One topic that comes up on many Facebook groups I am a part of is chores. Who should do them? How many? What if they . . . .don’t want to? This has been a huge part of our family for two years now, and while we have had some bumps and issues, it has finally happened that Mama does LESS around the house, there is no complaining, and the house is clean. If you want to be able to get done everything you need to in a day, the family must be contributing to every part. It’s not even primarily for the parents’ benefit, but the children’s. Here are some tips and strategies, and a fantastic resource that I have read over and over again.
- The earlier the better: we start here in our home around age 3. There are lots of jobs that three year olds can manage, and they can even be assigned to help older children with theirs. Little children are often eager to help, and it’s important to show them at an early age how important they are- and how needed they are- in our family.
- Plan ahead: What jobs are mundane and take up too much time out of your day? What is often left by the wayside, and doesn’t get done as often as you’d like? Write them all down. Don’t think too hard on what your expectations are of your children, and whether they are “age specific.” Just make a big list of all the things you would like done each day in a perfect world situation. Then you can start divvying up and matching with child-specific capabilities.
- Start with one child at a time: We faced resistance in the beginning, and starting our days off with fighting does not make for a peaceful, happy Mama. After a few weeks of this, I decided to start with our oldest (who was six at the time) and get him trained in task and attitude. We worked together for about three months, before I switched to our next oldest son (who was four.) He and I spent about six months heavily training together. By then, our daughter was ready. She took about three months also. We just started training our second daughter, and she’s doing well, but still under my tutelage.
- Remember the Why: I swear, most of my mothering experience has been learning about perseverance. Have a list of reasons why chores and families working together is important to you, so that if you are faced with resistance you will know why you’re putting in this effort, rather than just doing it all yourself. Here’s a great article on the benefits of starting at an early age. My favourite little snippet in there is: “the best predictor of young adults’ success in their mid-20’s was that they participated in household tasks when they were three or four.” That’s huge. I want our children to be self sustaining, successful adults.
- Get support: Make sure your hubby is on board!
Here is a list of the current chores in our family:
Son, 8 years old- Daily: Get dressed, make bed, clean room, brush teeth, read Bible, clean the living room. Weekly: Clean out the car, clean the downstairs toy room/office.
Son, 6 years old- Daily: Get dressed, make bed, clean room, brush teeth, read Bible, clean the bathroom. Weekly: Vacuum bedroom and downstairs.
Daughter, 4 years old- Daily: Get dressed, make bed, clean room, brush teeth, read Bible, unload the dishwasher. Weekly: Dust upstairs, fold laundry.
Daughter, 3 years old- Daily: Get dressed, make bed, clean room, brush teeth, read Bible, sweep floor/help with dishwasher. Weekly: put laundry in right rooms, put clothes away.
As you can see, if I get out of the way, our whole main floor gets clean first thing every morning. It takes about 30-45 minutes total. It could probably be faster, but we aren’t in a huge hurry. More importantly, each day we start with a clean slate before getting to schoolwork and activities. Everyone knows what they have to do, and that they won’t move on to the next thing until it’s completed. I have time in the mornings to make sure the kitchen and our room is tidy, and to nurse our baby. We love playing music while everyone’s working, it adds a nice pleasant atmosphere. I try to make it as fun as I can, and to thank the children for contributing to our family.
If you are feeling inspired and want to do some more reading on the subject, this is the most comprehensive book on chores that I have read (and I have studied quite a few!) If I can recommend a book to help a growing family, it is always this one. Whether your children are older or younger, you will be greatly benefited by it. The family that wrote it is super structured, but please don’t feel that a family has to be this way in order to be successful.