cupboard above the sink looking for a cup for your tea, because my dishes are not placed at adult height. Unloading the dishwasher is a simple, kid-friendly job, but not if they have to get out a ladder to do it. I moved all our dishes to the lower cupboards. This confuses the grandparents every time they come to stay, but it works for us!
- Train, train, train, and give them grace. It takes time to learn. Work with them. Show them how to do things step by step. Don’t criticize too much and be gentle in your inspections. I do speak up if my child didn’t notice something as obvious as the spilled dog food all over the floor when they were vacuuming the kitchen, but otherwise I’ve generally learned to keep my mouth shut. Having mom hover and point out every missed crumb is very discouraging to children, I’ve learned.
Finally, (this is not a paid endorsement), I’ve purchased a lot of child-sized cleaning items from For Small Hands. My kids especially like the kitchen tools that they sell that make it easy for them to help me with meal prep. Consider this as an educational/life-skills investment in your child. Plus, child-size brooms and dish scrubbers immediately make it feel more like the chore is just “playing,” at least until the novelty wears off (it will).
Good luck, and be sure to comment for the rest of us if you have any great tricks to share on kids and chores!
Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (4/11/2017) woodleywonderworks (Flickr)