Just the word, “chores,” evokes a fight or flight response in most children. And even in many adults. Chores have gotten a bum rap in the last generation or two. My parents grew up pulling their own weight at home from a very young age, and it didn’t stunt their growth or make them cross-eyed. However, the next few generations missed not only the reasoning behind chores but also the results they produce.
Who believes money grows on trees? I don’t think I need to burst anyone’s bubble here. It’s not the money I’m talking about. Just like money doesn’t appear out of thin air, nor do elves wash and fold clothes, clean dishes, or sweep floors while we sleep. The sooner children realize that effort is required to run their world, the less painful their lives will be. I see too many young adults flit from one job to another because their dream job is shattered by the stark reality of boring work and long hours. Then one day they wake up with a long list of past employers who won’t give them references and potential employers who won’t hire them. Do your children a favor now and teach them how to work. Chores serve such a purpose.So, once you’ve psyched the kiddies up for chore time, what exactly do they do? Just sending them into a room to clean won’t be very productive. A battle plan is called for. First, schedule chore time at the same time each day. In a month or so, chores become routine. I group certain chores at the most convenient time. Morning chores involve activities such as making the bed (once they’ve rolled out of it), wiping the bathroom counters after everyone has brushed their teeth (and missed the sink a number of times), and separating clothes for laundry. Evening chores include dinner cleanup, toy pickup, and sweeping and spot mopping.
A checklist helps ensure certain chores are completed to a certain standard, such as dinner cleanup. Otherwise, I’ll find all the dishes dumped in the sink and what looks like an exploded loaf of bread all over the counters. My dinner cleanup list includes clearing the table, putting up the food, loading the dishwasher, hand washing pots and pans, wiping the counters and the stove, and sweeping around the table. This leaves the kitchen and dining area reasonably clean for an easier start the next day.
Each child is responsible for her personal space, such as making her bed, putting up her clean clothes and straightening her areas of the closet and dresser. Other chores are divided by ability, such as vacuuming. A child must be able to adequately and safely handle certain equipment before she can do the chore effectively. I have my children work in teams to accomplish tasks like cleaning out the car. One handles trash pickup, and the other pulls out all the toys and clothes hiding under the seats. My older children own one or two responsibilities. For example, my oldest checks the diaper bag after every outing and restocks it. If we’re out of wipes, she puts more in. I let her know if I use the last of something or think of a special item we might need for later.
In spite of any child’s protests, chores are a great tool for a busy family. Many hands make light work and keep a stressed mom from drowning in housework. Scheduling, organizing, and training help ensure the success of involving children in chores. One day your children may even thank you for the practical skills chores teach…but don’t hold your breath.