I played around with the idea of chores for my children for years. I was never successful at implementing a lasting plan because I did not enforce it. Part of me understood well that children need chores. In fact, while working as a Marriage and Family Therapy intern, I would encourage parents to set up a chore system with their children for the benefit of the child and the parent. And, I'd leave the office and come home to a pile of dishes and laundry that I was certain only I had the skill to tackle.
other areas of my life. Pesky perfectionism! I understood that children need chores in order to practice responsibility, but the thought of a dishwasher stacked askew or towels folded haphazardly made me cringe.
The truth about children is that you have to patiently teach and reteach life skills. This applies to everything from how we treat others to developing good habits to chores. You cannot tell them once and expect them to do it perfectly from then on. If you think that parenting works that way or that children are being disobedient when they forget something you just told them two minutes ago, you are sorely unprepared for parenting!
In a way, it has been easier for me to simply do the chores myself instead of teaching my children to do them correctly. However, always in the back of mind is the knowledge that having chores is very important for children.
Here are the steps I took to create a chore plan for my children:
1. Put the children in charge of their own space. This includes doing their own laundry, washing their bedding once a week or as needed, cleaning their own rooms, and vacuuming their floors once a week or as needed.
2. Decide which chores you need the most help with. For me it was dishes, folding laundry, cleaning the children's bathroom and cleaning the dining room that doubles as our school room. Depending on the number of children you have, you can throw in a couple of others for good measure. I included the small, but necessary jobs of tidying the living room and having one child each evening to be responsible for making sure the bathroom was tidy before going to bed. Eventually, I'll add in sweeping and mopping, but for now, I have my hands full teaching them how to stack dishes and fold towels!
3. Decide if doing chores will result in rewards or an allowance for your children or if they are simply expected to do chores because they are part of the family. We do not reward our children for chores. In fact, we are trying to break the habit of rewards altogether. (But don't pity my children. We don't use punishment either. We'll save topic that for another post!)
4. Choose a chore system. In the past, we have used My Job Chart and it's a great system. If you choose to use rewards, My Job Chart helps you keep up with those. Even though My Job Chart isn't what we are using right now (for reasons I'll explain in another post) it is an excellent and FREE system to use. I highly recommend it!
We are using a simple chore chart (or rather three, one for each boy) that lists the chores and has a check mark under the days that the child is scheduled to perform that task. I found our chore charts at Target a couple of years ago for less than $10. They look something like this one I found on Amazon:
I laminated them and use a wet-erase marker so that we can reuse them and change chores around if necessary. It's pretty simple. Chores haven't changed from week to week, so there has been no erasing necessary so far.
5. Divide up the chores as fairly as possible, but realize that children will find something unfair in anything, so be prepared to enforce what you have decided is best. For instance, I have three children so I divided up the dishes three times per day. To me, this is fair because everyone has to do to dishes every day, once per day and the number of dishes done each time is low. But, because it sometimes works out that when a child has "evening dishes" he also has "morning dishes" the next morning (it plays out this way only once or twice per week), there have been complaints of "not fair". What they really mean is, "Didn't I just do the dishes?!" Welcome to my world, kids.
6. Be prepared to help, depending on the age level and skills of your children, for at least the first couple of weeks. Two weeks in, I am still helping my eight and six year olds to wash the dishes correctly. There are many things to teach. Simply cleaning a toilet is a lesson in proper technique and hygiene! (They won't lay the "toilet cleaning cloth" on the clean bathroom counter too manytimes if explain to them exactly that is on that cloth. They will also learn to aim better when they are responsible for cleaning other people's stray bodily fluids! Amen?)
Also, if you struggle with perfectionism, you'll have to learn that as long as things are getting done, they don't have to be perfect. Continue to teach them
the best the correct way to do things and they will learn.
7. Relax and enjoy your free time once chores become a part of your children's everyday life. Know that you are practicing good parenting, teaching your children responsibility and giving them a sense of accomplishment while building their confidence!